Helping families live better lives is second nature to Tracey. Throughout a long career spanning New Zealand and Australia, Tracey has remained in the social work sphere, primarily working with families in need of disability support services. At Windermere, she broadened her skills and knowledge within the family services team over a period of ten years before venturing out to explore a new opportunity in the aged care space. Last year, Tracey returned to Windermere to take on a new role, once again in family services, bringing with her a broadened knowledge in allied health.
“I love working with families, and that’s one of the main reasons I returned to Windermere’s family services team,” she says. The Family Services Specialist Disability Practitioner is a role newly established by the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) to address the complexities families face in accessing and navigating NDIS services.
“There are families who are clearly in need of NDIS services but require guidance on how to access it and use it effectively, and that’s where I come in,” explains Tracey. She works with mainstream and culturally and linguistically diverse communities in the South Melbourne region, engaging with families referred through The Orange Door.
Her expertise is called on to address varying needs, whether that’s to provide guidance on implementing an NDIS plan or simply help with filling out a form. The more complex supports can be wide and varied. “If a family requires support coordination, I may advocate for them at the NDIS review meeting to request that, or if there are complex needs, I could arrange for a care team meeting and ensure that everyone is on the same page,” explains Tracey on the wide-ranging supports she offers.
Lia was struggling to care for her quadriplegic son, who was diagnosed with stage 5 cerebral palsy and intellectual disability. Lia was his primary caregiver and she and her husband had three other children to care for, as well. While they had NDIS carer hours, circumstances changed when Lia became encumbered with her own medical condition and had to rely heavily on carer hours. By the time Lia reached out for help, they were fast running out of carer hours.
Tracey stepped in to gather supporting evidence from the care team and applied for an early review meeting with the NDIS. As a result, the family successfully secured additional carer hours so that their son could continue to receive the level of care he needed.
Beyond working directly with families, Tracey also provides consultation services to practitioners across the Family Service Alliance in the region. Imparting her knowledge and expertise with other practitioners serves to build their capacity and confidence and broaden their understanding of disability. In this way, Tracey has been instrumental in enhancing skills across the Alliance, ultimately improving the supports available to families in the region. Some consultations also lead to Tracey working directly with the family when required.
“It’s a complex system that can be quite tricky to navigate. For instance, there are different types of NDIS review meetings, and you need to request the right one. I can point them in the right direction, make clear the next steps and even link them with other free resources out there, as I may not always be available to them,” explains Tracey
Practitioners from Hampton Park Family Services approached Tracey for a consultation to assist a family with a 13-year-old child diagnosed with ADHD and autism. The child was displaying aggressive behaviour and their NDIS plan did not include much-needed behavioural support.
Tracey intervened to collate all the supporting evidence and offered advice to request an early NDIS review meeting. Tracey also advised the practitioners to link the family with the Association for Children with a Disability (ACD), a community advocacy service that would provide a source of additional support. With Tracey’s help the family was better able to understand their next steps to gain the support they needed.
Another important aspect that families often need support with is in accessing an initial assessment. Without a formal diagnosis they cannot access NDIS. Tracey has observed that in some instances parents are also in need of an assessment as well, as they would greatly benefit from disability support.
These supports would have a lasting impact on the entire family, and no doubt Tracey has changed many lives for the better over the years.
So, what’s next for Tracey? Her dedication to working with families shows no sign of waning.
“I just haven’t lost that passion for helping families,” she says simply.