New advocacy service to support people with intellectual disability

Self Advocacy support officers Ben Brown and Yvonne Berry-Porter

Bateau Bay resident Ben Brown is one of two peer support workers involved with a new advocacy service to support people on the Central Coast with intellectual disability.

While the service operates from Gosford, it is looking for people with a disability from all over the Coast.

The not-for-profit organisation, Self Advocacy, has been helping Sydney people with a disability speak up for themselves and support one another in Sydney since 1986.

It has spread its services, first to the Blue Mountains, and now to the Central Coast, with two programs on offer, Peer Support and New Leaders.

Brown, who himself suffers from cerebral palsy and associated disabilities, has worked at Self Advocacy for three months and has been a part of both the Peer Support and New Leaders programs for five months.

He is an active member of Rotary Social Impact Network e-club and is an Honorary Member of the Rotary Club of Terrigal.

He has also been involved on a voluntary basis with Central Coast Rotaract and Bateau Bay PCYC.

His fellow support worker, qualified high school teacher, Yvonne Berry-Porter, has a Cert IV in training and assessment, along with teaching and tutoring experience and previous work in the social sector, and says her skills complement those of Brown.

“The services are completely free to people with a disability and are aimed at helping them realise that disability does not disqualify them from living the best life that they can live,” Berry-Porter said.

“The Peer Support program provides topical discussion sessions led by the participants themselves.”

Brown said the sessions provided a safe space where participants can feel free to speak in an environment where they feel supported by others with similar issues.

“We can offer support from Gosford or in the community near people with disability,” he said.

“As a local with a disability myself, these programs have been of tremendous personal benefit.

“They have improved my confidence and independence.

“We like to think that we offer more than just training as our programs are ongoing and the focus is on long-term support.

“We encourage people who are part of our programs to reach out and help each other, strengthening connection in their local community and giving them a voice of their own.”

Video conferencing will also play a big part in the programs, for the benefit of people who have trouble travelling or are isolating because of COVID-19.

“These sessions aim to enable people with a disability to become advocates not just for themselves, but for others in the community,” she said.

“They will help them develop an action plan and give them guidance on such subjects as good leadership, planning, team-leading and people skills.

Self Advocacy is completely free to people with disability and funded through the Department of Social Services.

Terry Collins