Canberra disability service organisation Sharing Places, established more than 28 years ago, is a first time recipient of the Foundation’s Community Health Program funding in 2017.

The $20,000 grant will assist Sharing Places continue to support post-school aged people with disability and high and complex needs.

Sharing Places began in 1989 when a group of parents decided there had to be more options available for their children, all with different disabilities, after they completed secondary education.

The Pearce-based organisation started out working with 16 young adults, and now has more than 150 clients with a range of physical, health and behavioural disabilities. About 86 paid staff work in 12 teams to “create opportunities to assist people to share the ordinary places and activities of ordinary community life.”

The service focuses on assisting participants develop life skills in a community environment, enhancing people’s quality of life and helping them to achieve self-determination. With the support of Sharing Places’ qualified staff, many participants work voluntarily in the community in roles including at Meals on Wheels, assisting elderly people with shopping and other chores and delivering spare parts for vehicle businesses.

According to Sharing Places’ business manager Alicia Gaudie, many clients become like family, remaining with the organisation from the time they begin accessing services, around age 18, until they are 60 or more.

“We are here to help with the sort of things that are often taken for granted – to help people achieve their goals, contribute to society and of course to have fun,” she said.

Community outings are a focus at Sharing Places, with a fleet of 14 specially modified vehicles available. Most participants cannot use public transport because of their level of disability.

More recently, rising costs such as those associated with running so many vehicles and the 2014 start of the National Disability Insurance Scheme have required Sharing Places to develop a new business model to maintain the quality and diversity of its services.

“Some of the changes mean families are bearing more costs than previously, so we’ve started seeking sponsorship and developing fund-raising activities to minismise the impact of this where possible,” Alicia explained.

“The John James Foundation grant is very timely and really welcome.

“It means we’ll be able to replace ageing equipment such as walkers to help people develop lower body strength, sports gear, gym hoists to help people out of wheelchairs and to continue with vehicle modifications.

“These are all part of our everyday activities and an important part of the way Sharing Places supports people towards active participation and independence.”