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Leisure Networks' journey to become a NDIS provider

Libby Mears discusses how Leisure Networks' transitioned to the NDIS.

"Now we listen to what people want, and we make it happen. There are no barriers."

It’s said that change is as good as a holiday, so when change is a holiday, it must be even better.

Leisure Networks provides community engagement and inclusion support for people with disability. They’ve recently changed their offerings to include weekends away and extra support to meet the growing demands of clients on the NDIS.

Chief Executive Officer of Leisure Networks, Libby Mears, says their organisation has had to adapt rapidly since signing up to the NDIS as part of the Barwon trial.

’Before the NDIS we had 16 clients under a traditional service model, we ran a daily program from 9am-3pm. Now we have 450 clients with their own funding who we support in ever-expanding ways.’

Libby says the business mission of connecting people to the community hasn’t changed and the transition to the NDIS is enabling the market to grow and innovate.

’Under the block funding model people came to us because they had no option. But now we listen to what people want, and we make it happen. There are no barriers.’

It has been a steep learning curve for the organisation, but one that they’ve welcomed. People with disability and their carers now have the power to choose what support they want so Leisure Networks offers everything from one-off support to attend an event, to cooking classes and weekends away.

’We’ve really created a work culture that embraces change. Our reward is seeing our clients achieving their goals and becoming independent and connected members of the community.’

’It’s fun to see people do stuff that they never would have done otherwise. They are being independent for the first time. They are learning skills and making new relationships outside of their family.’

Libby recalls one of the first calls they received from a mother who asked if they’d be able to arrange for someone to take her son and his friends to the basketball, so that he didn’t have to go with her. Whilst he was there he learned to get his tickets, find his seat and purchase food, building skills to increase his independence whilst surrounded by friends.

Libby encourages all service providers to sign up to the NDIS though she acknowledges it will be a big adjustment for many organisations.

’Businesses need to have unit costings and good governance. You also need snappy marketing, which you didn’t need previously. Most importantly though, you need to remember what is at the core of your business, and stay true to that. Know what you do well, and be the best at it. This new model really gives us the chance to go for it.’

’The NDIS is fundamentally changing our country for the better. We’re still learning and in 10 years we are going to be proud of the model. We will fight for the NDIS like we fight for Medicare. We will realise how much of a difference we will make to the lives of people living with disabilities.’