Stepping stones toward solving care dilemma

St Margaret’s Uniting Church at Hackett is making a difference in the Canberra community with its challenging Stepping Stones for Life project in support of families in which ageing parents are caring for an adult family member with a disability. Established four years ago, the Aged and Disability Committee (ADC) of St Margaret’s has set up a support network to foster interaction with the wider community, with art and craft activities, music therapy, story sharing and exercise classes.

In partnership with Disability ACT (DACT), Stepping Stones for Life is conducting a Family Governance Pilot Project which employs Annette Matheson to work with nine focus families who are seeking to secure the future for a disabled adult family member.

The project aims to help those people achieve more independent living arrangements. ADC chairperson Jeff Bishop pointed out this was not a one size fits all solution and it was quite possible that the nine families involved would develop nine different solutions. “It is a difficult and stressful exercise” he added.

A steering committee supports Annette with feedback, help in preparing documents, tracking the project against the terms of reference, referring matters to DACT and “signing off” on various reports. Funds provided by DACT pay for the co-ordinator, her salary and support services. None of the money goes to individual families, who have to apply for and win support separately through the normal channels.

The ADC has formed a joint working party with the South East Region office of UnitingCare Ageing with a vision of providing a facility in the ACT to support aged care, disability, child care and counselling.

The ACT Government recently allocated a new site in the southern suburb of Gordon to UnitingCare Ageing, with the prospect of fulfilling at least some of that vision. Lobbying continues for a north-Canberra site.

NSW Synod General Secretary Rev. Paul Swadling returned to his old parish of St Margaret’s on 30 July to lead a service of celebration for the Stepping Stones for Life project. National Director of UnitingCare Australia, Lin Hatfield-Dodds, spoke during the service about the role of UnitingCare in helping fulfil the mission of the wider church.

After the service, the congregation and guests were treated to a demonstration by the music therapy group led by music therapist Jenny Lavett, and UnitingCare Community Services Manager Janet Scott unveiled a three-panel mosaic made by the art and craft group under the tutelage of Margaret Notaros.

Photo features the new mural with (back, from left) UnitingCare Community Services Manager Janet Scott, music therapist Jenny Lavett, Member for Molonglo Jacqui Burke, Stepping Stones coordinator Annette Matheson, Bridgit Bromhead; (front, from left) Jenny Allan, art teacher Margaret Notaros, Joanne Bishop, Jeanette Davy and Julie Gresham.