The Yooralla Parents With A Disability Community Project originated in 1996 from the idea of a parent with a disability – Effie Meehan who was concerned about the lack of support for parents with disabilities in the community. A research project was established by Yooralla’s Independent Living Services and Effie was employed by Yooralla under a government funded job skills program to identify the support needs of parents with a disability. A project steering committee made up of parents with disabilities and community groups was formed. A public forum was held and interviews conducted with parents with disabilities and community providers. A report of the project was produced by two students who assisted which formed the basis for more investigation into issues raised.
Over the next two years, the steering committee pursued avenues of funding to establish a service for parents with disabilities. In March 1998, a consultant was employed to develop an action plan with a philosophy, goals, objectives, strategies and performance indicators for the project.
The action plan identified key objectives that the committee wanted to achieve. Two of these were the development of a resource manual and the holding of educational workshops in the Western Metropolitan Region of Melbourne. The steering committee successfully applied for funding from the Stegley Foundation, a trust fund, committed to systemic social change, and the work commenced.
The purpose of this manual is to change community attitudes towards parents with a disability. It hopes to do this by educating `service providers and authorities to understand the needs of parents with a disability. The manual is important because it will empower parents with a disability with information and resources to enable them to become effective parents. Service providers and parents with disabilities are encouraged to use the manual to assist parents with disabilities get their needs met by services in their community.
The Yooralla Parents with a Disability Project Steering Committee believes there is an urgent need for the development of programs to support parents with a whole range of disabilities. We recently received funding from the Western Metropolitan Regional Parenting Resource Service to run a parenting skills program in the West in term two in 1999 for parents with a disability.
We believe that parents with a disability should be entitled to a wide range of services to enable them to be effective parents and to live independently. Parenting skills training is only a small part of this.
The development of this manual has highlighted major gaps in services available to parents with a disability in Victoria including the Western Metropolitan Region of Melbourne. Further change in community attitudes is needed to better serve the needs of parents with disabilities.
Change must come from the community, policy makers and organisations that provide human services because they hold the power to make programs and structures fully accessible to parents with a disability. Parents with a disability can also make changes, but need the information, resources and support to enable them to do it.
The consultations we have had with service providers and the input from parents with a disability indicates there is an urgent need for creative and flexible service options to meet the needs of parents who have a disability. The willingness of service providers and parents to work in partnership on the steering committee to create this manual indicates there exists the combined expertise to improve the range of services available to parents with a disability.