Support program over as funds end

FOUNDERS: Wendy Cuneo, main, confirmed the Stockton Centre foster grandparents’ scheme had closed due to the NDIS transition. The founding group formed in 1985, inset. A FOSTER grandparents’ service that has run from the Stockton Centre for 29 years is closing as part of the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
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Stockton Welfare Association spokesperson Wendy Cuneo said the scheme had officially closed on December 19 after running out of funding.

‘‘Established in 1985, the scheme saw retirees become very special friends to the severely disabled residents of the centre,’’ Ms Cuneo said.

‘‘At its peak, it had 50 committed volunteers and their efforts will be sorely missed by the participants and the Stockton Centre residents.

FOUNDERS: Wendy Cuneo, main, confirmed the Stockton Centre foster grandparents’ scheme had closed due to the NDIS transition. The founding group formed in 1985, inset.

‘‘But some of the foster grandparents have vowed to keep visiting despite the closure of the building that had become a home away from home for those involved.’’

Roy Hambly, the general manager of the Catholic agency Mercy Services, said his organisation had run the foster grandparents service for the past three years or so.

Mr Hambly confirmed that a farewell lunch had been held at Stockton on Friday but said arrangements were in place to allow final visits under the program until January 31, 2015.

Mr Hambly said the previous state government block funding of $90,000 a year, which paid for full-time co-ordinator and small cost reimbursements to volunteers, had ended as part of the transition to the NDIS.

He said Mercy Services had been unable to strike a compromise funding arrangement with the National Disability Insurance Agency.

Under the NDIS, clients are able to choose their own suite of services and Mr Hambly said the NDIA had told him that none of the Stockton Centre clients had asked to have the service provided.

A spokesperson for Disability Services Minister John Ajaka said Stockton could ask for the program if they wanted it.

‘‘As individual residents access the NDIS, they are now able to choose a greatly expanded range of activities as they increasingly exercise real control over how they access community activities,’’ the spokesperson said.

Mr Hambly said Mercy Services took over the running of the program three years ago.

Given the transition to the NDIS, and the plan to move Stockton Centre residents into the community, it was a program that would was probably coming to its natural end but the lack of funding had hastened its demise. He said the volunteers were getting older and fewer, and Mercy Services had been unable to find other service providers to continue it.