Image provided by SAFC.

St Anthony’s Family Care (SAFC) provides a range of individual, group and accommodation services for children and young adults with disabilities.

We support participants in Sydney’s inner west by offering school holiday programs, community access trips and in-home care, supporting people who have a range of moderate to complex support needs.

Supporting children and young adults to participate in community life brings great joy to all the staff at St Anthony’s. The opportunity to be part of a young person’s life as they achieve individual goals and milestones is a great privilege for us all.

With COVID this year, it again bought home the significance of support SAFC provides. This year has not been like any other year, and as we come towards another International Day for People with Disabilities on 3 December, the meaning and importance continues to resonate with us more than ever.

In 2021, we began facing another wave and new strain of COVID; our operational team were quick to maintain engagement with our participants and their families. From previous experience, we knew our mission of supporting children and young adults and being able to respond to family needs would see us through, and we quickly connected from our new “home offices” to focus on our participants and staff members wellbeing during this time of change.

From a perspective of “essential service” needs, we looked at how we could best continue to operate services and support those in greatest need whilst minimising all potential risks. Services were adapted from community settings to in-home care to reduce person to person contact, and we created small teams which we called “bubbles” to reduce exposure when close contacts arose and to assist us with contract tracing.

As the government guidelines changed frequently, our ability to navigate flexible and adaptive services would soon become our strength. Assessing risk became a core focus with a need to protect participants and their support workers alike. As the days rolled into weeks, and then months, the challenges continued and we saw many acts of kindness and outcomes  for which we are grateful and hold close.

Overall, the disruption to everyone’s life, health, and mental wellbeing this year was immeasurable, and the impacts will be felt for years to come. The added complexity for families with a child or person with a disability added further pressures for many. Through this constantly, and rapidly challenging year, safety remained paramount and we ensured that we offered transparency in our approach to both staff and support workers.

As time progressed, and vaccinations increased with cases declining, the SAFC Community is re-established, and now grows again. Our children and young adults are recommencing their community access and group programs outside of their family homes with activities such as swimming, bush walking, and dance classes.

With so much to appreciate and to be grateful for as we re-establish our previous supports, the 2021 International Day for People with Disabilities offers so much more meaning this year as we look forward and hope for an inclusive future.

Simon Bartholomew
Manager, Disability Services
St Anthony’s Family Care