BRANCHES LIFESTYLE SUPPORT began operating in December 2003.
However, the impetus behind our formation began a long time before that.
As long-term participators in the disability sector, we often felt restricted by the lack of options available to people with disabilities when looking to enter supported accommodation. Much that was on offer was provided by one of the few larger organisations, and we often talked of the need for some smaller service providers who could offer more intensive individualised support to people and their families.
After one particularly fruitless search, trying to help a family find an accommodation service that suited their son’s complex and ever-changing needs, we finally decided to stop looking elsewhere and start our own service – Branches.
We began for that one client, working with him and his family to design a supported lifestyle for him that exactly suited his daily wants and needs – with no limits. Being freed from some of the restrictions that a larger organization necessarily has to have, we were able to build a service from scratch, and build it exactly the way we wanted.
What we wanted was to get away from red tape, to stop support staff being tied up with endless paperwork, and to no longer have to wait for sluggish and ineffective management committees to make decisions that we needed made weeks ago. We wanted to put some common sense back in to things.
We wanted to work closely with people and their families, and be able to alter their support the minute their needs changed – be nimble and flexible. We also wanted to concentrate on what’s most important – giving people with disabilities and their families what they actually need and what they actually want.
With help over the years from too many great people to mention, we think that Branches has become the service we initially envisioned. We’re still a very small organisation and over the years have been careful only to grow at a rate that does not compromise our ability to offer the best.
Proudly, Branches has also become a small and supportive community, where despite living in different houses in different suburbs, all of our folks know each other. They live full, independent lives of their own, mixing it up with everyone else in their community, but they also know they are part of a bigger gang called Branches.
Branches is managed by the two directors who began the service – Shane Bruun and Wendy O’Brien.
Shane has post-graduate qualifications in psychology from the University of Queensland, and has worked with people with disabilities in a number of roles, both here and in the UK, for over 25 years. Shane also manages the behaviour support needs of our clients.
Wendy too has worked for many years in the disability sector, both as a support worker and in management. Besides this, she has a wealth of experience in finance.
Wendy designs a lot of the very unique support options we provide our clients. If Wendy can’t come up with a solution to a problem, then there is no solution.
The assistant managers are Tammy O’Keefe and Holly Quigley.
Tammy has been with us from day one, and Holly is not too far behind her. Both have tertiary qualifications in disability. Tammy is also our Support Coordinator.
It is very much an “all-hands-on deck” team approach at Branches. Management are not sequestered away from the staff. All four of us attend every staff meeting and maintain a presence in all of the houses we operate.
Our support workers at Branches comprise a wide range of people from all sorts of backgrounds – we encourage this. We have people who’ve specifically studied disability, but we also have semi-professional sports people, students studying speech or occupational therapy, mums re-entering the workplace, musicians, and on and on. We think it adds a richness of experience to the Branches community, and the people we support benefit from it.
All staff are selected because we think that they have the right motivations and attributes to be a good support worker for our people. Prior experience is handy, but not required.
Staff are trained in-house to learn how to work specifically with each individual they will be supporting. Nobody works with our people without knowing them extensively first. We are confident that we put many many more hours in to this training endeavor than other any other service.
We do not use agency or temp staff.
Despite being small and allergic to red tape, we are a fully accredited service provider, receiving certification annually, as measured against Queensland’s Human Services Quality Framework. In fact, since the inception of this external auditing process in 2007, we have not had a single non-compliance. We are quite proud of our record here.
We are also a registered service provider with The National Disability Insurance Agency.
Under the NDIS we are approved to provide supports under the following categories:
- Daily Tasks/Shared Living
- Participate Community
- Assist – Life Stage, Transition
- Support Coordination
- Specialist Support Coordination
- Specialist positive behavior Support
- Development – Life Skills
We generally do things a little differently at Branches. Whilst we are an NGO, (non-governmental organization), we actually operate as a private company. This is solely to avoid the need to have a top-heavy administrative structure.
Despite operating privately, we are pleased to be able to still be accorded charity status with the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission, as a public benevolent institution, advancing social or public welfare.
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Our COMMUNITY HUB is open and running. However, we still have so much to do to get this space running at its full potential. We are currently seeking all donations towards meeting this end.