Stories of Inspiration
Who is Matt?
Matt is a 32 year old man who enjoys being active and spending time with his many friends and family. Matt has a very busy social calendar that includes regular dinner guests, bushwalks with friends, and trips to Toowoomba and Caloundra. Although Matt cannot communicate, the people in his life enjoy his personality and companionship. Matt is a determined young man and has worked hard throughout his whole adult life.
Planning starts early
Matt and his family started planning for his future when he was 15 years old. Using the carer’s allowance that she had been saving, Jill, Matt’s mother, employed a community worker to visit everyone who knew Matt to ask them what they thought Matt could do when he finished school. In order to get a sense of the typical experience of young people, the community worker also spoke with several 17 and 18 year olds about their plans for when school finished.
Using the information gathered by the community worker, Matt’s family determined that young people typically expected to continue with further study or find work suited to their interests. So they decided that Matt would also do this.
Matt’s light bulb moment
At 16, Matt was the first person with support needs as high as his to do work experience. Jill, again, employed a facilitator to seek a work experience opportunity for Matt. During planning for this occasion, family and friends identified Matt’s love of driving in cars as an interest that would be useful in finding him work experience.
Matt had always travelled in Black and White Cabs, and, so, the facilitator approached Black and White Couriers for a work experience opportunity. Matt joined a courier driver, who had no previous experience with people with disabilities, on his courier run. Jill reports that Matt really enjoyed being in the van, particularly the stopping and starting. Matt spent around six months doing work experience.
Planning and practice pay off
Through personal contacts, Matt moved on from his work experience job to working with a truck driver who was doing trips between Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, the Gold Coast, and Toowoomba. Matt’s family paid the truck driver a small amount to take Matt on the job.
Later, Matt was fortunate enough to receive some funding, and, so, his family was able to employ Matt’s first worker, Chris. The family also sought funding to purchase Matt’s own work van (Matt’s family funded half the purchase cost).
Chris and Matt started their work together by setting up a courier service delivering museum exhibits to disadvantaged schools. However, Chris believed Matt could do more and so he approached a large office supply company and, together, Matt and Chris started work delivering office supplies to Brisbane businesses. They worked 4—5 days per week and Matt earned enough to supplement Chris’s wages and pay the petrol maintenance on the van.
Setbacks do not stop success
In 2005, Matt experienced two massive seizures; these had considerable impact on Matt’s health, and he spent the next 12 months recovering. During this time, Chris had to move on to find new employment, and, so, when Matt was well enough to work again, Matt’s family found him a new worker, Scott.
Again, Jill asked a consultant to canvas everyone in Matt’s life to find out what they thought he could do after his recovery. The conclusion was that Matt could do volunteer deliveries.
Jill states that, “work is important to Matt; he gets a sense of satisfaction from doing a job he knows is worthwhile”. With this in mind, Scott, Matt’s new worker, set about finding Matt a new work-related role.
Through his research, Scott found Food Connect, a business set up “to supply local, sustainably-produced food to the community” (http://brisbane.foodconnect.com.au/about-us). Jill reports that Food Connect was very welcoming, especially as Matt came with his own van!
Matt’s hard work continues
Presently, Matt is working three days a week for Food Connect. Jill states that Matt continues to “work hard in spite of his medical conditions” and that “every day, he has a normal life…participating in the community in a normal way”. Matt is now supported at work by two carers, Ilaitia and Aaron, who take turns at shifts. Scott has since moved on but is now one of Matt’s many valued friends.
Matt drives in the van and helps out with the stacking and unpacking of boxes, while Ilaitia or Aaron do the driving and are there to make sure everything runs smoothly. Food Connect continue to pay for the petrol, while Chris (Matt’s first worker) sponsors the van through his business, Instaco. This pays for the servicing and maintenance of Matt’s van. Jill states, “where there’s a will, there’s a way” and believes that all the hard work that has gone into setting Matt up has been well worthwhile to see him happy and motivated by his work.
Jill states that aside from Matt’s success at work, one of their other greatest achievements has been keeping most of Matt’s past workers in his life. Chris, Scott, and Hank (another former worker) are now good friends of Matt’s and continue to make regular appearances in his social calendar. Jill credits employing people other than ‘professional carers’ as the key to finding people who will stay in Matt’s life beyond their work with him.
- It is important to have a business plan
- Be creative; think outside the box
- Utilise family, friends, and other contacts to plan and get ideas
- If you don’t have the time or confidence to ask around for help or ideas, get someone else to (Jill employed someone, but she says that, if you can’t do this, ask a friend to do it for you)