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CatholicCare

Funding extended for Specialist Disability Practitioner role

Asking for help and finding the right support can be challenging for any family or individual. Particularly when additional barriers exist such as family violence, disability, homelessness, social isolation, and low literacy.

Our Family Services team supports families experiencing challenges like these each and every day, and helps families navigate service systems to ensure they get the right support.

But there’s one system which both families and professionals often need help navigating, which is the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

To combat this challenge, our Specialist Disability Practitioner Emily Wade is building the ongoing capacity of our Family Services team, helping to effectively support vulnerable people with disability with a particular focus on NDIS participation.

We are thrilled to announce that CatholicCare Victoria has received an extension to the funding of Emily’s Specialist Disability Practitioner role in Central Highlands to 2024.



Our Family Services practitioners provide tailored and flexible supports for families, and are frequently called on to assist families in accessing NDIS.

Other services and agencies often expect Family Services practitioners to be the experts in this area, but with such a complex system, practitioners need additional support.

Liz McCartin, Team Leader Family Services, explains:

“Families where disability is present often find it extremely difficult to navigate this complex service system. The NDIS system is intimidating. Families also present at different points in their journey through disability services and are often unable to identify or articulate what specific needs they have.


One of the challenges Family Services staff have - when supporting families to navigate through the NDIS system - is learning how best to articulate the client’s needs in NDIS-friendly language and understanding how the process of accessing NDIS works.”

Our Specialist Disability Practitioner, Emily, provides secondary consultations and support to our Family Services team.

This might look like visiting a family alongside a Family Services practitioner, attending school meetings, advocating with the NDIS, or simply sitting down with a Family Services practitioner and making a plan of how they can best meet the needs of the person with a disability.

“The NDIS is an insurance model, which comes from a very different perspective to the service frameworks families are generally accustomed to,” says Emily.

“Families are used to a strengths-based approach, where we focus on abilities and are optimistic about their strengths. NDIS applications are in essence required to focus on deficits to enable them to assess what supports are needed at times when the client is not functioning at their best. It can be challenging for workers to shift to this mindset, when generally we would focus on the person’s strengths and what they CAN do.”


The Department of Families, Fairness, and Housing have funded 34 Specialist Disability Practitioner (SDP) roles across the state, with three of these roles positioned in Central Highlands (i.e. Ballarat and surrounding areas).

Each of these roles are implemented differently based on local needs, but in Central Highlands, Emily’s role has focused on working collaboratively within the region and prioritising families who are clients of the Family Services program.

“Our ambitions for the role are to broaden our scope in building capacity across multiple CatholicCare Victoria programs. We would love to see practitioners in all areas able to advocate effectively for their clients in accessing appropriate NDIS and other disability supports,” says Liz.


Life-changing support for Sarah’s family

Many families have already reaped the benefits of Emily’s SDP role, with one of these being Sarah’s family*.

Sarah has a teenage child with an intellectual disability, and her first three NDIS applications had been rejected.

Emily worked together with a CatholicCare Victoria Family Services practitioner to support Sarah’s family by updating the application and gathering additional evidence.

The application was then accepted, and Emily was able to assist the family at their planning meeting to implement the appropriate supports.

The resulting NDIS plan enabled around $20,000 of supports for Sarah’s teenager, including Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy.

Emily also advocated for the family to receive support coordination which will provide ongoing assistance to the family and help facilitate services, and she worked with the family to build rapport with the support coordinator.


A successful surgery and a happy Christmas for Jai

Emily has also supported 4-year-old Jai* and her family through her SDP role.

Emily provided secondary consultation with Jai’s family’s allocated Family Services practitioner, and then provided brokerage to pay for Jai’s surgery.

The surgery went well and Jai’s recovery was quick. Jai’s mother was then able to use money she had saved toward the surgery to make Christmas a more festive and special time for the kids.

“Jai’s mother said that with our help, she was able to keep the money she had saved all year for the surgery to buy her children gifts for Christmas. She said it is a relief to be able to give them a Christmas like their friends and family get to experience,” said Jai’s Family Services practitioner.

Previously the family had missed out on Christmas presents due to medical costs.

It’s stories like these that show the impact our Specialist Disability Practitioner is making, in not only enabling families to get the support they need, but then to also be able to live life to the full.



To access support from a Specialist Disability Practitioner, please see how below


  • Professionals across Victoria:
    Family Services Practitioners across the state are able to consult with the Specialist Disability Practitioner for their local region. Your local Orange Door or Child FIRST intake centre will be able to direct you:
    - Orange Door contacts
    - Child FIRST contacts
    Orange Door practitioners are also able to consult the SDP when requiring additional expertise in this area.

  • CatholicCare Victoria professionals:
    If your team is based in the Central Highlands and would like more information about SDP support in this area, please contact Emily Wade directly.
    If your non-Family Services program is interested in building their knowledge around NDIS and disability supports, please contact Emily to discuss her availability to deliver a capacity building session.

  • Families:
    Families are able to access SDP support through their Family Services practitioner. To access or learn more about Family Services, visit our webpage here.



Liz Gellel | Marketing Coordinator – Digital Lead
Liz McCartin | Team Leader, Family Services
Emily Wade | Specialist Disability Practitioner


*At CatholicCare Victoria, we respect everyone who comes to us for help. Many are working towards a fresh start in life. So, while the stories and quotes are true, the client names have been changed to protect their privacy. Thank you for your understanding.


06 July 2022
Category: News
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