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MORE than 372 children and young people were placed in safe homes with foster carers across eastern regional South Australia by ac.care last financial year.
Meanwhile, over 378 families and individuals in the regions were supported to avoid homelessness thanks to early intervention provided by the agency’s homelessness services.
These are among highlights outlined in the country organisation’s annual report despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
ac.care chief executive officer Shane Maddocks explained at the organisation’s annual general meeting last month at the Riddoch Arts and Cultural Centre ac.care had grown from a small organisation founded under the auspices of Mount Gambier’s Anglican church in 1986 to be now classed as a large not-for-profit agency.
Today, the organisation employs more than 240 people to provide diverse services across the Limestone Coast, Riverland, Murraylands, Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu Peninsula.
Aboriginal people represent 12pc of the staff team, with the figure continuing to grow.
Over the past financial year, ac.care was appointed as the lead agency for the Southern Country Homeless Alliance to work in partnership with Pangula Mannamurna and Moorundi Aboriginal health services, Junction Australia and SA Housing Authority under State Government reforms.
The organisation also progressed expansion of its child and youth residential care service with its first Riverland home and addition of a fifth home in Mount Gambier, in addition to two existing properties in Murray Bridge.
Meanwhile, the organisation partnered with Habitat for Humanity SA and other charities, agencies and the South Australian Housing Authority to convert a vacant duplex in need of repairs into four modern apartments now home to four supported vulnerable youth in the Murray Bridge area.
ac.care also introduced a range of new services after receiving funding for Community Connections and youth development and support initiatives and partnered with Baptist Care SA and the South East Junction to pilot a positive men’s behaviour group program in the Limestone Coast.
“This growth in our funding continues to ensure we are strong financially, however, our success stems from the trust country people put in our staﬀ and volunteers and the services they deliver,” Mr Maddocks said.
“We have committed, skilled, compassionate people who have continued to provide services despite the challenges of the pandemic and have adapted well to working in diﬀerent ways to ensure our essential services continue to be delivered in a safe way to help provide a better future for people who use our services.”
However, Mr Maddocks said many challenges remained to achieve the agency’s mission in ensuring vulnerable country people had safe homes, enough money to live on and strong, positive relationships.
“Our communities are deeply aﬀected by the shortage of aﬀordable housing, lack of mental health services and reliance on incomes that continue to keep people in poverty,” he said.
“During the initial stages of the pandemic, we saw what was possible with income support lifted for those without work, as well as support provided for those industries directly impacted by lockdowns.”
Additional support from government during the pandemic allowed ac.care to ensure more people sleeping rough were provided with a safe place to stay, including in motels and caravan parks as housing shortages continued to restrict accommodation opportunities.
“We have seen what is possible to support people to live with dignity and we continue to advocate for change to enhance services to those who are experiencing vulnerability,” Mr Maddocks said.
Meanwhile, community support through donations of funds and goods has helped people working in frontline services extend the impact they can have in helping people overcome challenges, secure a better future and help vulnerable people extend their limited budgets to cover basic necessities.
“Our values of compassion, adaptability, relationships and excellence continue to drive us to achieve our mission, but we can’t do this alone and continue to welcome the support of the communities in which we live and work,” Mr Maddocks said.
Anyone can become a regular or one-off donor to increase the impact of ac.care’s services by visiting accare.org.au/donate
A copy of ac.care’s annual report is also available to download.