New IRT community combines aged and disability services

A new community, catering for ageing people with an intellectual disability and their primary carers, has opened in New South Wales (NSW).

NSW Minister for Ageing and Minister for Disability Services The Hon. John Ajaka MLC, IRT Group CE Nieves Murray and Parliamentary Sectretary for the Illawarra and South Coast Gareth Ward.

Photo: NSW Minister for Ageing and Minister for Disability Services The Hon. John Ajaka MLC, IRT Group CE Nieves Murray and Parliamentary Sectretary for the Illawarra and South Coast Gareth Ward.

Kemira at IRT William Beach Gardens was founded on IRT Group’s Pathways through Partnership model, and features 12 universally designed villas, a community centre, and a five-bed respite centre.

The facility combines aged and disability services, which allows people with an intellectual disability and their carers to age in their home and community, in a supportive environment.

"People with lifelong disability represent one of the most rapidly growing groups within Australia's ageing population,” says IRT Group chief executive Nieves Murray.

"We know there is often a crisis situation when ageing people with intellectual disability are forced to separate from their carers, who are usually family members, because their carers go into aged care.

"In this new IRT Community up to 12 people with intellectual disability will be able to rent a home of their own and live with their primary carers within a supportive community as they age."

IRT Group will operate Kemira alongside its existing IRT William Beach Gardens Lifestyle & Care Community at Kanahooka, south of Wollongong.

"By including a five-bed respite centre on site, we're also hoping to improve the lives of many other Illawarra families who are needing a break, and help them form connections with each other," Ms Murray says.

IRT will enter a tenancy contract with the person with intellectual disability, rather than their carers, which is crucial to the success of the model.

"This ensures that people with disability can continue living at Kemira even if they become separated from their primary carers due to poor health or passing," Ms Murray says. "Parents and carers are telling us that this is very important to them."

The NSW Government contributed $2.9 million in funding for the project from the $100 million Restart NSW Illawarra Infrastructure Fund, with $2 million in additional funding and in-kind support from IRT Group.

According to Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra and South Coast, and Member for Kiama, Mr Gareth Ward MP,  “The project not only benefits people with intellectual disability and their families, but the broader community with more than 100 direct and indirect jobs created to service the Kemira community”.

The Pathways through Partnership model was developed by IRT Group together with Greenacres Disability Services, Interchange Illawarra and Community Gateway, to create a community where ageing people with an intellectual disability and their ageing carers are supported.

The model is supported by the University of Wollongong, which is evaluating the project as a blueprint for other service providers.

"We are immensely proud of Kemira and grateful for the support we received from the NSW Government, our disability service partners and the University of Wollongong," says Ms Murray.