St Giles gambles on new property

THREE weeks ago, St Giles disability service took a $500,000 punt on a property at Summerhill.

The organisation borrowed money for the first time to buy the property, in what chief executive Ian Wright calls ``a hell of a risk''. But he said the National Disability Insurance Scheme called for a brave new world.

Last week marked one year since the beginning of the NDIS trial for 18 to 24-year-olds in Tasmania.

The NDIS is designed to give people with disability choice and control over what services they receive, but it also means organisations have to compete for business to remain viable.

Mr Wright said St Giles had 85 people receiving services under a NDIS package, but it had been difficult to attract people over 18 when it was previously known and funded as a children's service.

``The marketing of our services will continue to be a big issue for us. We have committed a substantial amount of money to our marketing,'' Mr Wright said. 

``We're now looking to rebrand ourselves for the brave new world.

``St Giles only has a website at the moment because it's essentially to raise funds, but with the scheme now .th.th. our website has to become about selling you a service.''

Mr Wright said the NDIS model also meant St Giles and other organisations could have to make tough decisions on what services they provided, based on viability and business sense.

``St Giles is known for the fact that it will do anything for anybody, and the funding model that existed prior to the national scheme allowed us to do that, but the new scheme won't work as easily,'' he said.

``When your margins are really tight, it doesn't really encourage the taking of risks to provide new types of services.''

Mr Wright said despite the challenges, he was optimistic about the future of the NDIS.

He said the advantages could be seen in the new Summerhill property, which was bought to meet the needs of the organisation's new 18 to 24-year-old cohort.

Mr Wright said the property featured two units, which St Giles was renting out to young people with disability under the NDIS, and a house it would use as a transitional respite centre.

``One of the biggest needs of kids at adolescence to adulthood is somewhere to live,'' Mr Wright said.

``So with these units they're away from mum and dad, got somewhere to live and someone's going to provide support for them.''

Mr Wright said the respite centre would provide services around ``the transition aspects of life'', such as entering the workforce or furthering education.

St Giles chief executive Ian Wright says the NDIS scheme calls for a brave new world. Pictures: MARK JESSER

St Giles chief executive Ian Wright says the NDIS scheme calls for a brave new world. Pictures: MARK JESSER

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