Building independence: Maddie Browne

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Like many 20 year olds Maddie is keen to spread her wings, try new things and explore the world. And to do this as a young woman living with cerebral palsy Maddie often has to consider alternative ways to live and enjoy life like her peers.

Since Maddie first transitioned to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) three years ago (she lives in the NSW Hunter region; one of the first areas in Australia to transition to the NDIS), she has been supported by Cerebral Palsy Alliance’s Client Services Consultant, Angela Tiedeman.

With more than more than 25 years’ experience working in the disability sector, Angela has supported, guided and shared her expertise to help Maddie navigate her way through the new funding system of the NDIS.

Soon to embark on her second NDIS plan, Maddie and Angela agree the last three years have been a huge learning curve, for both Maddie as a participant and Cerebral Palsy Alliance as a provider. However, despite the challenges that come with adapting to the new and very different framework of the NDIS, both believe that Maddie’s independence has flourished since she first took part in the trial in 2014.

“The NDIS provides Maddie with many more support hours, which means she’s been able to access more support workers who can help her get out and about in her community far more than she could under the previous funding system,’ said Angela. She adds, “It’s been lovely to watch Maddie’s new found confidence grow as she experiences more of life and starts to mix with people her own age. And having support workers who are young with similar interests means Maddie doesn’t feel like she’s going out with her mum!”

And for Maddie, accessing more support hours means she’s finally starting to enjoy a level of independence her able-bodied peers experienced years ago. “My NDIS package allows me to do things with other young people, which is really important to me. I’ve just completed a certificate in Business at TAFE, and now attend a day program with other young adults. I also go to the gym and hydrotherapy every week.”

“I absolutely love fashion and make-up and have had huge fun with my support workers creating my Maddie Browne Beauty youtube channel where I give tutorials to show others how to apply their make-up. It’s been awesome to do something so creative that I love and also helps others,” says Maddie.

Like most 20 year-olds Maddie is still ‘finding her feet’ when it comes to deciding what she’d like to do with her life. Ideally, she would love to pursue her passion for music and song writing with a career in the music industry, but for the time-being with Angela’s support, she’s focussing on building the skills and life experiences required to develop into a mature young adult preparing to enter the workforce. “All young people, regardless of whether they have a disability, want similar things out of life – employment, independent living and a social life,” says Angela.

“My job is to listen to what Maddie wants to do in the areas of life that are important to her, and then help her access the information and services that reflect her interests and can help her work towards her career and life  goals.”

“Finding employment is the ultimate goal, but first we need Maddie to build up the relevant skill sets and work experience. We’ve tried numerous avenues to get Maddie into a music course, but many of them are either too expensive or require an audition. So we’re now shifting our focus to building on the business administration skills she learnt through her TAFE course and finding a course that reflects her wider interests. 

The next step will be to look at what directions Maddie can go in and then Maddie will decide which way she wants to head.” “Learning how to look outside the box is probably one of the biggest challenges when it comes to maximising your NDIS funding.

In the case of Maddie’s music, we will probably have to re-consider her budget, which may mean less funds for other areas in her plan. How she decides to spend her NDIS funding is entirely up to her,” says Angela. “Despite the challenges, I think the NDIS has come a long way since it launched three years ago. It’s made a lot of service providers more accountable and made the sector listen to what people say they want. Service providers have got to be driven by what people want, rather than what they think those individuals need. It’s important that as a provider we work with our clients to help them find the services that work best for them; providing them with information so they can make informed choices.” For more information visit: www.cerebralpalsy.org.au/services/ndis/about-the-ndis/