Caring for the Community

New Horizons

New Horizons is a non-profit organisation dedicated to providing support to thousands of Australians each year through a wide variety of services and programs. Logging over a million service hours annually, the team helps a diverse group of people find and maintain accommodation and meaningful employment, access available services, learn new skills, manage everyday tasks, and find their place within the broader community. When New Horizons was founded 30 years ago, its primary focus was to provide support to people with mental illness and intellectual disability. More recently, the organisation has expanded into the aged care space and has added a list of initiatives to its roster, including programs to support Indigenous people and their families.

All New Horizons initiatives work toward the organisation’s ultimate goal which, according to the company website, is to “provide innovative services which support individuals, strengthen communities and enhance social and emotional wellbeing for all.” The team tries to reach as many people as possible in as many different areas as they can and maintains a full roster of programs aimed at helping people with disability. Some of these services for people with disability include assisting jobseekers throughout New South Wales and in Victoria, providing meaningful employment for more than 100 people in Sydney and the Mid North Coast with meaningful employment, and supporting young people in Coffs Harbour with their transition from school to work.

With over 100,000 people facing homelessness each night, New Horizons is also focused on supporting a diverse group of Australians in need of housing. Through the North Coast Accommodation Project, staff provide case management support to people facing homelessness in New South Wales. The team provides counselling, which includes life skills programs and tenancy training, as well as advocacy, negotiation, and referral to specialist support. The organisation also offers accommodation support services to people with mental illness, intellectual disability, or acquired brain injury. Recipients receive daily assistance, including medication management, advocacy, service coordination, and skills training.

According to the New Horizons website, twenty per cent of Australians will experience mental illness at least once during their lifetimes, and half of that population will suffer long term mental health challenges. Not surprisingly, the organisation has always made mental health services a priority. New Horizons runs Day 2 Day Living (D2DL), a free, centre-based service that helps people experiencing mental illness combat isolation, learn coping skills, and increase independence, while simultaneously providing recreational opportunities. The team also offers a respite program for caregivers, outreach support, recovery and resource support, and transitional support. In addition, the organisation provides personal helpers and mentors to people whose ability to live independently is threatened by a mental illness.

The organisation also runs a program in South West Sydney that offers people with mental illness pre-employment skills and training. One of New Horizons’ most innovative programs is its celebrated Hearing Voices Choir. The Choir is free and open to the public, and gives a voice to anyone affected by, or recovering from, mental illness. Through heartfelt performances, participants work toward their own recovery while simultaneously spreading the message that healing is possible.

New Horizons runs a top notch aged care residence at North Ryde to provide constant care and safe, comfortable accommodation for 78 residents. New Horizons Aged Care does not require a bond, instead relying only on the Commonwealth Government fees. Interested parties must be approved by an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) before gaining admittance. The team’s goal is to provide individualised, high quality care while simultaneously helping residents maintain as much independence as possible. New Horizons Aged Care recently underwent the accreditation process and earned 44 out of 44 possible standards – an impressive feat for any home, and even more so for a small, independent facility. “For a standalone aged care residence to receive that kind of accreditation is really setting a precedent,” explains New Horizons CEO Judi Higgin. Furthermore, it is New Horizons’ only foray into the field of aged care. “We are not part of a large aged care conglomerate,” she emphasises. “It’s relatively small compared to others, and yet it has those sorts of achievements.” The home has also won an award for its garden, which provides residents with a peaceful retreat. In addition, residents enjoy regular performances by the local primary school. New Horizons Aged Care has an outstanding reputation – and a long waiting list to prove it. “We never have a vacant bed,” Ms Higgin reports.

New Horizons also offers support to people younger than 65 who are living in aged care alongside frail aged patients due to physical injury, acquired brain injury, intellectual disability, psychiatric disability, or a neurological disease such as Multiple Sclerosis. The Younger People Living in Residential Aged Care (YPIRAC) program aims to improve the lives of these individuals by offering small group activities, assistance in visiting family and friends, individual outings and activities, and transportation. Services are available in Sydney, Central Coast, Hunter, Mid North Coast and Far North Coast, and are mostly free due to DADHC funding.

New Horizons also works with government and community partners to improve the future of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by strengthening the relationship between non-Indigenous and Indigenous communities. Some initiatives, such as the Indigenous Family Support Service in Lismore and the Learner Driver Mentoring Program, are funded directly by New Horizons. Other programs are funded through various government agencies and services. The organisation runs multiple programs to address a variety of Indigenous needs – many of which have traditionally been left unmet. The Learner Driver Mentoring Program teaches young Indigenous people on the New South Wales Central Coast how to drive safely and responsibly. Tribal Dreaming Support helps Indigenous men who are leaving prison to transition smoothly back into the community. Indigenous Community Links helps Indigenous people navigate the mainstream and Indigenous services that are available to them, and Indigenous Family Support Service assists Indigenous people in finding services that are culturally appropriate.

New Horizons stands out because of the wide variety of programs that it offers. Traditionally, non-profits and NGOs have tended to focus on one program or specific disability, whereas New Horizons offers support to the entire community. “We have aged care, we have a range of employment programs and community programs, from homelessness to mental illness to intellectual disability, to Indigenous services,” Ms Higgin explains. “It’s the diversity of our expertise that ultimately sets us apart.”

Another New Horizons’ strength is its principle of collaboration. The team is heavily involved with other organisations and with the broader community. They work closely with other NGOs to conduct research projects, for example, and invite the community to offer insight and feedback, attend conferences and classes, and visit patients in residential care facilities. “One of our strengths is in being open to partnering; we have some very effective partnerships in different communities,” Ms Higgin explains. “We are always looking at ways to work collaboratively to strengthen communities to improve quality of life.” That community spirit is also present among the New Horizons staff. Staff work together as a team and encourage one another. An understanding management team and flexible environment make New Horizons an ideal workplace, particularly for employees in need of a little extra support. For example, the organisation is committed to easing the often difficult transition new mothers face when returning to work after maternity leave. “Right now there is a two month old baby upstairs,” Ms Higgin points out. “We are very conscious of what’s important in terms of work-life balance.”

New Horizons has grown substantially since its founding three decades ago, most notably in the mental health and employment sectors, and this growth is largely due to generous government funding. Programs designed to keep people in their own homes and out of residential care have received substantial support. One of the organisation’s most notable upcoming projects – funded by both the state and New Horizons – is to provide housing for ten people inappropriately placed in residential aged care facilities. The much needed move will “help them to live like anyone else in the community,” Ms Higgin explains. “We have several other new initiatives in the pipeline, all of which push the organisation toward its ultimate vision,” which, according to the company website, is “a society in which communities work together in collaborative, inclusive ways to create opportunity and improve quality of life.” The team is committed to making this dream a reality, and will continue working tirelessly to see it to completion. And, perhaps most importantly, they believe that every Australian has a place within this vision, no matter what the circumstance or disability.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

December 19, 2018, 9:22 AM AEDT