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Crossroads revitalised – broadening opportunities for people with a disability

Crossroads young adults enjoying their Easter holiday

After almost 30 years of providing devotional, social, recreational and respite services to people with disabilities Crossroads has undergone some significant changes. Crossroads Director Faileen James said Crossroads’ focus was on giving people with a disability more opportunities to participate actively in the wider community and the Church.

“Often people with a disability are segregated from the community," Ms James said. “To address this, we have introduced new activities that enable our clients to be out and about more. We have also shifted to smaller group sizes, and tailored our programs to better meet people’s specific support needs, interests and age."

Adult day program coordinator Ms Kathy Sheehan said Crossroads clients had generally responded well to the changes. “Our group members enjoy everyday experiences that many people take for granted – from going out for coffee or to the movies to creating artworks for our art exhibition. Families also enjoy seeing their son or daughter become more independent and take part in what the community has to offer," she said.

A regular of Crossroads’ Young Adults program, Ross Miller believes the move to smaller groups with people of similar ages is working well. “The staff are also younger and fun to be around," Ross said.

The recent changes arose out of a 2004 review. Ms James said the review findings recognised the highly valuable work of Crossroads but identified recommendations to ensure its ongoing survival. “Crossroads has helped to enrich many people’s lives and we wanted it to have a strong, viable future," Ms James said. “But first we had to overcome key challenges, such as updating practices, complying with Government funding requirements, financial problems, poor staff morale, and a decreasing base of volunteers.

The review involved extensive consultation with people with a disability, their families, staff, Branches and other outside stakeholders such as government agencies. Based on this feedback we developed recommendations that would build on the achievements of the past but modernise and revitalise Crossroads." These included providing better opportunities for staff and volunteers to enhance their skills and job satisfaction.

“We have linked with Lifeline, UnitingCare’s hospitals and Blue Care, which offer training and other support to Crossroads, at little or no cost," Ms James said. Recognising the vital contribution of volunteers, Crossroads has appointed a Volunteer Coordinator. Kylie Boult recruits, trains and supports a 30-strong team of volunteers, highly valued for the support and friendship they give to Crossroads’ clients.

Greater support is being offered to Crossroads’ statewide Branches, which are starting to work in closer partnership with the Brisbane office. Almost 50 Branch representatives met last year to discuss their support needs and how to improve their activities in line with Crossroads’ future direction. “A small number of Branches felt they were unable to work within the new direction for Crossroads, but may instead continue as a fellowship group of a congregation," said Ms James, who is currently visiting all Branches.

Despite advances, Ms James admits some of the changes have disadvantaged some Crossroads families. “We faced financial disaster and potential loss of our government accreditation unless we fixed up things quickly. But change was difficult, especially when it meant we had to increase program costs and close Crossroads’ Brisbane bus services," Ms James said. “We are now giving more individualised support to people, which requires more staff and increases costs, and plan to submit grant applications for more funding to offer a wider choice of programs for people." In the meantime, Crossroads has set up a Social Justice fund to help families afford the higher program costs.

Friends of Crossroads member Mr Roy Beak says the future of Crossroads lies in its links with the Uniting Church. “I think it’s very important that Crossroads and Uniting Church congregations develop a strong relationship. We need the Church structure to support the important work of the Crossroads, including its Branches," Mr Beak said.

Director of UnitingCare Anne Cross also believes the Uniting Church, with its history of being accepting of a wide range of people, has an important role in breaking down barriers that hinder participation of and relationships with people with a disability. “Our society creates many barriers – physical, social and attitudinal – that can stop people with a disability from taking part in everyday activities. People with a disability have always struggled to be fully accepted in society," Ms Cross said. “Crossroads’ founders were very progressive in wanting the Church to open their arms to welcome people with a disability and join together in fellowship with people with disabilities. Our goal is to renew that vision for Crossroads and further engage people with a disability in all aspects of the life of the Church. Some Uniting Church congregations have already made people with a disability an integral part of their Church community, but much more could be done."

To assist with this, Crossroads will employ a ministry worker later this year to support congregations, particularly through Crossroads Branches, to become more welcoming of people with a disability. In addition, a parent of a young adult who attends Crossroads, Alison Semple will set up the first-ever, electronic Crossroads prayer group to offer prayer and support to clients and their families. People can join by contacting Crossroads or sending an email to prayersupport@xrdsqld.org.au.

“Congregations could encourage people with a disability to take part in worship or join existing fellowship groups, youth groups, prayer groups or family groups," Ms Cross said.

The Former Chair of the Crossroads Commission, Geoff Ross, said the Church as a whole benefited from greater involvement with people with a disability. “When you bring a congregation into contact with people with a disability in a meaningful way, as is being done at Pine Rivers and Robina congregations, they find out they are really just people like you or me who have a lot to contribute," Mr Ross said.

Crossroads thanks the following people and groups for their ongoing support: Members of the now-disbanded Crossroads Commission, our staff, our marvellous volunteers within our Brisbane programs, branches and tours, Friends of Crossroads group members, UnitingCare Queensland, Blue Care, Lifeline Community Care Queensland, Uniting HealthCare, Commonwealth and State governments, and the many community groups we have forged strong links with.

New Crossroads Centre: Crossroads has moved from Wesley House in Brisbane City to its centre at 91 Maundrell Tce, Chermside West QLD 4032 Phone: (07) 3256 4466 Fax: (07) 3256 4734  click here to email

Photo : Crossroads young adults enjoying their Easter holiday