Working in disability

Tully Zygier
Michelle Wilcox is a 28 year-old woman who has cerebral palsy. She has always wanted to work in the disability area. Last year she started a new job as a peer support worker. She gives information to people who get Individual Support Package money from the government. The money gives people with a disability the opportunity to meet their disability needs. Michelle meets people with disabilities around Melbourne to explain the different ways they can manage their package. Michelle says this job has given her confidence and she is happy to be working in disability.
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Tully Zygier on 27/09/2012
A man with tatoos sitting in a wheelchair is laughing along with his young female carer who is crouching down beside him.

People choose how to manage their ISP.

Ever since high school Michelle Wilcox has wanted to work in the disability sector. Among her reasons may be that she has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to get around. In 2007 she completed the first stage in reaching that goal when she completed a diploma in community welfare work.

Frustrated at guidelines

As a person with a disability, Michelle receives an Individual Support Package (ISP). ISPs are funds given to people with a disability by the Department of Human Services.

These fund packages have guidelines that people must follow to keep receiving money. Michelle sometimes got frustrated at the guidelines and often felt she could suggest better ways to use her package.

At age 28, Michelle took matters into her own hands after being tired of having to encounter many funding bodies that have rules and restrictions.

Meant to be

According to Michelle it was fate. Just before Christmas in 2011 she received a flyer attached to her ISP statement telling her about the opportunity to work as an ISP peer support worker. Successful applicants would take part in a 12-month program working as paid mentors to guide people on how to best use their ISP.

Michelle didn't hesitate in applying.

She says, I wanted to inspire others to have the same knowledge and power as I do, to be able to have a say in how they choose to manage their own ISP.

Benefits of sharing knowledge

Michelle has gained so much from this work opportunity, especially confidence and knowledge. She has obtained a lot of knowledge about the different funding models available for people to gain support when it comes to managing their disability needs. She has also learned about the importance of respecting individual human rights and that people with a disability have to make decisions about their own lives.

Michelle takes this knowledge and uses it now when she organises and runs network meetings where she makes presentations to people with a disability. She tells people about the choices they can make that are available to them under their ISP. Michelle works alongside five other peer support workers within the Frankston, McKinnon, Cranbourne and Dandenong areas in Melbourne.

Empowering people

General information on Individual Support Packages is available in the community. But Michelle thinks this network offers independent advice that is separate and individual from the traditional disability service providers.

She says participants attending the network meetings receive unbiased information and gain the knowledge and self-confidence required to manage their own ISP.

Michelle and the other peer support workers are sharing information and experiences to help people with a disability make choices they may never have thought of before. By doing so, they empower people with a disability, their family members and carers.

Lastly, it is empowering for Michelle as she is developing her skills so she can continue working within the disability sector.


For more information on the ISP Peer Support Program, contact Vicki Cooper on 9380 7799.

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