Noah's Ark Annual Report 2023

15 Nov 2023

Reconnection with our Community: 2023 Annual Report

President’s Report

Noah’s Ark has continued to respond strongly to challenges this year from both the post COVID-19 pandemic environment and our involvement in the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I thank all staff across the organisation for their ongoing dedication and commitment. This commitment is evident in the positive feedback from families about the support they are getting and the progress their children are making.

While the more direct impacts of COVID-19 are now over, its effects are still evident. There is a group of young children who missed out on significant developmental opportunities. It may take some time for the impact on families and children to be fully resolved.

Interestingly, there has been a change in parent expectations about how we work. Combining working face-to-face with using telehealth is becoming a family choice. Last year, there was a strong desire to return to face-to-face contact.

In our latest family survey, there was a 16% increase from 2022 to 2023 in the number of families indicating they would like some telehealth services in the future. We expect the use of technology to continue to evolve, with its capacity to offer flexibility for busy families.

Another potential impact of the pandemic has been an industry wide shortage of therapy staff working in the NDIS.

Traditionally Noah’s Ark could rely on word of mouth to recruit staff, supported by advertising and social media. This is no longer sufficient.

Our response has been to introduce two successful strategies based on building stronger relationships with training universities. We have established a program of student placements across the organisation. It gives students the opportunity to experience working in our field. We have also introduced a Graduate Program, which supports new staff starting their careers. Both these initiatives are working well.

There has also been a focus on the retention of staff. Noah’s Ark provides a range of professional learning. These were formalised into a more systematic response this year. This recognises the importance of career development opportunities and role diversification, as well as the development of discipline specific knowledge.

Noah’s Ark remains committed to the belief that high quality services result from having a highly skilled workforce. I would like to acknowledge the significant work undertaken by Roxanne Higgins, Director of Services, and the Operations Managers to introduce these initiatives so quickly.

This year we have also begun to refocus our attention on the inclusion of children with disabilities in kindergarten and schools. We are currently involved in this area, which is critical for children’s development. We are looking to a greater contribution in the future.

As President, I would like to thank the Board members for their continuing contribution to Noah’s Ark. We welcomed Malcolm McNab to the Board this year and are already benefiting from his expertise. On behalf of the Board, I would also like to thank John Forster, CEO, the Management team and all the staff for the commitment and skills that they bring to their roles.

Vikki Morris

CEO Report

When people collectively work towards a goal they believe in, it generates an energy. It has been a year of connections and reconnections inside and outside the organisation. The energy generated by these connections has sustained us during yet another turbulent year.

Our external environment continues to be complicated. We went from the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have emerged from the pandemic to the 10-year review of the NDIS. This Review is likely to set off another round of change.

In the process, we have learnt to manage, plan, organise and get things done differently. We have also learnt about the importance of staff being connected and connecting to like-minded organisations in this sector.

Within Noah’s Ark we held three ‘connections’ events. In August 2022, there were connection events for every team. This included watching the then new film about Noah’s Ark's first fifty years, with its connections to the past.

Last December I had the privilege to attend meetings of our three clusters and led an appreciative enquiry session on working with children who are school aged.

In March this year, we had our first in-person staff forum since 2019. 132 staff members participated from all areas of the organisation. For the many staff who had joined us in the last three years it was the first opportunity to meet the bigger team. People who had been working together online met in person. There was a wave of excitement and energy.

The focus was on the impact of the work staff do. Speakers included Rahima Rezai, a Board member, who spoke on Resilience Through Transitions. Drawing from personal experience, and the experience of other migrant families, Rahima spoke about having a child with a disability, finding supports and the critical contributions professionals can make. Todd Winther, who lives with a disability and is an independent consultant, spoke about the importance of The Impact of High Expectations on Life on his life as he was growing up.

Staff at the conference also highly valued a series of workshops led by Mentors, Coaches and Operations Managers. There is a strong commitment at all levels of management to staff maintaining high levels of connections.

Many of the connections outside the organisation resulted from the NDIS Review, and its promise to listen to participants and provider’s experiences. Noah’s Ark was involved in the forming of a new professional association, called Professionals and Researchers in Early Childhood Intervention (PRECI), that will support and develop a national research-to-practice network focused on children with developmental disabilities. We also contributed to its inaugural virtual conference last November, with the theme of Excellence and Equity.

At a practice level we became part of a NSW based Early Childhood Intervention Best Practice Network, that includes approximately 20 not-for-profit organisations. These have a strong involvement in early childhood development. This group promotes the importance of children being connected to their families, to local early childhood services and to their community.

We have also been working in Victoria with a group that includes a parent-led organisation.

Building connections with like-minded organisations during the NDIS Review has been important. It has allowed sharing experiences and clarifying important messages about the impact of the NDIS on families and children which is important to building community understanding of what best practice is. The Review has now acknowledged a drift from a focus on best practice, family centred practice and community connections for children, to children with disabilities being treated in isolation.

Noah’s Ark is committed to constantly improving its own best practice. It does this through its strong professional support for staff, a range of projects drawing on research and practice experience to promote new approaches and through longer-term projects. The next sponsored PhD through RMIT University has the topic: Planning for effective parent-school partnerships for students with a disability.

I want to thank all staff at Noah's Ark for their hard work and commitment over the last year. Staff remain committed to better outcomes for children and families, which is what matters.

I also want to thank our Management team. Our organisation keeps demonstrating its ability to respond to the environment we are in. The Management group has been outstanding in meeting challenges, including the impact of the workforce shortages. The collective energy directed towards improvement makes it a great organisation.

Finally, I want to thank the Board for their support, confidence, and commitment to Noah’s Ark’s future.

John Forster

Director of Services Report

Noah’s Ark’s focus in the 2022/2023 financial year has maintained children and families at the centre of all we do. This year we have looked to further develop, measure and demonstrate the quality of the services we deliver, expand our service offers through diversification and build processes to support and maintain employee connection.

At Noah’s Ark, we monitor the quality of our services through family feedback, employee surveys and data collection and analysis. This year 91%of the families we supported were satisfied with the services they received.

Noah’s Ark is passionate about delivering evidence-based services that are measured against the goals children and families have set as their priorities. Goals are measured using the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (COPM). The COPM is an evidence-based measure designed to capture a client’s (children and families) self-perception of their satisfaction and performance in everyday living activities over time. The COPM is used in over 40 countries and has been translated into 35 languages. This year Noah’s Ark analysed more than 10,000 goals ensuring the services we provide are making a difference in the lives of the children and families we work with and helping us to understand where we can improve.

Noah’s Ark joined the Ability First Allied Health round table in 2023. This is a group of not-for-profit organisations across Australia that work together to share learning and build a quality practice to support children and families achieve their goals.

We have further developed a range of interest-based groups that focus on supporting children to develop targeted functional goals. An unintended outcome of our group programs has been the informal parent connection and support that have developed. In addition, Noah’s Ark has successfully supported children and families through the Department of Education and Training to deliver “Family Transition Programs” supporting children and families transitioning to school. We are also working within schools and early learning environments supporting children and educators across Victoria and ACT to build learning and connection opportunities. In the ACT and NSW Noah’s Ark has worked with Envisage to deliver parent support programs.The Envisage program is based on evidence-based outcomes developed in Canada and has been highly successful.

Noah’s Ark is excited to announce that in 2024 we will commence delivering the pre-school field officer program in the City of Casey. Inclusion has long been at the heart of all Noah’s Ark does and we are committed to continuing to build our service offers in this area.

Each year Noah’s Ark surveys its employees to understand how we can improve organisational culture and connection. The employee survey informed us that we needed to review our onboarding processes, build a dedicated graduate program and make clearer the career opportunities across the organisation. In response to this, Noah’s Ark has developed and launched a New Graduate program which has seen 16 new graduates participate in 2023 and we are looking to this growing significantly in 2024. Developing the New Graduate program supported a review of our overall onboarding and induction processes.

To develop our career pathways more comprehensively, Noah’s Ark partnered with EY and in August 2023 launched the Noah’s Ark Career Pathways program, which we are looking forward to evaluating and refining further in 2024.

At the centre of all we do at Noah’s Ark are the children and families we have the privilege to walk alongside, however, we would not be able to do this without an amazing team of professionals. This was the first year out of COVID-19 disruptions and has had its own challenges as we returned to a work environment that had transformed. I want to take a moment to acknowledge that the Noah’s Ark professionals working with children and families have adapted to this transition in a way I never imagined possible. The Noah’s Ark professionals I work to support are outstanding and the Team Leaders, Managers, and Operation Managers’ commitment and skill needs acknowledgement; thank you for all you do every day.

Roxanne Higgins

To read further reports from our leadership team and view the annual financials, download the full 2023 Annual Report (PDF 2MB)

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