Noah's Ark Annual Report 2021

06 Dec 2021

Noah's Ark Annual Report 2021

Who we are, what we do

Noah’s Ark celebrated its 50th birthday this year, an important milestone in working with families to help build better futures for children with disabilities. We are a not-for-profit community organisation based in Victoria, the ACT, NSW, and a Registered NDIS Provider. Our range of services and programs have been developed by industry professionals and specialists to support families who have a child with a disability or additional needs (aged 0 – 12).

We work closely with children and their families, with a focus on the services they use and the activities they participate in. We provide them with the very best information and support, enabling them to make informed decisions and meet their goals. We have grown to now employ more than 350 staff. We work with more than 2055 families across Victoria, NSW and the ACT through the NDIS. We also run programs such as Kindergarten Inclusion Support, P2P and C4C.

In addition to providing training for early childhood professionals, we participate in sector events and lead policy and research nationally and internationally. The results of this work speak for themselves. The Canadian Occupation Performance Measure indicated that almost all families reported an improvement in their child’s performance against the goals identified in their Family Service Support Plan.

Celebrating 50 years

This year is Noah’s Ark 50th Anniversary. In 1971, our founders, Annetine Forell and Mary Glue started the Noah’s Ark Toy Library at the Caulfield Library. The name Noah’s Ark simply came from the idea that...

Everyone is welcome

So who were our two founders? Annetine was a mother of four and an experienced nurse: part of her vision was related to the fact that one of her four children had a developmental delay. Mary was a mother of three, and an experienced Occupational Therapist. Annetine had just returned from living in London, where she saw local toy libraries supporting children and families in their community.

Together they recognised that the families of children with disabilities needed a safe and welcoming place to come to. One of their main ideas was that Noah’s Ark should be non-clinical and it also should be fun. Soon a team of volunteer therapists and teachers joined them in providing toys, consultations and playgroups. They both had a vision that children with additional needs should be supported along with their whole family, and that is still a value that Noah’s Ark holds dear today. Celebrating the 50th anniversary is a huge milestone for any organisation. We commenced the process of developing a film reflecting on the achievements of Noah’s Ark over the past 50 years. Unfortunately, COVID-19 meant the completion of this film and other celebrations have been delayed until we can gather in person. The cataloguing of materials and an interactive timeline illustrating the many changes the organisation has gone through will also be released. We are looking forward to hosting events— inviting staff, previous clients, community members and donors to recognise this achievement. 

Another highlight of the year was setting the next three-year strategic plan. In preparation for the plan, we took the opportunity to reflect on our organisational compass. The compass is a reminder of the Noah’s Ark values, the vision, our promise to clients, our strategies and what success looks like.

Strategic Plan 2021-2024

The key themes within the strategies the organisation will focus on are: 

  • Our customers (Children, Families, Early Childhood, Schools, Community),
  • Our quality services, 
  • Our people, 
  • Our systems and  
  • Our partnerships.

Our Strategic Projects 

Commitment to Continuous Improvement Under each of the themes in the strategic plan are areas for development. To begin the implementation of the new strategic plan, Noah’s Ark has commenced work on four critical projects. 

Working with Children 6-13+ 

Following the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), new funding became available to support children at primary school age. Noah's Ark had a long history of working in early childhood intervention, the years before school. Families approached Noah's Ark and asked us to continue to provide services as their child transitioned to school, and Noah’s Ark welcomed this opportunity. In this project we are looking to further our support for families as their child’s needs change during this period and develop community partnerships to facilitate children's participation. 

Flexible Service Delivery 

Noah's Ark service to families has predominantly been face-to-face meetings with families. There have been attempts to introduce “virtual visits” over many years, but these did not continue. When COVID-19 impacted service delivery options in 2020, all services were delivered virtually using various telehealth technologies during lockdowns. We are looking to further identify these practices and help guide clients and staff to understand the best mix of telehealth and face-to-face meetings into the future. 

Focusing on Connection 

With the experience of staff working from home we are interested in the best working scenarios for staff into the future. The HUB project's primary purpose is to support an organisational change that builds organisational flexibility and connection beyond team and location to across the organisation. This will include looking at office design, fit for purpose IT and connection and relationship development with colleagues and families. The overall project outcome is to build organisational consistency, connection and creativity through understanding key worker and family needs and building spaces and IT that is responsive to this. 

Strengths Based Leadership 

The concept of and expectations for leadership at Noah’s Ark has changed with the transition to the NDIS and more recently the COVID-19 pandemic. This project will examine maintaining support for staff, facilitating teams, and leading with a shared understanding of measures of success in the new environment. This will underpin the improving quality of our services.

Our highlights

Communicating with staff and families

Clear and dynamic communications have been a key focus for the organisation during the year. Service delivery has been ever-changing to meet the needs of the different states' position on COVID-19. This has impacted how often we communicate to clients, the community and to staff.

Consultation with families and staff via surveys have reflected that regular updates, service delivery changes and our free parent/carer activities and newsletters has had a positive impact. These positive results are reflected in the annual family survey.

Proactive and planned communications 

Below are examples of the themes that were communicated to clients, the community, and staff. 

  • Health and Wellbeing advice and where to get help 
  • NDIS and Government updates 
  • Research and submissions 
  • Free online programs and activities 
  • Good news stories and articles about our families
  • Celebration of important cultural, disability and advocacy days 
  • Support of Indigenous initiatives such as NAIDOC and Reconciliation week

Families were kept updated on news affecting them by ensuring COVID and NDIS updates were shared in a timely manner. We shared activity ideas for families to keep busy with arts and craft and virtual events and videos. We also shared health and wellbeing advice from the industry and links to mental health support, for those who may feel isolated and have children struggling with lockdown.

Changing how we work—Telehealth 

Noah's Ark service to families prior to the impacts of COVID-19 was predominantly face-to-face. When COVID-19 required significant changes to services provided to children and families we transitioned supports to be provided by telehealth. The initial phases of this transition required rapid learning, flexibility, and adaptability by all. 

In a survey conducted by Noah’s Ark in 2021, 56% of families reported that they would like to maintain a level of telehealth services. What was initially a significant change is now part of our ongoing service options and we are currently working to further develop the way in which services can be flexibly provided to children and families.

Professional development, training, and resources 

The last year has seen the Training department extend its reach yet again. 

Due to in-person restrictions, we quickly pivoted to providing our face-to-face training via Zoom. We have found this to be highly successful for many of our courses. The Zoom sessions are shorter with a live facilitator over a few weeks, and quite often the webinars are in the evening. This is giving educators and therapists an opportunity to try some strategies and join their online group to discuss how this went the following week. 

The online webinars also make the training much more accessible with no travel costs for either facilitators or participants. Our webinars will be a continuing offer into the future. 

We have also launched our first ever Routines Based Interview (RBI) online course. The RBI is a pivotal tool in supporting families to set meaningful goals for themselves and their child. This is an exciting new development in how we can train both the Noah’s Ark team, but also offer it to external clients as well.

Sustaining wellbeing 

The COVID-19 and government restrictions, including the closure of childcare and schools and other support services have put significant pressure on staff and families with all services across NSW, ACT and Victoria experiencing simultaneous periods of restrictions. We have supported employees with flexible working hours

Families were kept updated on news affecting them by ensuring COVID and NDIS updates were shared in a timely manner. 

We shared activity ideas for families to keep busy with arts and craft and virtual events and videos. We also shared health and wellbeing advice from the industry and links to mental health support, for those who may feel isolated and have children struggling with lockdown. 

The Wellbeing program for employees has included: 

  • Engagement with a new EAP provider that has provided regular “Let’s Chat” drop-in sessions in addition to flexible individualised supports 
  • RU OK Day, and other events
  • Recognition of Service awards 
  • Mental and physical health tips and suggested reading 
  • Yoga sessions 
  • Saying thank you – a small gift to all employees showing appreciation
  • Facebook page for employees to connect —Working Together Remotely.

Improving systems 

Our website has undergone a review with changes made to increase accessibility for families and the introduction of a new careers page for people wishing to join Noah’s Ark. 

Families have been supported through regular newsletters and access to customer care services and support. 

In response to employee survey feedback, we have implemented a change request program in which employee’s from across the organisation can identify the need for a system or process change. This has resulted in excellent changes being trialled and implemented including how file audits are conducted and how electronic records of visit are provided to families. The process is coordinated by the Operations Managers who each respond to every change request submitted.

Download the full 2021 Annual Report (PDF 3MB)

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