commiunity care office toormina road. 06 july  2016.
commiunity care office toormina road. 06 july 2016. Trevor Veale

Bridging the gap in our lives

WORKING as a counsellor, Jean Clayton has heard stories of desperation and heartbreak. She has heard women share raw details of domestic violence. She has quietly listened to a mother speak of the unbearable pain of finding her son after he killed himself and Jean has seen many families ripped apart and fall through the cracks. Twelve years ago she decided to find another way to help.

Bridging the Gap Community Services Inc. is, as the name suggests, a service looking after those who need to get from one place to another.

“I was over the whole paid work situation and started a local not-for-profit organisation to assist families and reach those most in need in our community,” said Jean, the founder and chief executive of Bridging the Gap Community Services Inc.

“It’s about a mix of preventative measures, early intervention to minimise trauma to families and individuals and helping people get through tough times.”

BTGCSI receives referrals from the Department of Family & Community Services, Correctional Services, employment agencies and general word of mouth. As a not-for-profit organisation, BTGCSI operates on a “wing and a prayer”, receiving no government funding and relying on donations.

“We help men and women with any issue from family law to housing and everything in between and we give one-on-one support which is so crucial in helping people find their way.”

Support programs at BTGCSI include drug and alcohol, anger management and help for parents.

“Our Triple P: positive parenting program, includes role plays, hands-on exercises and a work book participants complete. We are the only service providing this program for non-custodial parents in the area and it’s a way for parents to show a magistrate they’re willing to hop out of the box and take positive steps to work at getting their children back.

“Participants in our anger management course receive a certificate of completion that validates to a magistrate they have acquired the skills to make formative decisions.”

Support and practical assistance is given on a case by case basis and can include counselling, case management and advocates.

“Looking after our clients can be slow steps, we as counsellors are guided by them and the pace they are comfortable with. We walk through everything with our clients. Everybody is different but we always have individual case managers, it saves a lot of energy for everyone involved and means continuity and a chance to establish and build on trust.

“You don’t have to have specific issues to be helped by BTGCSI, you can be doing it generally tough and not have enough money to buy toothpaste. We are geared up to help in a number of situations and on the odd occasion where we can’t help, we have systems in place to refer with full follow up support.”

Bridging The Gap Community Services incorporates the Men’s Resource Centre and Women’s Services as part of its philosophy of trying to keep the family unit together, navigating a way forward and making it more resilient by giving family members the skills to cope.

“The reason we opened up the Women’s Services was that many women want to assist their families and work together with their partners on their relationship and not necessarily take it to the court system. The partners in a relationship can come in on different days for counselling and when, and if, they are ready, they can also come in together.”

There are six counsellors at BTGCSI, all have degrees in psychology and/or sociology or a Certificate IV in Community Services. Their combined experience in the field is the ongoing key to the success of this service.

“We’re all professionals who have chosen to work for the community. We cover every aspect, and while we haven’t got all the answers we’re having success. We’ve heard it all. People will have to get up pretty early to catch us off guard.”

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