Matt Teale has worked with the Caringa Top Cuts Crew in Grafton for the last 10 years. They are now expanding their operations to Coffs Harbour. Photo: Tim Jarrett
Matt Teale has worked with the Caringa Top Cuts Crew in Grafton for the last 10 years. They are now expanding their operations to Coffs Harbour. Photo: Tim Jarrett

Caringa Topcuts crew expanding to new turf

A SUCCESSFUL disability employment program has made its way to Coffs Harbour, ensuring no blade of grass will be left uncut.

Caringa's Topcuts Lawn and Garden crew has been around for more than 35 years, helping people with disabilities into employment and maintaining gardens with aplomb.

With brand new equipment and a shiny new truck, the program is expanding to open doors for people in Coffs Harbour via the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

"We were always moving towards starting more opportunities in Coffs Harbour," Caringa employment manager Brennan Elks said.

"(Employment opportunities) were something a lot of people asked for when they came in with their new NDIS plans and it was a space we wanted to move into alongside our supported accommodation and day programs we have running in Coffs."

Caringa, as an NDIS registered provider for supported employment, are now on the lookout for staff for their Coffs Harbour Topcuts crew and any person or business needing a hand with the gardening.

They already employ more than 40 staff in their existing teams in the Clarence Valley, some of which have been coming to Coffs to lend a hand and help train the new crews.

Scott Mullins, Matt Teale and Nick Campbell of the Caringa Topcuts Crew. Photo: Tim Jarrett
Scott Mullins, Matt Teale and Nick Campbell of the Caringa Topcuts Crew. Photo: Tim Jarrett

The program functions like any garden maintenence business and through a growing client base empowers people with a disability to gain skills for employment in a supportive environment.

Caringa's roots in the region date back to 1953, when the Grafton community got together to create Caringa School for children with disability. They expanded into Coffs Harbour in 2014.

Mr Brennan, who has been with the organisation for nearly 20 years, said their employment programs were all about helping people achieve their goals - and that was what he loved about it.

"A lot of people have goals (to gain employment) and this is great for meeting the community and building their skill base," he said.

"We see great results and there are really great outcomes. Our gardening guys are some of the happiest workers you will ever meet. It is a huge confidence builder."

Caringa also ensure the program, along with their School Leavers Employment Scheme, can also act as a stepping stone into unsupported employment.

It was all part of a renewed focus on employment by the National Disability Insurance Agency and NDIS providers, who have made helping people into the workforce a priority.

In the past, funding for supported employment was hard to come by and now anyone with a NDIS package can be eligible if it is a goal of the person covered under the scheme.

The NDIA is also aiming to have 30 per cent of working age people in the NDIS employed by 2023.



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