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In 1975, a group of parents of young intellectually disabled children, formed a group to exchange ideas and support each other. Out of this beginning, a Vacation Care program was started to look after these children and other disabled children in the Campbelltown area, during school holidays. This was the beginning of The Association for Children with Special Needs. This Vocation Care program continued for some years until it was taken over by Campbelltown Council.
The Association for Children with Special Needs was joined by Sister Margaret Shannon, from Mater Dei, in 1982/3, and she asked if they were interested in working with her to open a residential program to continue the work of supporting young adults with intellectual disabilities. They agreed to this and many meetings and much fundraising later, the first group home at 21 Blackbutt Avenue, Bradbury with five residents and two staff members, was opened in 1985. Funding was received for this first venture on the condition that the Association had raised $11,000.00 towards the project. Funding was given by Department of Health, Housing & Community Services, Disability Services Branch. After many name changes and restructures this is now known as Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care (ADHC) and was our funding body until we switched to the NDIS.
As the initial children were now adults, it was thought that a name change was needed to recognise their adult status, so the name of the Association became Association for Citizens with Special needs. In 1986, Association for Children with Special Needs. was incorporated as A.C.S.N. Inc. The service sponsored by A.C.S.N. Incorporated was called Macarthur Accommodation System, a Supported Accommodation Service.
With the success of Blackbutt, the group home in Dan Street was opened, followed by Bottlebrush Avenue in 1987. Bowers Place followed in 1988 and Warby Street (since closed) in 1989. Thirteen adults were being supported in the “group home” model and the staff had grown to six with Sister Margaret Shannon as Service Co-ordinator.
In 1989, additional funding was received for a Senior Social Educator to help run the service. The approval of this funding was like winning a war. The paperwork and persistence required was enormous. At the end of 1989, Sister Margaret resigned and passed the Co-ordinator’s flag to Jill Bell, who officially took over the position in January 1990. The Service expanded again in June 1992 with the closure of Stonequarry Lodge and Byron Avenue was opened. The funding element was much easier this time, as the Department approached us to house and support four residents. Raymond Avenue was also opened this year.
In 2007, Macarthur Accommodation System was no longer classed as a Supported Accommodation Service, as the Department of Disability, Ageing and Home Care (ADHC) changed our service description to “In Home Accommodation Support”. This is a more accurate description of our present service, but does not change our commitment to continue to provide long-term support and independent living training to our residents in a caring, respectful and competent way in order to encourage self-reliance, self-worth and bring quality of life to our residents.
Between 1985 and 2017 houses opened and closed, residents moved from group home living to independent living and two couples got married and settled in together. These changes show the adaptability of the service and the response to its mission statement and philosophy to meet residents’ accommodation needs and give them the opportunity to live as normal a life as possible with the associated risks, responsibilities and rewards.
MAS currently supports 27 residents across 14 varying support homes and has a team of 35 dedicated staff members.