WITH funding pressures leaving many community services organisations in the red, LiveBetter's chief executive officer says she intends to maintain service levels.
Natalie Forsyth-Stock officially began in the role on Monday, having already served as interim CEO since mid-January after the departure of Tim Curran.
With a background in investment banking and private equity, Mrs Forsyth-Stock has been a board member of the organisation for the past three years.
She will lead the 1800-employee provider, which owns 32 independent living homes for people with disabilities across the state.
She said the funding structure had changed "dramatically" under the National Disability Insurance Scheme, where organisations are paid per hour to provide a service to a client instead of receiving block funding to provide a service.
We're fortunate we're a large organisation so we can withstand some of the financial shocks.LiveBetter CEO Natalie Forsyth-Stock
On one occasion LiveBetter was owed $1 million in payments.
"In 2018, only 48 per cent of providers actually made money, something like 28 per cent lost money and the rest broke even - it was a pretty difficult year," she said, noting LiveBetter had finished in the black.
"The NDIS is fantastic, but it's taken time to get systems in place.
"We're fortunate we're a large organisation so we can withstand some of the financial shocks - we made the decision to get bigger for that reason."
She said LiveBetter had exited the growth phase and there would be some consolidation, with 16 employees recently made redundant as a result.
But she said its crucial day programs and homes would remain in place, as well as its home care packages for the elderly.
"Supporting independent living is the very core of what we do," she said.
LiveBetter is part of Ability First Australia, a group of service providers in talks with the federal government about how to cater for growing demand in the sector.
Mrs Forsyth-Stock said the challenge involved inspiring more people to see the disability and aged care sector as a career.
"If you come in as a disability support worker, for what these people do, it's not that well paid and it's difficult to attract younger people," she said.
"We want to get people into a lifelong career where they might start as a disability support worker but they might end up as a psychologist or an occupational therapist - we need to provide pathways."
Next year, LiveBetter will work with high schools providing placements for students as part of their HSC.
"When they graduate, they'll have a Certificate III in community support," she said.
But she said the challenge of providing pathways was funding the staff training.
"If you have to take staff offline to train them, we have to backfill those positions so it's expensive - this is the issue we have to talk to government about," she said.
She said the sector was a rewarding one, where people had a genuine role in improving others' lives.
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