This isolation has led to disproportionately higher rate of family breakdown and divorce amongst families experiencing disability. To address this issue, the E.W Tipping Foundation, which provides a range of community support services to people with a disability and their families, developed the D.A.D.s Initiative to build a network of trained volunteers and community support groups across Victoria.
A pilot program initially trialled in the Loddon Mallee region achieved positive outcomes which formed the evidence base for a submission to The Ian Potter Foundation and two other funders to expand the program.
The D.A.D.s Initiative objectives were to provide information and opportunities that assist fathers of children with a disability to better support their children and to provide opportunities to meet other fathers in similar circumstances. The program sought to ensure that dads had a greater understanding of the services and support available to them and their families.
A key component was ensuring that the volunteers were well supported and coordinated. Given the pressures many of the participants were already experiencing, it was important not to increase these.
The Foundation’s support contributed to the employment of a volunteer coordinator and transport and travel costs to ensure none of the participants were financially burdened through their participation in the weekend activities or support groups.
The project achieved many of its objectives but fell short of its overall goal of involving 150 men in the project and registered 76 dads as participants. Results both anecdotally and through formal feedback indicated an overall positive experience for participants.
The project also produced a handbook for the weekend activity facilitators and developed a set of procedures and processes to support ongoing volunteer groups.
This project acknowledges that while volunteer support is important; projects and activities need to be supported and coordinated and require resources of both time and money.
Funders can often view volunteer programs as a cheaper alternative to staffed programs and although cost efficiencies exist, the quality of the participant experience should not be compromised by cost-savings.
Author: Caitriona Fay, Senior Program Manager