Home Wasn’t Built In A Day

Moving out of home is a milestone of independence for Nigel Bates, a 33 year old Newcastle resident living with an intellectual disability. Nigel described himself as, “a little birdy who didn’t want to leave his mother’s nest”, however is now a ‘house-proud’ tenant, settled into his new home and encouraging others living with disability to move towards an independent lifestyle.

Nigel has recently moved out of his mother Jill’s home. He is now residing in one of 22 brand new affordable housing units owned by the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. Jill is extremely proud of her son’s achievement and identifies a real need for accommodation for people with an intellectual disability. “I am part of a parent support group, Adults Needing Supported Accommodation (ANSA), a group of older parents looking for somewhere for their child to live”, said Jill. She shared with the group a concern for the wellbeing of their children after they had passed on. “I was extremely nervous about Nigel moving out of home, but was very aware that, as the parent of a disabled son, I needed a succession plan”, said Jill.

For Jill and Nigel, the unit has been a dream-turned-reality.

Nigel is living with Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome (RTS), an uncommon syndrome observed in an estimated 1 in 100,000 to 125,000 newborns*. Additionally, Nigel’s spine didn’t fully develop as a baby, meaning he sometimes has difficulty with physical activities. Nigel has a wicked sense of humour, he cheekily tells of his twin brother Samuel and how bossy he was when they were growing inside the womb. Samuel pushed him to the side, which is why he has a spine condition. Regardless, Nigel enjoys working outdoors and with his hands as a greenkeeper with Delando Corporation.

To balance work with leisure, Nigel holds a season pass to the football and is a devout Newcastle Knights fan, citing Jarrod Mullen, Kurt Gidley and Paul Harragon as his favourite players, past and present. “I’m a passionate red and blue, till the end”, said Nigel. The theme of sibling rivalry continues here as Nigel adds, “My brother Samuel is a big Souths fan”.

Nigel’s two older brothers, Lachlan and Warwick, along with his twin Samuel and father, Terry, supported him physically and emotionally during the gradual transition into his own home. They stayed with him during the first few weeks as he settled in, but Nigel has now fully relaxed into his new life. “I’m happy to call this place my home”, he said. “I know I’m always welcome at my mum and dad’s, but this is my home now”. Terry is pleased to see his son make a home for himself, “The most important part of Nigel gaining his independence was his amazing increase in self-esteem and his joy in finally being independent of his parents”, he said.

Despite Nigel’s family's reservations about him taking the next step, they are delighted with the outcome. “Nigel has totally surprised everyone with how well he’s adapted to independent living, not to mention how ‘house-proud’ he is”, said Jill. “Friends and family continually comment on how happy, confident and proud of himself he is”. Nigel enjoys going home for family meals and has a busy social life. “He really enjoys having people drop into the unit for a cuppa. A good supply of biscuits is kept on hand for this purpose!”, said Jill.

Nigel’s move has had a huge impact on Jill’s life. Jill recently retired from primary school teaching at St Columba’s, Adamstown and, after 44 years, she’s currently enjoying a holiday in Queensland. Having her last son fly from the coop, Jill said she was a little lost at first with her new-found ability to do things. “Having raised four sons, my last one had finally left home”, she said, “I quickly adapted, however”.

Along with the affordable housing units, there are two CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning supported accommodation units designed specifically for people living with disability on the same site. The units and accommodation were developed together as a community, in progress towards an inclusive society where all are welcome. Nigel’s sense of community was affirmed during the recent Newcastle storms. He was without power for two days and went to stay with his family. Nigel was thrilled when his neighbour called him to say their power Geraldine Williams had come back on and he could return to his home.

For anyone living with disability and contemplating moving towards an independent lifestyle, Nigel hopes his achievements will provide encouragement. “Just think of me as inspiration. If I can do it, you can do it, too!” Jill also shared some words of wisdom for parents and loved ones of people living with disability, “You must have a plan, keep looking and never give up!”.

If you would like to learn more about diocesan affordable housing, please P 4979 1381. If you are interested in learning more about CatholicCare supported accommodation, please P 4979 1120.

*Source Genetics Home Reference, ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/rubinstein-taybi-syndrome

What is affordable housing and NRAS?

Diocesan Vice Chancellor Administration, Sean Scanlon, provides an insight into affordable housing in the Hunter region.

In 2014 the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle completed a build of 22 affordable housing units in Newcastle, providing subsidised rent for local families under the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS). NRAS is a joint Federal and State Government funding initiative offering a 20% subsidy for the diocese to pass on in full to the tenant. These families are now enjoying the benefit of a $70-$80 rental saving each week to put towards everyday living costs, unexpected bills or even a rare treat for their children.

In 2016 the diocese will be housing a further 64 families in Lake Macquarie and Maitland, bringing the total number of Hunter families living in diocesan affordable housing to 86. This is really making a difference. The families and individuals living in affordable housing, such as Nigel, face challenges every day. To know they can now go to a home of their own which is safe, secure and affordable is really satisfying.

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Geri Williams

Geri Williams is the Online Communications and Brand Officer for the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. She is also a regular writer for Aurora Magazine.

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