Project Manager Debbie Jamieson was engaged by the two boards to help steer the merger process, with minimum disruption to services. A freelance consultant with various non-government organisations over the years, Ms Jamieson has particular experience in the disability sector. “We’ve been working on this [merger] for over two years,” she says. “It’s been very constructive. Both services share the same values and philosophy, with similar demographics. We’re all very passionate about multicultural communities.”
Jane Rogers has managed SESCT for 15 years, having started with the organisation as a driver 23 years ago. She speaks highly of her colleague at IWCT, Ben Benevento, with whom she has been involved on various joint and regional committees. Mr Benevento has managed IWCT for nine-and-a-half years. “We’ve been discussing this for a while,” Mr Benevento says. “As part of Sydney Metro Community Transport we’ve regularly met to share ideas and compare notes.”
Ms Rogers looks forward to the new arrangement that will see ASCT take on responsibilities for services from La Perouse to Homebush, Bondi to Burwood, Millers Point to Green Square.
Changes at state government level, in regard to funding especially, have encouraged organisations to form partnerships. “There’s been a desire for larger organisations to deliver services across broader Local Planning Areas [rather than LGAs],” Ms Rogers explains. “That’s been one of the factors behind the merger, but not the most important. The new service will mean greater access to resources and further transport and social support options for clients and members.”
Ms Rogers and Mr Benevento praise staff for their competence and commitment over many years. Staff positions, offices and vehicle depots will be maintained at Ultimo/Glebe and Strathfield (at the Dutton Centre). A combined fleet of 26 buses and station wagons will soon carry new ASCT logos, with all regular routes to continue. “Over the next few months we’ll see better systems developed back-of-house, then hopefully more services delivered more efficiently,” Ms Rogers says.
“Our commitment to meeting people in their local areas will not be changing,” she adds. “That’s the way we’ve always worked, according to a community engagement model. It’s important to have the business working efficiently because good business is the means to serving and nurturing community. This is about going forward to represent what we all believe in – maintaining a client and community focus.”
Mr Benevento envisions “crisscrossing transport services” and new opportunities for clients. “Someone in Concord can now arrange for transport to Prince of Wales Hospital,” he says. “Someone in Redfern can travel to Concord for a hospital appointment. Clients look forward to the expanded service area and more flexibility – including expanded hours of operation.”
By the end of this month, as part of the new government structures and processes, clients will be assessed via a new assessment service, with referrals then made to ASCT. “There’s still a lot of work ahead,” Ms Rogers says. “The new organisation will need to negotiate a shorter-term service system that will be more outcomes-based.”
Access Sydney Community Transport promises to meet the challenges of a new era with experience and expertise gathered over years of effective community engagement. “I’m very confident about the future,” Ms Rogers says. “Access Sydney is an apt name for the new organisation. That’s our priority – access to transport in relation to social opportunities, food, health care – enhancing independence and quality of life.”