Right across Australia, thousands of young people with high-care needs are living in horrendous conditions without enough infrastructure to support them. But it was one couple’s struggle to find appropriate care that instigated three mates to form non-profit organisation Youngcare in a bid to change a deplorable system.

When Shevaune Conry was diagnosed with aggressive multiple sclerosis and quickly required full-time care, her husband Dave was devastated to find he could no longer care for her at home. The only option for Shevaune was to be placed into an aged-care facility at the age of 33.

After watching their mate struggle with the limited options available, Matthew Lawson, Nick Bonifant and Simon Lockyer gave up their careers and vowed to help make a difference by starting Youngcare.

Current CEO of Youngcare, Anthony Ryan, worked at the Mayfair Crest Hotel (now The Pullman) alongside Dave and Shevaune as well as the three Youngcare founders while they waited tables to put themselves through university.

Anthony Ryan, CEO of Youngcare

Anthony Ryan, CEO of Youngcare

Anthony went on to work in the non-profit space and spent seven years working as CEO of the Edmund Rice Foundation, an international aid organisation supporting sustainable health, education and community projects in developing countries and marginalised areas in Australia.

Anthony put all his energy into the foundation and worked tirelessly in African slums, supporting those effected by disability. While working with the Edmund Rice Foundation, he was in awe of the opportunities Youngcare was providing and how Dave’s nightmare “became a beautiful story of mateship”.

“I was always watching from the sidelines with pride, thinking these are all guys I knew from Mayfair Crest or I went to school with just showing the true value of loyalty and friendship,” he says.

At the end of last year, the former chief executive of the Edmund Rice Foundation, Anthony Ryan, took on the role of CEO at Youngcare. He says he couldn’t believe that issues faced by developing countries were also happening on Australia’s doorstep.

“When I first came into this role, I thought, ‘This is Australia. This should not be happening’,” Anthony says. “First of all, it shouldn’t be happening on our watch, and it shouldn’t be happening in our suburbs.”

One of the biggest issues Youngcare finds today is that families navigating the disability space are unable to accept promotions or other work advantages because caring for and supporting their child requires their complete attention.

“They’ve been dealt this incredibly tough deck of cards, and then all of a sudden they’re facing all of these other issues they didn’t realise would be associated with the nightmare they’ve been thrown into,” he says.

In 2018, the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) will be rolled out, which will see individuals creating their own care pathways with the support they need. This means that rather than families left to limited options, they will become more of a customer instead of being left helpless with no care opportunities.

A strong believer in a collaborative approach to raising awareness and funds, Anthony has been putting his energy into scaling up Youngcare’s operations since stepping into the CEO role.

Youngcare has positioned itself with the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme), which will see individuals creating their own care pathways with the support they need. This will greatly assist in the plan to expand Youngcare across Australia and partner with other agencies to support families affected by disability.

“Our Youngcare mission, which we truly believe we can achieve, is to completely remove young people from inappropriate residential housing,” Anthony says.

“And we think we can solve this issue by 2022.”

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Surviving solely on the support of their volunteers and fundraising, Youngcare has given thousands of families a choice in care and accommodation.

When asked the best way for someone to get involved and support Youngcare, Anthony said all he hoped for was that “people listen to our story”.

The more people that understand what is happening and how it is affecting families in our own suburbs, the more anger and passion there will be out there for the cause, he said.

“By listening to our story and raising your voice, you’ll give Youngcare the opportunity to let people know that this is affecting families in your own suburbs which will then provide us with the opportunity to advocate on their behalf.”

Last month, Youngcare were announced as the 2017 Queensland Charity Award Winner of the Telstra Business Award. They graciously dedicated the award to the hundreds of thousands of young people being left behind in inappropriate housing. 

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Check out the Youngcare website to discover how you can help young people exit or avoid aged-care right now.

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