A focus on case management

Case Manager David MaxwellHello, my name is David Maxwell and I’ve been a Case Manager at Independence Australia for seven years now.

In that time I’ve had the opportunity to watch Independence Australia evolve from Paraquad Victoria into an organisation where consumer choice is at the centre of everything we do.

One important function for case management is to develop strong working relationships with consumers, so that they are able to explore with us what is important to them.

Sometimes a case will come along where we have a consumer in a very bleak situation. It’s my role to work with that consumer to put in place a strategy that is respectful of their individual needs, ultimately improving their quality of life. 


James' story

James was a young boy when he acquired a spinal cord injury. It was a traumatic experience and as a result James found it very difficult to trust people. Because of this James lived alone and had minimal contact with his family. He struggled to cook and clean and his home was in a sorry state.

As a regular patient to the Austin Hospital, staff could see the difficulties James faced and grew increasingly concerned for his wellbeing. James struggled with incredible anxiety and was reluctant to discuss his home life or accept support.

However, over the years James developed a strong relationship with the Social Work team at the Austin Hospital and began to feel comfortable with the staff there. This enabled James to acknowledge for the first time in 15 years that he was finding it difficult to manage at home. What a breakthrough!

James’ social worker at the Austin Hospital suggested it was time for a change. With James on board, a referral was sent to Independence Australia.

Opening the door

Although James had opened the door to change, he still had many concerns about his future living arrangements.

Taking into account James’ severe anxiety and difficulty trusting people, Independence Australia faced a delicate situation. David Maxwell, Case Manager at Independence Australia, met with James and they carefully developed a relationship of understanding, one in which James was able to trust David.

James explained that it was difficult for him to allow people into his home in order to provide support, although his many health problems also meant moving into shared accommodation would be extremely complex.

Due to chronic respiratory failure James has to use a ventilator for at least 16 hours a day. As a result he spends most of his time in bed, suffering from breathlessness. It was clear to David that this was a key cause of anxiety for James and addressing it properly was critical in finding the right accommodation. Understandably James, who is still a young man, did not want to enter aged residential care.

New opportunities

After spending much time with James to understand his needs and concerns, David felt confident that VASS, the Ventilator Accommodation Support Service, could be just what James was looking for. Located in the same suburb, the opportunity for James to stay in the same area was within his comfort zone and a real relief.

A member of staff from VASS then visited James to discuss how the shared supported accommodation operated. It also gave James the opportunity to address his concerns, one key issue being his need to access power 24 hours a day for his ventilator. VASS were quick to share that they have three back-up generators to ensure there is never a disruption to the electricity supply.

James then made a return trip to VASS to meet other residents and see how he may fit in. After living alone for most of his adult life, James now had the opportunity to live in a place where he would be able to develop friendships.

The big move

A date was set with James for the big move; however when the day arrived, James suddenly had no memory of this. Keen to give James some space, David explained that he would call later in the week to discuss when he might be ready to make the move to VASS.

In the meantime, James began to experience breathing problems and was taken to the Austin Hospital where he was kept overnight. The following morning, much to David’s delight, he received a text from James, “Came to Austin last night short of breath, ok to go to VASS today?”

James turned his hospital admission into a positive experience and he was now surer than ever that VASS was the right choice for him. By the time David responded to the text message James was already at VASS and very settled in his own room.

A common goal

A number of dedicated health professionals played an important role in James’ journey to find new accommodation. They listened to his concerns and put in place a strategy that was respectful of his needs. Their patience and understanding enabled James to make a life changing decision with confidence.

David explained that James’ story was an important one, not just because of the successful outcome, but because he personally affected many of those involved.

“It was incredibly rewarding to see so many people and organisations come together for one common goal. Occasionally you have a consumer, like James, where you really begin to appreciate all the hard work that everyone puts in to enable such positive change.”

We’d like to thank the Austin Hospital, Department of Human Services – Disability Services and VASS who worked tirelessly in helping James to find a new home.


*Name changed to protect James’ privacy.