PaRA Co-operative is a service provider that supports three young adults with autism who live in a house in Chatswood in Sydney.

About PaRA Co-operative  

PaRA stands for Parent assisted Residential Accommodation. PaRA cooperative is a service provider that supports three young adults with autism who live in a house in Chatswood in Sydney. PaRA started through strong community networks within the Giant Steps school community and this provided an opportunity for families, along with school leaders, to identify new and more effective ways of enabling their adult children to live independently.

Traditional group homes run by government and not-for-profit organisations involve minimal involvement of parents. In contrast, the PaRA approach has been operating successfully for almost 8 years. It involves parents being actively involved in the operation of the House which accommodates their adult children who suffer from autism. Parents, on behalf of their adult children, effectively determine policies and practices, appoint staff and perform hands on roles. They are the members of the co-operative along with staff employed at the house.

What PaRA Co-operative does

The primary aim of the co-operative is to act in the best possible interests of the house mates. The members of the co-operative are the parents, staff and house mates (to the extent that they can effectively participate in policy setting, governance and operation of the service). Staff membership increases work satisfaction, vocational outcomes and productivity.

The PaRA Co-operative difference

PaRA co-operative has demonstrated that family governance models can work very successfully. It also has demonstrated the improved productivity and quality that occurs when families and staff work together in the interests of the young adults living in the house.

The housemates have regular contact with their family and friends. This dramatically increases the likelihood of their person-centered needs being met.

PaRA is the first family and staff governed co-operative operating in disability services in Australia.

PaRA Co-operative impact and growth

The cost to government of the PaRA co-operative is less because there are substantial economies of scale from “pooling” individual packages and parents have their child at the family home for some time each week significantly reducing staff costs. Parents also cover many costs such as furniture and equipment at the House, personal effects of their children, medication and pocket money etc. It also means the time that parents have with the child is much less stressful than if the child lives at home full-time. It ensures parents have the time they need to work and that they can do so confident in the well-being of their child. Family and community volunteers also help avoid costs by doing gardening and general maintenance.

“Fundamental to the PaRA Philosophy is the belief that parents or family of children with a disability want to spend as much time as possible with their child and they wish to facilitate or acquire services to provide the best supported accommodation for their children. Concurrently, it is understood that children with a disability benefit most from continued engagement and contact with their parents or family.”

Extract from the PaRA Members’ Charter.

Watch the PaRA Co-operative featured on ABC News.