Since 1953, when they were established as a not for profit, Helping Hand has offered help and support to older South Australians. Now connected to thousands of people, it’s hard to believe it all began with the passion and purpose of one man, and a single building in North Adelaide.
A powerful vision to support older people from the start
From humble beginnings, Padre Arthur Strange had a powerful vision to care for others. At a time when counselling and aged care services were non-existent or in their infancy, and social security provisions were limited, Strange’s outlook was progressive and innovative.
In 1953, his vision for helping older people came together when he spotted a ‘For Sale’ sign on Molesworth Street North Adelaide. The Trustee gave him 12 hours to pay a deposit of £750 and secure the property. Only able to find £500, he called a church family conference and together they made up the rest to purchase the first building for aged care services.
Strange’s act of faith was a success and his capacity to raise funds and expand services to care for others was repeated over the course of his leadership, and extended further by the leaders who followed.
Current Chief Executive Officer, Chris Stewart, refers to the organisation’s core values of compassion, respect, excellence, and community as the Helping Hand way: an important part of the culture to go the extra mile to care for others.
The innovative legacy of Helping Hand
Like Strange, the organisation has consistently responded to societal change with innovation and forward-thinking.
In the 1970s, as the concept of activities for residents developed, Helping Hand trained staff to create new programs for different levels of frailty and social skills, with activities such as exercise, music, craft and discussion groups. A booklet was produced So you want to develop an activation programme for use by others in the field. The techniques developed as part of the fitness class were so well respected that they became the basis of skills training for more than 80 other fitness instructors in the aged care sector.
In 1979 Helping Hand introduced a quota for one third of Board positions to be held by women. At a time when legislative levers around gender equality were in their infancy, this focus on diversity at the highest level was unique. They continue today with a strong commitment to diversity, inclusion and belonging, releasing an organisation-wide strategy in 2023.
During the 1990s, former CEO, Ian Hardy, raised the possibility for more flexible options in care. Discussions with senior Commonwealth officials led to the proposal for a scheme known as Ageing in Place. Senior staff at Helping Hand talked to their Commonwealth counterparts about how low care and high care might be managed in units of the same design. In December 1995 the opening of the Ingle Farm complex, trialling the new program, was met with considerable national and political interest. The concept of Ageing in Place remains an important part of the aged care approach today.
A commitment to regional communities has been demonstrated from the late 1990’s to today with the expansion of services outside of Adelaide. Each of our four regional care homes joined Helping Hand from origins in the community and in late 2022, services in Whyalla joined Helping Hand, which has allowed the continuation of aged care services in the region. CEO Chris Stewart says assisting older and vulnerable people to stay in their communities is incredibly important to Helping Hand. Close to half of Helping Hand’s clients and residents today live in regional SA, as do many of our staff.
Looking to the future
Today Helping Hand is proud to employ more than 2,000 South Australians, help more than 3,000 people to stay living independently in their own home, care for close to 1,000 people in our residential care homes and work with a network of volunteers while supporting local businesses and suppliers. Helping Hand continues to strive to create communities and experiences to enable older people to live their best lives. It is our mission and has been in our DNA from the start.
In 2023, as Helping Hand celebrates 70 years of service, they look forward to a future of many more, and gives thanks to all those who have contributed along the way.