Local, Sam Coulter, is leading the charge in Tamworth running a Challenge Community Services (CCS) Regional Entrepreneurship Challenge (REC) program, facilitating National Disability Insurance Scheme participants the skills they need to become self-employed.

Sam said REC is a peer-led self-employment program designed for people with disability, and it is based off Start Up - a similar successful pilot CSS runs in Newcastle.

"People with disability have higher rates of business ownership than people without disability. One reason for this is necessity, due to stigma and discrimination in mainstream employment," she said.

"The second is, and key to us developing REC, is the unique skills and perspectives people with disability acquire by overcoming physical, social and emotional barriers to participate in their own communities and in the economy."

Sam said CCS initially designed REC for people with intellectual disability.

"People who were in a gap between supported employment and mainstream employment, but we soon recognised REC had the potential to help others with psychosocial disability and autism," she said.

"Recognising that, we teamed up with local mental health provider, Billabong, to deliver REC to its participants too, and we've had some fantastic outcomes so far.

"We've got Carolyn, making and selling clothes for people who have trouble finding clothes to fit them. She is going great guns.

"Then there's Scott who makes letterboxes and bird houses. His products have been so popular he's currently solidly booked with orders up until Christmas.

"There's also Livinia who loves doing research. She builds people's family trees and then turns them into beautiful artworks to hang on walls."

Sam said she credits these impressive outcomes to REC's strengths-based approach and modelling the program according to NDIS employment support funding.

"It's meant we have been able to increase each participant's employability, their self-efficacy, confidence, self-esteem, their community and economic participation, and it's increased their friendships and networks," she said.

"CCS is also keen to partner with other NDIS providers to share, at no cost, how they can deliver the REC program too. Our goal is to give people with disability the opportunity to participate in this great program, so they can learn the skills to successfully engage in self-employment too."

For more information on REC Tamworth, and how participants can use their NDIS funding to enrol, email sam.coulter@challengecommunity.org.au or call 6763 1871.

*This article was first shared in the Northern Daily Leader on March 17 2021