Vital Support for Children with Cerebral Palsy and Adults with Disabilities by CPL


Presenter: Wayne Bucklar
Guest: Angela Tillmanns
Guest Bio: With more than 30 years experience in service delivery in the Commonwealth Government, Angela has developed a solid understanding of the relationship between the client, not for profit service provider and government.
Angela serves on the Board of CPL and is also on the Board of National Disability Services, Chair of the National Disability Services Queensland Committee and a member of Cerebral Palsy Australia and Ability First.

Segment overview: In today’s Health Supplier Segment, learn more about the non-profit organization Choice Passion Life (formerly know as the Cerebral Palsy League) – “CPL gives you the freedom of choice, the opportunity to chase your passion and the support to live the life you choose.” They provide vital support and services to more than 8,000 children and adults with disabilities in Queensland and Northern NSW.


Health Professional Radio

Wayne Bucklar: You’re listening to Health Professional Radio. Today my guest in studio is Angela Tillmanns, CEO of the Cerebral Palsy League. Now Angela, welcome to Health Professional Radio.

Angela Tillmans: Thanks Wayne. It’s great to be here.

W: Now tell me a little bit about CPL.

A: CPL is a non-profit organization that provides support services to more than 8,000 children and adults with disabilities in Queensland and Northern New South Wales. And what we really try to bring to our client’s live is that “freedom of choice.” The opportunity to chase their passion and to support the life that they choose to live. So it’s not just about providing services, it’s about supporting people to live the life that they choose. And we’ve been doing that now for about 70 years across thousands of homes, school, communities and workplaces. So we’re pretty busy out there changing people’s lives.

W: I can believe that. Now there was 8,000 people just in your geographic footprint of South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales, was that right?

A: That’s right, yes. Not all of those have Cerebral Palsy, many of our clients have other disabilities and we use our expertise that we’ve had over the years in specializing in Cerebral Palsy and we bring that to other people with perhaps very similar conditions but not with Cerebral Palsy.

W: I see. Now as you are aware Angela, most of our audience are health professionals and many of them are working in hospitals and in that sort of acute care setting but we do get abroad audience as well. If there’s one thing you could tell our listeners about CPL, what would that be?

A: CPL is actually open to everyone. What we’ve discovered is that the skills that we have in supporting people with disability are absolutely the same skills that we need to support independent living for anyone in our community. So that could be people that are newly out of hospital but still need some support at home; it could be someone who’s had an accident and just needs a bit of short term support; and it could be people who are aging but want to stay on their own home and want to have professionals come in and support them to live independently. So there’s that side of it around supporting people to live that independent life. And the other area where we do a lot of work is in allied health and what we’ve discovered is that while we’ve got fantastic skills for those people with varied conflicts physical needs, especially in regards to mobility and communication – once again, it’s open to everyone. So we’re starting to see quite a lot of children now with mild disabilities or even a mild develop mental delay that we’re able to support and give them the benefit of our expertise. So what we’re seeing is that we’re no longer a disability service provider, I guess. What we’re doing out there is just supporting a whole range of people to maximize their independence and to get the most out of their life.

W: That’s a broader scope than what I had in mind, I have to admit. Now you’re not a government organization, are you? Do you work with government?

A: That’s correct. We are a full purpose organization so we’re a registered charity in the old language, but a lot of our funding comes from government. So we turn over around about $80-90 million dollars a year in services. And around about 80% of that is government funding at the moment and so that’s just programs that we run on behalf of government and many of our clients have to go to a process to register so they can access those government programs. And I think that’s why we’re starting to see an increase and people just come in directly to us and buying our services because they can buy exactly what it is that they want rather than getting locked into that government program.

W: I see. Now Cerebral Palsy League is the name that I’m familiar with having grown up in Queensland but I notice now you’re using CPL. Why the change?

A: It really does reflect our brand. We’re an organization that really does believe in choice, “passion on life” and when we went to our client saying “Hey a lot of you are actually don’t have Cerebral Palsy.” Our name isn’t reflecting the work that we do. What is it that we should be calling ourselves and we search for a new name so many, many months and I think any organization that’s been through that process knows how painful that is and ours was painful. And in the end, it was actually our clients who said that “You know what this service really stand for is about giving us choice and you know we can lived a life that we want to live and we really want to enjoy our lives and have fun.” And we went, “We could use Choice Passion Life and CPL could stand for whether it be Cerebral Palsy for those that have Cerebral Palsy or alternatively using those initials to really demonstrate exactly what we stand for.” And I’m very proud to say that that came from our clients and it was thru those conversation are around what do we call ourselves that that’s came out. It also positions us very well for a very changing environment that we’re about to see in the disability sector with the introduction of the National Disability Insurance scheme.

W: Now NDIS was very much on my list of things to talk to you about. It’s been all over the news for a couple of years now. It’s obviously right in your ball park given what you do. Tell us about NDIS and how it’s going to affect you.

A: It would be the absolute biggest change to the disability sector and even to Australia I think. When you think about social welfare and human services, probably since the introduction of Medicare like it is that big. The NDIS means that there are real tangible change for people with disabilities and their families. And it really came out of a productivity commission review because there has been so many complains to government about how the current system is just broken, it’s fragmented, it wasn’t delivering what people need. I mean, I’m sure you have a shower everyday Wayne, I certainly do. And what we were discovering is that many of our clients were only able to afford have a shower 2 or 3 times a week and that they weren’t getting the funding that they needed. So we really needed to think about the amount of money that was going into disability in our country and what was the best way to use it. And it was that real shift in thinking about instead of having to deliver everything via our government program but by giving the money to the individual to control, not necessarily get their hands on the money but for them to be directing where that money goes so that each individuals get an allocation and they with some help and support can decide where that money goes to make sure that they can achieve their life goals and ideally maximize what they can achieve. So ideally, if someone can get a job that they’re getting the support that they need to be able to get that job and to become a productive member of our society. So it is so exciting, it’s exciting for the people with the disability and it’s also really exciting for a service like ours because we’ve been locked in for so long into delivering government programs that don’t have a good benefit. There’s no doubt about that but we could see there’s so much more that we could do if the person was able to control it and we’re certainly heading towards that now.

W: It certainly does sound like a big change. You’re listening to Health Professional Radio with Wayne Bucklar. My guest in conversation today has been Angela Tillmanns and if you’ve just join us you can read a transcript of this on our website and an audio file. Angela is the CEO of CPL, formerly known as the Cerebral Palsy League. Angela it sounds like NDIS is going to absolutely change the landscape for you. What’s the biggest misconception you find amongst your clients, patients, customers about the products and services that you have, and the misconception that drives you nuts and keeps you awake at night?

A: Oh boy, there’s probably got quite a lot. I think it’s around how we can actually get the message across that we are a service to anyone. So anybody that needs specialist support in communication and mobility issues, it would be great if they thought of us. You know think of CPL, ring CPL to see what we can do to help you because at the moment and this links back to the NDIS where we constantly put barriers in our society and separate people with disability and put them into one segment and we don’t have abled body people and people with disabilities switching over and becoming just one society. And that’s what we really want to see, is that we have an inclusive society. So you don’t have a specialist disability provider that only serves people with disability. That we have people in our society to have specialist skills and whoever needs to access those specialist skills can do that regardless of what their ability is. So that becomes invisible, you’re just dealing with people that need support at a certain stage in their life to achieve an outcome that they want to achieve. So being able to get that message out there that CPL is for everyone – it’s one of the hardest message that we’ve got when we’ve got such a proud history of almost 70 years of delivering services only to people with disability. So that’s a big challenge for us and that we’re working on it at the moment.

W: It is indeed a long history and with a little bit of luck today, we might have helped to get a few more people in the sector aware of the change in thinking CPL. Angela, it’s been a pleasure talk to you this morning.

A: Thank you.

W: We will put a transcript about our chat up on our website at and we’ll put up a copy of the audio file. This is Wayne Bucklar for Health Professional Radio.

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