Empowering parents: social network app Kindship raises $1m to tackle NDIS planning

Empowering parents: social network app Kindship raises $1m to tackle NDIS planning

Kindship co-founders Stephanie Wicks, Tara Thompson, Sandy Golder and Summer Petrosius (Provided)

An Adelaide-based social networking app designed for parents raising children with a disability has raised more than $1 million via equity crowdfunding platform Birchal as it looks to launch a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) budget management tool for its 2,000-plus users.

Founded this year by mothers Summer Petrosius, Sandy Golder, Steph Wicks and Tara Thompson, Kindship’s latest round of funding comes a month after the company secured $360,000 under the state government’s Seed-Start program to scale the business.

The recent capital raise will be put towards developing and launching the Kindship wallet – a feature that will use artificial intelligence (AI) to help families better budget, track and manage their child’s NDIS funding. Approximately 77 per cent of parents on the app have signed up for a waitlist for the new feature.

“The demand for disability-related support and services often exceeds what is immediately available,” said Golder, who is also a parent of a child living with a disability.

“It is not uncommon for families to call numerous service providers seeking help for their child and then sit on waitlists for 12-plus months. This experience contributes to the distress and difficulty associated with navigating their child’s diagnosis and disability.

“We are providing parents with crowdsourced provider reviews and waitlist data, which will help families understand their options and find alternatives. This has never been done before.”

According to the 2022 Carers Wellbeing Survey, carers are more than twice as likely to have concerningly low levels of wellbeing as adults across Australia - with 55.2 per cent of carers having poor health compared to 25.4 per cent of Australians.

Health is even poorer amongst carers who are unemployed, caring for children or grandchildren, caring for multiple people, providing more than 40 hours of caring a week, and caring for a person with autism spectrum disorder, a drug or alcohol dependency, or mental illness/psychosocial disability. The data also found that 85.2 per cent of those caring for a child or grandchild found it harder to get health or social service appointments.

To help parents navigate the difficult routine, Kindship’s app offers users a platonic match and chat feature, a community feed, as well as a profile for parents to include information such as their child’s age and diagnosis.

Currently, every NDIS participant is entitled to an additional budget of $1,248 per year to engage a plan manager. The four founders believe their service offering is so unique, they can capture the lion’s share of the under-18 Plan Management Market.

“The Kindship wallet gives our community the opportunity to consciously spend their NDIS Plan Management budget, and directly contribute to the employment of other parents,” Golder said.

“The Australian Government knows the NDIS is ridiculously hard to navigate, which is why it gives families $1,248 each year to help manage their NDIS plan. For every single parent that uses our plan management tool, the Government will reimburse Kindship $1,248 a year.

“With 266,000 children under the age of 18 with an active NDIS plan, that’s a $332 million opportunity every single year, which will be paid for by the NDIS.”

Research conducted by Kindship last month also revealed that of the 1,042 of the parents it surveyed, a quarter spent more than 5 hours each week navigating the NDIS.

Of those 1 in 4 parents, 83 per cent neglected physical exercise, 71 per cent missed routine medical check-ups and 53 per cent did not leave the house often. It also found that 63 per cent suffered from sleep deprivation and half failed to go on family holidays.

Roughly 40 per cent of parents who use Kindship report feeling more hopeful about their future, with 42 per cent also seeing an improvement in their mental health. The platform currently employs plan managers who are parents or carers of children with disabilities.

Prior to becoming Kindship Head of Community Wellbeing, Amanda Kenny – who is also a Sydney mother of five boys – struggled to find meaningful employment for 13 years.

Instead, she dedicated her time to looking after her son Ashton, who has autism, ADHD, anxiety and a learning disorder.

“I’ve had to deal with my son’s school refusal, so between having to chase him down streets after I drop him off at school, getting called in by the school to pick him up and taking him to his multiple therapy visits, I barely had any time left for myself,” Kenny said.

“The limited time I was getting, I was spending it on the NDIS or caring for my husband and father who were both battling cancer. The weight of the world was on my shoulders and the NDIS made life even tougher."

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