A Sunshine Coast small business owner is downsizing her own home so she can buy an investment property to accommodate the staff she desperately needs for her business.

Kylie Martin is co-founder of Chatter-Boxes speech therapy centre, which has locations in Minyama and Baringa, but the business is unable to help hundreds of coast families in need because of staff shortages, a problem she admits is “heartbreaking”.

“Since the introduction of the NDIS, our client load has increased exponentially and we have an enormous waiting list, which means we have the opportunity to employ many more staff here on the Sunshine Coast, however, what we’ve run into difficulty with is with staff being able to secure permanent accommodation,” Ms Martin explained.

“We closed our waiting list in February this year, so we’ve turned away hundreds of clients since then and we probably have 150 speech pathology-alone clients on our waiting list with a significant number for occupational therapy and psychology as well.”

Ms Martin is taking a drastic step in changing her own housing situation to try to provide places to house staff, but she admitted it may not provide the solution she needs.

speech therapists on the Sunshine Coast
The housing crisis is causing a shortage of speech therapists on the Sunshine Coast. Picture: Shutterstock.

“At the moment I have my own home on the market with the intention of buying something small for myself and buying an investment property to use as an incentive for staff, so that they can have permanent accommodation here on the Sunshine Coast and we can address our issues in terms of service provision and future scaling,” Ms Martin said.

“I actually think it’s going to go in to retaining the current staff we have and not necessarily make a big impact on attracting staff, unfortunately.”

She said the inability to provide speech support to children in need was a “heartbreaking” situation.

“Yes, that is the hardest thing. We have so many new referrals for newly-diagnosed very young children that we just can’t provide services for at this point in time and our waiting list,” she said.

“Early intervention is shown … to be the most effective time and place for therapy, so a two-year-old has missed almost 12 months of this opportunity because they can’t access those services here on the Coast.

“To fill the current demand on our services, we’d probably need another full-time senior occupational therapist, a full-time senior psychologist and three to four full time speech pathologists.”

Kylie Martin, to buy an investment property to accommodate her staff
Kylie Martin of Chatter-Boxes speech therapy in Minyama and Baringa is buying an extra house to provide accommodation vital for securing her staff.

She hopes community leaders can work together to fix the accommodation problem.

“I reached out to certain politicians last year, highlighting this issue, and was asked to write a letter to Parliament to express my concerns, but there was no opportunity for conversation at that point in time,” she said.

“(I) … built this business over 20 years, but to see this business sustained further into the future, there needs to be conversation with grass-roots small business owners, who are the employers of local Sunshine Coast families, to try to work together to try to solve these problems.”

Both Sunshine Coast Council and Noosa Council have acknowledged the housing shortages and noted the need for collaboration to solve the problem.

“The current nation-wide housing crisis is a complex and multi-faceted issue,” a Sunshine Coast Council spokesperson told Sunshine Coast News recently.

“It is a situation that is difficult to quickly rectify, and all tiers of government – Local, State and Federal- as well as the private sector, including relevant industry associations and peak bodies, and the community housing sector need a plan to work together to effectively address the current situation.

“In terms of social housing shortages, the State Government funds just two per cent of the Sunshine Coast’s social and community housing, compared to the four per cent average in Queensland.

“That means social and community housing on the Sunshine Coast, in one of the fastest growing areas in the state, is only half of that state average.”

Article source: Queensland Property Investor

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