by Katherine Granich
Before you engage with a support worker, familiarise yourself with the practicalities – admin, necessary tasks, and general ‘housekeeping’ – that will make your life easier (and ensure your family is making the most of those NDIS hours).
Since the inception of the NDIS in 2013, the range of disability support providers and different models of how support can be provided has increased markedly. The NDIS exists to give people with a disability, and their families, more choice and control over their support, to self-determine what will most benefit them. One way they can do this is to find support workers who are closely aligned with their goals.
Firstly, you need to be in the right frame of mind and think about this as setting yourself and your family up for success – the more time and effort you put in up front, the more you should get out of it.
This starts with finding and connecting with the right support workers as well as navigating the processes and tools that will support you as you manage your team, while making it as easy as possible for you.
“Getting started with support workers can be overwhelming,” says Pieta Manning, State Manager for Victoria at Mable (mable.com.au). “You need to be ready to do a little more work and to challenge yourself to do some deep thinking, understand what you want, and actively look for a support worker with the same level of intent.”
Engaging with a support worker or support team is an exciting time and it’s a process that can bring about such positive changes, not just to the life of your child but that of the whole family. Having the right information to hand can make the whole process of getting started so much easier. You may find there’s some trial and error involved, or you may find the right person straight away – everyone’s experience will differ. The previous article in our support worker series with Mable goes into more detail to help fast track you on your way to great support.
You will adapt to the admin related tasks gradually as you refine and hone your processes to manage your time and the paperwork trail effectively. Think about what works best in your own family situation, the way you like to work (i.e digitally or on paper), and keep in mind the end goal of what will best help you help your child reach their goals.
“There is a bit of planning involved in putting your supports in place,” says mum-of-four Nikki Towill, who uses two-sided online community Mable to find and manage her team of independent support workers. The self-described “sandwich carer” looks after supports for two of her children as well as those of her mother, and maintains three physical folders (one for each person) as well as a Google Calendar to stay on track.
However, Nikki says, “Once you sit down and figure out the plan, it’s worth it. And when I’ve got a support worker on board, processing all of the documentation, timesheets, and reporting that NDIS requires is easy.”
Choose a solution which helps you manage the paperwork side of things – or, better yet, one that has automated the process as much as possible.
Some of the things you might need to consider when engaging and managing your support team are as follows:
Having a set of admin processes set up to administer the above or knowing that your support worker provider is taking care of the lion’s share will help ease the load and give you peace of mind that everything is in order.
If you are engaging with a support worker independently, either as a contractor or employee, you may also need to consider obtaining and keeping on file up to date copies of documents related to your support worker’s qualifications and clearances. For example, if your support worker provides you with details of their National Police Clearance or Working with children/Working with Vulnerable People screening, it is your responsibility to ensure that the clearance/screening is still current.
Documents you may keep on file could include:
Mable is a website which allows you to find and connect with independent support workers in your local area. When you sign up to Mable, you’ll be assigned a dedicated support specialist who is there to guide you through the process.
“They’ll be able to help you refine your job post, give you tips on searching for support workers, work with you to create a short list of people to meet, and get the most out of the features Mable offers,” Pieta says. This targeted help will set you on the path to independently and confidently handling your supports.
As a person seeking reliable, quality support, you probably have a rough idea about the type of support you need, who might be a good fit for you, and your budget or funding package.
If you’re agency managed or plan managed, you’ll need to be aware of the NDIS price guide which sets an upper limit for how much you can pay per hour, depending on the support you’re seeking. NDIS website publishes an updated price guide that will give you an idea of what you can expect to pay (ndis.gov.au/providers/price-guides-and-pricing).
On the Mable website, each independent worker has the ability to add ‘indicative rates’ to their profile which might make your decision-making process a bit easier. Indicative rates are just that – indicative. They might take into account a worker’s experience, qualifications, other skills (such as languages), ratings and reviews from their other clients and the services they offer.
“Remember, the goal is to form a long-term relationship which is based on quality support, so you need to value your support workers.” says Pieta
It’s easier to nip problems in the bud if you’re clear and upfront about what you expect from your support worker. “Look at it as a professional relationship,” says Pieta. “It’s reasonable for both parties to have expectations.”
This is where it’s important to have an agreement setting out all expectations. Your agreement with them should state what you will and won’t accept, and it’s okay to say no when there are non-negotiables in place. When an issue does arise it’s important to have direct conversations so all parties know where they stand.
“Families who use Mable can have the confidence that their support workers have the correct checks and insurances, and that these are maintained. For example, if a support worker’s Police Check is coming up for renewal, Mable will remind them. This is done before it expires, so they can continue to provide support.”
“It’s also important to consider insurance. Mable arranges a suite of insurances for independent support workers offering their services through the website,” Pieta continues.
Keeping track of services is important in monitoring their effectiveness and addressing any issues that might arise.
Mable provides both families and support workers an easy view of all timesheets submitted with clear details around times and rates.
Each timesheet also includes the option to add a shift note, which is a good way to track how supports are going and how they are working towards the agreed goals and these can be downloaded to add to your NDIS review documents.
An important point that Pieta and Nikki agree on is the need to find allies – other parents who have gone through the same thing, service providers who want to make things easier for you, and professionals and support workers whose values are aligned with yours.
“In our community is an amazing pool of people who want to share their skills and knowledge – an essential, independent workforce that we’re only just learning to tap into,” Pieta says.
“I’ve been fortunate to find support workers in my community and have brought them to the Mable website,” Nikki explains. “One of our support workers is the daughter of my children’s art teacher. A previous worker was a neighbour who was studying to be a teacher and had time outside of her uni commitments – she was with us for four years, until she graduated and got a full-time teaching job.”
“You have to take the leap, and go with your gut,” Nikki says. “You’ll know, and your child will know, if a support worker is the right person to fit your needs.”
All these points and more were uncovered in our recent Facebook live. You can watch the video for more insights right here:
Join Mable for free and begin your search for your child’s support workers. Enjoy the power to make your own choices around your family’s support requirements. Visit www.mable.com.au