NDIS support workers can change your life.
Often when someone says something like that, they’re exaggerating. But for people with disability, support workers empower them to live independently and fully engage with the community.
We’ve written this article to answer questions about support workers for people who are starting with one for the first time, or starting with their first support worker through the SALT Foundation.
It’s tricky to know exactly what to expect from your new support worker and that’s OK. We’re here to help clarify things so you can have a better idea of what to expect.
What is a support worker? According to the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, the authority that protects NDIS participants, a support worker is:
Anyone who is employed or otherwise engaged to provide NDIS supports and services to people with disability. They can be paid or unpaid, self-employed, employees, contractors, consultants or volunteers.
Workers provide services from the NDIS support catalogue, which includes assistance with daily life.
6 STEPS TO STARTING WITH A SUPPORT WORKER
These steps are the ones you’ll go through if you get your support workers through the SALT Foundation, but even if you get your workers through another provider or hire independent support workers, the process will be similar.
The steps are:
Get an NDIS plan.
Local Area Coordinator connects you with providers.
Discuss with the provider what you’re looking for in a worker.
Allocate a support worker who is likely to be a good match.
Meet your potential support worker and see if you’re comfortable with them.
Schedule your support sessions.
Step 1: Get an NDIS Plan
If you’re not yet an NDIS participant, the only way you can get a support worker is to pay for them privately. In contrast, by getting on the NDIS, your plan will give you the funding to pay for support workers.
Start by finding out if you’re eligible to apply. Then collect an overwhelming amount of evidence, such as reports and statements about how your disability prevents you from being able to function in certain ways without support.
Read more: Am I Eligible for NDIS Support?>>
The NDIA will let you know the outcome of your claim within 21 days. If successful, you’ll now have an NDIS plan, which identifies your goals and specifies how much funding you have and what you can use it for achieving your goals.
Step 2: Local Area Coordinator Connects You with Providers
Every NDIS participant’s needs are unique and, as a result, a provider that is right for one participant won’t be right for another.
Based on the goals and types of supports the NDIA has funded you for in your NDIS plan, your Local Area Coordinator (LAC) will help you find providers who can deliver the supports you need.
Step 3: Discuss with the Provider What You’re Looking for in Your Support Worker
The first thing a provider will do with you is listen to you and what you’re hoping to get out of the NDIS and from your support worker.
They’ll collect information from you about your preferences, such as whether you prefer a male or female support worker, or someone of a certain age, or someone who shares your hobbies and interests.
The provider will also record your condition, so they can make sure you receive the right support.
Step 4: Allocate a Support Worker Who is Likely to be a Good Match
This step is where an NDIS provider, rather than an online platform that connects you to support workers, has the advantage.
A provider knows each of their support workers and how they’ve worked with people similar to you. As a result, they have a good idea about who will not only be someone who can meet your support needs but also be someone you’ll get along with and whose company you’ll look forward to.
Step 5: Have An Obligation-Free “Meet and Greet” With Your Potential Support Worker
At the SALT Foundation, we understand that bringing a support worker into your life is a big step. You may feel anxious about how it will go.
So we make a time with you for the support worker we’ve selected to meet you in a space where you feel safe and to get to know you and answer any of your questions.
Hopefully, the outcome will be that you’ll like this support worker and decide you’d like to work with them. But if you decide they’re not right for you, we’ll simply find another support worker for you to meet.
Step 6: Schedule Your Support Sessions
The frequency and duration of your support sessions depends entirely on the funding in your plan.
Many participants only have one support worker, but others have several NDIS support workers.
Your provider will manage your support workers and make sure that in the rare event something comes up, we will still meet your support needs.
3 QUALITIES NDIS SUPPORT WORKERS MUST HAVE
The NDIS is still growing in terms of the number of participants who are joining the scheme, and the NDIA projects this will continue until 2025. As a result, the demand for workers is so great that it’s a highly competitive field. The benefit to participants is that support workers starting now need to be better than they’ve ever been before.
Here are three things you should expect from your disability support worker:
Quality #1) Qualifications
As with any professional field, the best people take the time to get educated in best practices.
You ideally want to find a support worker who has one or more of the following qualifications:
Certificate III in Individual Support (Disability)
Certificate IV in Disability
Diploma of Community Services
Bachelor of Social Work
As well as these qualifications, the jobs site seek.com lists several skills and experience employers are seeking:
NDIS Worker Screening Check (which is compulsory)
First Aid Certificate (also compulsory)
Vaccination history (it’s a requirement that support workers are triple vaccinated)
Driver’s licence (also mandatory)
Managing challenging behaviours
Emotional intelligence (being smart with handling relationships with people)
Empathy (we will explore these traits more below)
Quality #2: Traits
The thing that makes a good disability support worker outstanding is they possess the traits that make them easy to get along with and enjoyable to be around.
We’ve detailed these traits in another article, but the traits are trustworthiness, friendliness, patient, inspired, humble, and communicative.
Empathy is also important for someone as they provide support. Empathy is the ability of your worker to imagine life from your perspective and consider your needs and wants.
Quality #3: Empowering
According to Brian Tracy in The Phoenix Transformation: 12 Qualities of High Achievers to Reboot Your Career and Life, people feel good to the degree to which they feel in control of their life.
A good support worker will support you in ways so that you have more control over your everyday life. After all, the primary aim of the NDIS is to promote the independence of people with disability.
Sometimes, however, workers forget this and try to do everything for their participants. They end up impeding independence.
Read more: Empowering Independence with the NDIS >>
Here are five questions you can ask a potential disability support worker to see if they can build independence.
Do you allow people to be independent?
When you’re in the community, do you encourage people to speak to your participant rather than yourself?
Are you willing to consider using alternate methods of communication so your participant can express themselves?
Do you avoid making assumptions about what a person can and can’t do?
Are you good at remembering your role is to help people with disability achieve their goals?
When you have your first meeting with your potential disability support worker, make sure you examine them to make sure they’re the right person to be providing support for you. The industry is competitive, so expect the best workers.
Related reading: How Can I be the Best Support Worker I Can Be?
7 STANDARDS DISABILITY SUPPORT WORKERS MUST UPHOLD: THE NDIS CODE OF CONDUCT
Anyone who offers disability support services must know the Code of Conduct and the expectations placed on both a provider and an NDIS support worker.
Along with the standards set out here, the SALT Foundation has its own Charter of Rights, which outlines what our participants can expect as they receive our services and how to go about making a complaint or giving positive feedback.
The code sets out seven behaviours workers must do to protect participants:
1) Empower Participants
Earlier, we discussed that the goal of the NDIS is to place people with disability in control of their lives, letting you decide what services you’ll receive and when.
2) Respect Privacy
In working with you, workers will learn personal details about you. Except in situations where mandatory reporting is required, workers must keep this information confidential.
3) Be Competent
If you’ve gone to the trouble of interviewing your support worker before they work with you, you can expect to have the certainty they’ll be competent. But here it also means that a worker will refuse to carry out an instruction if it’s something they don’t have the qualification or the training to do.
4) Have Character
Support workers must be people you can trust. They’re required to disclose to the provider they work for that they’ve failed a worker screening clearance or had a finding made against them for professional misconduct. Workers must also reveal any real or perceived conflicts of interest.
5) Address Issues
If a worker notices any quality or safety issues, they must address these quickly so they get resolved.
6) Prevent Abuse
Some participants rely on their workers for personal care, emotional support, and behaviour support. As a result, they’re vulnerable to various abuses. A worker has a responsibility to protect NDIS participants from abuse.
7) Address Misconduct
Part of the Worker Screening Check, which every disability support worker must pass, is a National Police Check. Further, if the participant is a child, then the worker must pass a Working with Children Check. One reason for this caution is to prevent workers from taking sexual advantage of participants.
Workers must protect NDIS participants, and the Code of Conduct sets the minimum standards of behaviour for workers and providers.
CONCLUSION: EXPECT THE BEST FROM YOUR SUPPORT WORKERS
Support workers receive an attractive hourly rate, and beyond that, the work is fulfilling.
Here are three takeaways from this article:
A good provider or independent support worker will have a step-by-step system for getting your relationship off to a great start.
The competitiveness of the field means you can and should expect the best from anyone you choose to work with you.
All workers must adhere to strict standards of conduct designed to protect you.
If you don’t have a support worker yet, what are you most looking forward to about getting one? Please tell us what you want in the comments.
Daniel G. Taylor is a mental health speaker. Daniel teaches people affected by mental health personal development principles so they can reach their goals and achieve their potential. He lives with bipolar disorder and has developed a lot of tools and strategies for staying well long term. He’s the author of “Staying Sane: How to Master Bipolar Disorder for Life” and a contributor to “Mastering Bipolar Disorder: An Insider’s Guide to Managing Mood Swings and Finding Balance” edited by Kerrie Eyers & Gordon Parker (Allen & Unwin, 2010).