The NDIS triumph of one Queensland…
As the NDIS begins to roll out across Queensland, there is quite a deal of uncertainty among community service organisations.
Questions linger around the risks, the challenges, and the capacity and agility of not just the community service organisations themselves, but the industry more broadly.
But among these seemingly dark clouds, one Queensland community service organisation experienced a small NDIS triumph. Sunny days were to follow.
CSIA spoke to Richard Johnson, the Chief Operations Manager at Suncare Community Services, about their unexpected request to provide services under an NDIS they thought they weren’t ready for.
They weren’t ready, but the outcome has been superb. Here’s how they responded.
The case study
For those who don’t know, the head office of Suncare Community Services (Suncare) is at Birtinya on the Sunshine Coast but the organisation operates right across South East and Central Queensland. They provide a wide range of community services from respite, personal support and garden maintenance through to mental health support, aged care, nursing and care planning. This, of course, is just a snippet of the wide range of community services they have on offer.
One ordinary Friday earlier this year, the Suncare Customer Service Team took a phone call that would prove to be anything but ordinary.
The caller, relocating to the Sunshine Coast from an NDIS trial site interstate, was looking for a local service provider able to start delivery the following Monday.
As the carer of a person with an NDIS package, the caller had already done her homework and spoken with friends and acquaintances about the available service providers in the area.
By the time she spoke with the Suncare Customer Service Team, the caller had already determined which local service providers were believed to have capacity. She even knew which organisations had the right reputation for providing the service type she needed.
“Quite nicely, she’d already decided she wanted to work with Suncare,” Richard says happily.
“Her decision wasn’t linked to our capacity as the service she requested was not considered part of our general service offering. It was mainly due to our reputation for reliability,” he says.
We asked Richard how the request made people in the organisation initially feel and subsequently respond.
“There were a few questions raised,” he says honestly.
“Did we need to register with the NDIA?
“How would we provide the service if it didn’t fit any of our current models?
“How would we get a full understanding of the client’s needs?
“What sort of risk management did we need to consider and plan for?
“Did we have appropriately qualified staff? Were they available?
“How did this request fit within our clinical governance?”
Then the contemplative Chief Operating Officer pauses to share with us how Suncare went about finding a solution and answers to all these questions.
Beginning with the very last question they’d raised about the fit with the Suncare clinical governance model, Richard says they pulled together an extraordinary Clinical Governance Forum with their basic quorum of five.
“Our Clinical Governance Framework includes a forum for considering and approving service requests that are not within the scope of our regular service offerings,” he says.
“But the problem here was that the forum only meets bimonthly and it was sometime before the next meeting would be held.
“The terms of reference for the forum included a quorum of 5 members. So Friday afternoon we quickly pulled together an extraordinary Clinical Governance Forum and just made a quorum.”
In considering the service request, Suncare’s Clinical Governance Forum found that many aspects of the request did fit within the current Suncare model, but specific activities were not a neat fit.
They required further consideration and discussion with the carer.
Risk management and mitigation strategies were required and Suncare would also need to negotiate these with the carer.
“Suncare was having difficulty with the NDIS registration process which really concerned us,” says Richard.
“But it was a great relief to learn that the carer was holding the position of registered provider in this case and on that basis could contract Suncare for the services she required.”
So what solution did Suncare eventually land on exactly?
“We decided that the best way forward from here was to work closely with the carer and discuss the service request with her in more detail,” says Richard.
“The Clinical Governance Forum, agreed to certain risk mitigation strategies which included additional billable time for the Personal Care Worker to build rapport with the client, acquaint themselves with the client’s support needs and expectations, and agree to embedding contingency/emergency procedures for the foreseeable risks.”
The CSIA asked Richard how their solution was working out, now that the delivery had been underway for a while?
“It is working out very well. It’s excellent!” an elated Richard says.
“The carer was extremely impressed with Suncare’s responsiveness and the fact that we would not blindly accept the assignment without a thorough understanding of the carer and client’s expectations.”
As it turned out, the carer had been more than happy to fund the additional time required for:
- the Personal Care Worker and the client to become more comfortable with each other, and
- ensuring the Personal Care Worker was confident they were able to support the client where assistance was required.
“The emphasis on safety was also very well received,” says Richard.
We asked Richard what comments he might have in hindsight regarding how it all played out and what Suncare might do next time.
He had some very solid key insights, saying that for future situations Suncare would need to:
- understand that the first and the final point in the NDIS process is the customer’s choice
- have a flexible and responsive Clinical Governance Framework to address extraordinary service requests (which in this case they definitely did)
- be confident in negotiating any risk areas and additional costs openly with the package manager (as they did in this case with the carer)
- have a flexible, responsive and versatile workforce.
And here’s Richard’s parting advice for other organisations facing circumstances like those that Suncare faced.
“Make sure your customer service team are able to identify service opportunities when they present themselves, even those that are not ordinary or that don’t fit within traditional service models,” he says.
“It would have been easy for the Customer Service Advisor who took the call in our case to simply and justifiably respond that we could not help. The service required was not in keeping with Suncare’s service offering and the timeframe was unrealistic.
“Unless there were strict supervision arrangements in place, no-one would have even registered that the request was made.
“It was a very fortunate series of events that have resulted in a very happy ending.”
If you’re interested in finding out more about Suncare you can visit http://www.suncare.org.au.
Perhaps you’d like to hear more about the way Suncare handled their flagship NDIS enquiry? You can email Richard Johnson at [email protected] .
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