“Even if you’re not working in the NDIS, it’s important to understand the inevitable change as consumer driven models become more and more prevalent across the Community Services Industry.”

Nigel Webb has more than 20 years’ experience as a disability and social justice advocate. As a trusted voice, advisor and leader across the Community Services Industry he helps guide state and national advisory and representatives’ groups, boards and community organisations.

He has employed more than 200 workers over a 30+ year period, to come into his home, workplace and attend important meetings and events.

At the CSIA Workforce Summit Nigel challenged Industry to improve NDIS workforce planning. We have his insights as an employer and participant with key takeaways in an abridged version of his presentation.

“When it comes to the NDIS you need to give consideration to what change means for you and your workforce.

With the key principle of choice and control, participants and their families in the NDIS should be the ones making choices and being in control of their goals, their lives and their plans.

If participants or their families don’t know what to ask for in relation to their support, then typically the resource simply doesn’t appear in their plan that is approved by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).

This requires a significant change in the way that many workers conduct their work and engage with participants. It also requires a significant change in the way that organisations recruit, arrange, support and develop their workforce.

So, what can be done differently?

Understanding the importance of relationships

Under the NDIS, I am a participant and an employer. As the employer I look for support workers that are reliable, flexible, and most importantly trustworthy. You may say, ‘who doesn’t look for these qualities in workers?’ Surprisingly, many participants say their supports are provided by registered providers who do not demonstrate these qualities.

This is a human service, deeply personal and private in nature. Service providers are often resistant to workers and consumers having strong relationships, they are worried about the risk of exploitation and conflict of interest.

While this may make a lot of sense, when you are writing policy, give some consideration to what it means when your workers are delivering support to participants. The right relationships, feeling safe and being aware of what is important of being in a community, are equally important in any working relationship.

Workplace Health and Safety

Think about the home as a work site. For example, if you invite somebody in to do yard maintenance, your home, for a temporary period of time, an hour or so, is actually a work site. For people with disabilities, that’s a regular occurrence.

With the overarching influence of workplace health and safety pervading our home, we are constantly reminded that when there are workers delivering supports, we need to understand many rules and regulations.

There needs to be more opportunities for specialised knowledge and training. I’m no expert in these matters and I can say in 30 years of supervising staff in my home, I’ve never had a workplace health and safety incident resulting in significant injury to any of over 200 workers.

I remain vigilant, considerate, and implement many preventative measures. I consider this a shared responsibility for anyone in the household or in the community. If you have staff who visit people in their homes to deliver support and services, then it makes sense for you to engage participants and service users in the workplace health and safety conversation.

Centralised Rostering

When the worker knows and understands the participant well, many tasks become seamless. An opportunity for trust and rapport between the worker and the customer is given the opportunity to thrive. Unfortunately, when you centralise the rostering system, the workers that are allocated to people don’t actually know the participant they are there to serve.

Tax Invoices

Service providers of all sizes need to get better at producing tax invoices. As someone who self-manages my plan, I am accountable for the proper acquittal of NDIS funding. I’ve implemented a very basic business principle. No correct invoice, no payment. If I don’t have a timely invoice, how can I show the NDIA effective use of the funds provided?

Engage people with disability in recruitment

What opportunities are there for your organisation or your workers, if you took the time to ask a participant how to improve things? I believe people with a disability and their family should be given every opportunity to develop their skills and play an active part in the recruitment of workers. If they are part of the decision-making process from the beginning, it is more likely they will retain their workers and become more familiar with them.

Have you ever invited a participant in your service to help design a position description or sit on a recruitment panel?”

Listen to the full version of Nigel’s presentation here.