Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Art of Self-Managing (ndis)

My name is Deb Chilton, I am a visual artist who's ndis goal is to grow my visual arts practise. I been sharing my ndis journey on my blog for almost 12 months. Today I want to share about my experience of particularly self-managing my ndis package.  The National Disability Insurance Scheme provides people with disabilities and their family with assistance to enable them to fully and independently participate in the social and economic life of their community.

The ndis offers participants many choices when it comes to what they would like their supports to look like. One of these choices is how the would like their ndis package to be administrated. 

I remember when the scheme was first being discussed, what everyone wanted to know What will the ndis look like?   

This question was impossible to answer; as the ndis package you will receive will be specifically design to suit you and/or your families support needs and how you chose to be support.  The supports you receive under the ndis are determined by your ndis goals; how you and your family choose to be supported to meet those goals and the types of supports you need.

The ndis promotes individual choice.  The ndis allows you to make choices around service delivery, service providers, times you want support; who and how you want to support you; and lastly how you want your funds to be managed.

When it comes to administrating you package you start with three basic choices.
  1. The ndia can manage your package.
  2. You can chose a host fund provider
  3. Self-manage.

Or you can chose a combination of options two and three. Each option has its own advantages.  Both using a host fund provider and self-managing will allow you to self-direct your supports. If the ndia is managing your package you will not be able to self-direct. However you will still be supported to choose your support services and supplies. 

Self-managing will give you the greatest flexibility when it comes to choice.  Through self-managing some options are:

  • Self-direction
  • Engaging your own support workers
  • Choosing to use genetic services rather than just ndis providers.
  • A choice of using a host-fund provider; Plan Manager or establishing and managing you own support team.
However there is a misconception that if you choose to self-manage you can save money by doing all the administration yourself. Like cutting out the middle man. Thus allowing you to have more support hours. This is not the case with the ndis. The ndia must pay all reasonable and necessary costs and this in includes all administration fees.  

If you feel you 'core funding' will not provide enough support, then that is something you should think about appealing. There are many hidden costs if you choose to self-direct through, self-managing your ndis package,  These might be recruitment and training costs; insurances and accounting fees.

Engaging your own support staff also makes you a employer and thus responsible for all legal requirements.

There are many ways you can self-direct under choosing to self-managing:-
  1. Use ndis approved support services
  2. Use genetic services
  3. Engage staff through an agency or a provider that enables you to self-direct.
  4. Engage staff on contracts through agencies like hirer-up and Better Care.
  5. Employ private support staff who work under the own ABN. (Australian Business Number)
  6. Directly employ your own team through applying for an ABN. 
  7. Or use a combination of these options.
Before you start you may want to read your responsibilities under Self-Managing. I find everything under the ndis a bit of amaze. Self-managing through my Plan Manager has been a lot  trail and error.

If your thinking about engaging your own support team there are lots of resources on-line. As there are many different ways to engage the support team you need, I found it helpful to talk to others who were already self-directingThis document set out your responsibilities as an employer.  

Here is My Story

My NDIS plan looks something like this:

Participant's Name: Deb Chilton
Region: Ipswich Queensland
Disabilities: CP with Epilepsy
Occupation: Artists and Arts worker 
Piratical Self Managing through a Plan Manager

NDIS Goals:

Goal one: To build my visual art practise and find new avenues to sell my artwork.

Goal two: To purchase equipment that would allow me to work more independently.

Long term goal:  To establish Ignite Artist in view to possibly becoming a ndis provider.

I always plan to try engaging my own support team at some stage. Initially chose to self- manage through a Plan Manager.  

I elected to seek a number of support services and a home maintenance team to meet my current support needs.  When it came to selecting my in home and CAS service provider, I decided to choose  a service I knew.  The are no perfect support providers so in the end I chose the provider with the workers I felt best supported by.  The trouble is that workers move on.

I also know that support service providers are still struggling with the increase demand for services and struggled with staff shortages. To begin with the provider I chose struggle to provide the hours I brought over from my existing provider. 

This meant initially I had less support than prior to the ndis not because of funding, but the providers inability to meet the demand. Recently a number of staff have resigned and be on leave leaving my pool of available workers short.

Thus has not been the only issue with my current provider. As a visual artist and someone's who's work hours are not 9 to 5pm. Traditionally, providers still struggle with the flexibility I need. We I transition to the ndis 'I was determine to have support that worked around my art commitments.'

This no related to my provider specifically. Challenge one is support workers are after x number of hours per week; challenge two is when you receive support from a lager provider you are sharing workers with other client.  A third party organises my roster and they do not always provided the trained staff. Challenged three I require for a particular shift e.g. physio.  I need to pre submit a budget and a quote needs to be attached to the service agreement. As different time of the day and week are charged at different rates by providers the need me to break down the number of after hours I will be using.  This is still required if you are self-directing a support team.  You need ti know you can cover the costs of all your contracted hours.  ;  

 This weeks focus has been on training new staff, which although raining went well. However this week I finish putting all my information together with the recruitment officer a placed a number of adds to recruit my new team.  So soon I will be doing this all again, own my own.  Well in terms of training staff I've had plenty of practise.  

I also engage a home-service team for  the garden, odd jobs and support me in exhibiting my artwork. Most recently this has been  my solo art exhibition at the Drawing Point Gallery.  The have also assisted with transporting artwork to the gallery I work with in Brisbane.  

The increase in my funding has allow me to pull out my old garden and create a more accessible space and plant some vegs.  I pay this team through their own ABN - this makes them responsible for their own insurances.  When it come to owning your own business insurance is a nightmare.  I need to take our public liability of each area I engage people to assist me with.

When your ndis plan is approved you receive differ areas with total budget amount you can access.  Core funding is flexible funding you can spend on your direct support needs. Such as one on one direct community support. 

A budget to assist you to manage your package.  I use this budget to play a Plan Manager to assist me with the payment of my invoices and reporting. (ie entering information into my ndis portal.

A budget I can use for mobility equipment and repairs; and a budget for Improved daily living  One of the goals of the ndis is to assist participants to have independence in the community. My power chair is one way I achieve this the other is through a combination of physical therapies.  

Each part of you plan budget must be spent on items as spelt out in you plan.  If you are under budget is one area you can not top up another area of your budget where you are short.  When you negotiate a service agreement with a provider they will give you a quote and before signing the agreement you need to prove you have the funds in you package the services being provided under that agreement. 

To begin with I had a service agreement with a larger provider thinking this would allow me to access a number services. Such as weekly physiotherapy and hydrotherapy.  I also need a therapist o prescribe my new power chair. I found working with a larger provider difficult to communicate to and I kept being put through to the same person who was extremely over worked. 

The provider never explained they could not provide on going therapy and due to communication issues struggled to complete the paperwork for my chair on time.  Communication or lack of it is one of the things I struggled with in self-manager my package.    

I have since changed to another provider for my physio although their have been other issues I am now attending fortnightly sessions. 

Self-managing has highlighted the lack of respect and discrimination individuals with cp without intellectual disabilities face. Time and time again I need to explain I am self - managing and often feel disbelieved. 

Engaging my support team 

Before advertise for my own support workers I spent sometime thinking about the type of people I wanted to attract to the role, what training I required them to have and what training I could provide. 

I spent some time thinking through a safety net plan.  I am not good with boundaries or managing conflict. When working with people their needs to be a clear outline of what is expected of employees and what is not acceptable while 'at work';  e.g being on Facebook, personal calls etc.  Of the last 20 years I have had many workers ask to break boundaries or company policies  - like bring member of their family to work. 

So knowing that this occurred when clear policies were in place =- I can only imagine (well no I can't) what might happen if there were no boundaries. That is why I wasn't keen on engaging support staff under their own ABN.  Some organisations policies and procedures are tied directly to state and federal laws. As an employer you are responsible to ensure they are occurring the work place you manage. 

Things such as work health and safety laws are connected to your insurance policies including work cover. So if a worker is injured because the are not wearing the right foot ware, (this happens in most support agency I have used) then the worker is not covered.  If you are found failing your duty of care to your employees then they can potentially sue you for personal injuries and lost wages.

So even though you funded to engage you own support team there is a lot to consider. I want to ensure safety for me and my support team. I hoping by considering their welfare that they prove reliable. 

In the end I decided I didn't want the full responsibility of employing people. Employing workers through an organisations means there are already policies and procedures and my coordinator was able to assist with employment contacts, pay rates, job description, interview questions, police and car checks and reference.

The other consideration is where to look for employees. After chatting with people who know me well, I decided to use a recruitment agency. You Select Recruitment, Have a number of different packages they can put together.  The can do the whole process for you up until you ready to do the induction training or you can select the processes you would like to do.  I have chosen to do my own interviews and reference checks

I also do much of the preparation work for induction and writing training materials. Finally you need to think about strategic and succession planning.  What happens when team members get sick or on leave?  What if you disappointed in your choice? What happens when you go away? How do you transition from services you use now to introducing your own team. 

At this stage you should of talked with your existing providers of your intent to leave.  Some providers require notice and have exit fees.  You will need to refer back to your service agreements. If you current support staff are required to do buddy shirts, you need to discuss the transition process. this all needs to be written in a service exit plan.

Before your out on your own, what happens in a emergency? None of your staff can cover a shift that a worker has called in sick for.  Have you got and agreement with a agency to cover emergency, or should you leave some hours per week with a current provider  or will you call on family to assist?

What is your discipline and conflict plan?  Do you know your legal responsibilities as a employer with you need to dismiss a employee. Who will support you with team conflicts and disciplinary matters?   Do you have a probationary period? And what protection can you create if a conflict is the result of you or a family member being abused or taken advantage of?

Succession planning:- at some stage your workers are going to move on.  If this is a key worker will another team member step into that role and how do you train them to take on added responsibility?  How do you plan to introduce new team members and who will support you to do this?

My tip for the week always have a back-up plan and be well supported by people you know and trust.   

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