Friday, June 15, 2018

ndis & Engaging Support Workers

Me with my studio support worker

ndis gives participants the choice of who they want to support they; how they want to be supported; when they want to be supported and how they will engage their workers.  Under the ndis participants are empowered to select who the want in their home to support or provide care for themselves or a family member.  Many people forget that participants are inviting them into their homes a place where others seek refuge.

When it comes to management of your ndis plan there are three basic choices.
  • Ask the ndis to do this on your behalf.
  • Engage a funds host of manager.
  • Self-manager your plan.

My name is Deb and I self-manage my ndis plan through a plan manager so I can focus on my other ndis goals.  My main goal in my first plan was to extend my visual art practice. As an artist and freelance arts worker I already manage a small business, doing the accounts and reporting for ndis didn't appeal to me.  I honestly feel engaging staff through an establish support service provide me with protect and that's how I began my self-manage journey.

My Melting Pot solo art exhibition is one of the ways I extended my art practise, the other is becoming a member of Aspire Gallery in Paddtington, Brisbane. One change I was determined to achieve under the ndis was to build my supports around my art practise and commitments as an artist, rather than continue to be dedicated to by service providers.

I guess this is a goal I being into my second ndis plan. Currently I engage a team of five to provide my in-home and community access. I engage my team through a number of channels.  "Hire-Up" an online platform to match support workers directly to participants and "Better Caring"  is another platform worth considering.

I engage my studio support person through a private contract agreement. We have a formal written contract to refer to in the event of a dispute.  When you engage a worker through a private contract you can pay them what you chose.  This person must have an ABN to make payment through the ndis portal.  I  chose to pay my studio assistance the amount it would cost me to engage a work through a support service for a day-time rate. This workers rate is the same no matter when she works. All of her hours still cost less than using a traditional support service.

What I pay my support staff is not about making my money go further. For me what is important is 'valuing my support team'. So different team members are paid differently depending on their role.  My studio support person has just finished her visual arts degree, so engaging her on a contract allowed me to pay her more. 

When looking for support workers I thought through what I wanted in a support worker.  It was important that members of my team enjoy art and could support me to extend my art practise beyond Ipswich.  So two of my team live in Brisbane, this makes delivering artwork easier. 

In the main my support team are engage through a service that assists participants to self-direct their own supports.  The service I choose have a number of different packages; depending on how much management of your support team you want to do yourself.  As I already have a business I did not want to tackle pay roll. However their is soft-ware to help you do this. If you engage staff through a contract the you don't need to worry about tax and leave loading.

I have 'hired' a team leader who assists me to coordinated rosters, admin self-directing a team, and support team and development.  Under the team leader sit two in-home support.  These three workers are paid under the award and officially employed by the company who supports me to self-direct.  This provides my support workers with all employee rights under fair work and provides an umpire if a dispute arises. 

When engaging support workers you should consider insurance and work cover.  If your workers are injured while supporting you, you may need to cover these costs.  If you directly employ your staff you have the insurance obligations of any other employer. If you engage staff through a contract, they are responsible for taking out their own public-liability insurance.  You should talk to your support team before entering an agreement.

Their is also the option to use domestic clearing and household services.  If you are self-managing your plan you can engage any service or individual who has an ABN.  I engage a family who provided in home services, as a family they provided domestic heavy services like cleaning widows, gardening assistance, and mending.  This family was recommend to me by a friend.

Note: There is a difference between self-management and self-directing.  You can do either or both.  There are many different ways you can arrange this under the ndis.  During my first plan I have engaged workers through major support providers; online platforms and contract.  As an artists I found traditional support providers cannot offer the flexibility I need and often proved unreliable. 

Whether you engage workers through traditional services or employ or engage your own staff you never know who will work through your door.  Engaging my own staff means I can train staff my way.  I choice not to employ workers who are qualified or have training.

So where do you find these workers?

  • Word of month and recommendations.  Let people know your looking for staff;
  • Social media if your address is not public; do not give out your address until it is necessary.
  • Support workers who have friends looking for work.
  • Online platforms.
  • Community notice boards.
  • As I doing this pretty much on my own I engaged a recruitment service.


I developed my own position descriptions. I thought about the qualities I value in a support workers. I also decided if I wanted to advertise for additional skills or requirements.  I require my staff to have a drivers linance; their own car; police check or willing to apply for a Yellow Card; car safety checks and reference checks. 

Don't be fooled you can do most of these things yourself and what you ask for is one way to protect yourself. (Support Providers want you to believe you can't or its too risky.)

Once I had determined the job descriptions I contacted You Select Recuritment , management futher assisted me to develop the job descriptions and wording of the ad.  

They then placed the add on my behalf and were the point of contact for information and inquirers about the job.  Applicants only received my name if they were successful.  My identity was protected up to the point of the interview and You Select screened or applicants before passing on the information on applicants.  It was at this point I took control and determined who I would interview.  Since I have a communication barrier I asked You Select to set-up the interviews. 

I then conducted the interviews and did the references checks before handing the paperwork of successful applicants to my self-directed support provider to formally employ my staff.  However you may chose to do the recruitment process yourself.  You too can place advertisements on sites such as SEEK.

My hot tips:

  1. Know what your looking for in a support worker and make that clear when you advertise.
  2. Use you natural networks to spreed the word and/or assist you to write the job descriptions.
  3. Be clear on any job requirements.  I was upfront my key worker needed to have flexibility; yellow cards, first-aid training, driver's linsce and own car. 
  4. If you need specific hours, make the clear in the ad.
  5. Ask someone to help you with the interviewing process.
Now I have a key worker I am training her to assist me to recruit, induct and train my staff.  This has may hiring second time round quicker and simpler.  Like any work place you will find you will develop your own systems, tools and templates along the way.

If in doubt try phone a friend. 

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