Finding and Choosing Support Workers with your NDIS Funds (Part I)
A Support Worker is someone you pay to help you because of your disability related needs, a Carer is someone who is not paid – usually family or a close friend. It can be difficult to find good support workers that “click” with you and your needs, so here are some ideas or where to find potential workers, and interviewing tips, too.
How might you use your “Core” funds for a Support Worker?
• Helping with your personal care (toileting, feeding, showering, teeth cleaning, shaving)
• Moving around at home – transfers from bed or chair to wheelchair or toilet or shower etc
• Building your skills (cooking/making snacks, kicking a football, cleaning/tidying, getting dressed, washing dishes, using a computer, gardening)
• Helping you try new things or continue existing activities (hobbies, recreation, leisure, employment, sports, volunteering, making friends, learning new things)
• Helping you make friends and get out into your neighbourhood and into your local town or city
• Cleaning, yard-work, watering, filing, laundry, changing beds
• Cooking, light household duties, laundry etc
• Transportation – driving you around or going with you on public transport
• Indirectly providing families and carers time away from their caring role
Where might you find a support worker to hire yourself?
• Contact a university or TAFE student association, or a relevant faculty
• Ask your extended family and neighbours if they know anyone
• OSHC (out of School Hours Care) workers or SSO’s from a local school
• People from your faith community, or a club you’re already involved with
• Put a shareable post on Facebook, or other social media (be careful not to share too much information publicly!)
• Restaurant, fast food or supermarket workers
• Ask your therapists if they know anyone who might be interested
• Advertise on Gumtree, in your local paper, or through employment websites like www.seek.com.au
• Go to a Support Worker Provider – they may be an NFP or a for-profit company
• Make sure potential support workers have current State and National Police Clearances, First Aid Certificate and definitely check their references
• Be careful when advertising and interviewing strangers to make sure you don’t publicly share information which makes you or your family vulnerable – never include your home address or full name in an ad – you can meet interviewees for the first time at a library, coffee shop or other public place to keep safe.
Interview Question Ideas
• What is your experience with people with disability and/or children?
• What gave you an interest in working with people with disability?
• Do you have a disability or care for anyone in your family with disability?
• Do you have any studies/qualifications (related or otherwise, current or past)?
• Do you have your own reliable insured transport, licence and clean driving record?
• Are you OK with my pet cat/dog/bird in the house?
• What are your interests outside of work/study? Could you introduce any of these to me or my child?
• Have you had experience of (my child’s extra medical or behavioural support needs)?
• I/My child can sometimes get anxious/distressed. What would you do if he broke a window and was having a meltdown?
• Are you willing and able to provide personal care support (toileting etc), and can you do overnight help?
• Do you have any physical limitations that might make this job hard that I should know about?
• I/My child is very active – would you be fit enough to keep up?
• My child is not good about personal boundaries – would you comfortable with…?
• How would you communicate to us about your time with our child? (email/phone/text)
• What would you do if…?
• What is your availability and what notice do you require?
• How many hours of work are you looking for and are you willing to travel?
• Our cultural/belief background is… Do you share/are you comfortable supporting our beliefs?
General Tips on Choosing Support Workers to Meet Your Needs
• It is very very rare that any one support worker will have all of your desired qualities. Consider taking on two or three workers, even if you don’t have a lot of hours of work to offer – people do get sick, move on and go on holidays – don’t get caught short with just one worker.
• Younger student workers often have energy and enthusiasm, but may have limited availability, especially at exam or holiday time. They may also have upcoming student “placement” obligations for their study – ask about these!
• It is unlikely that your workers will work only for you – keep this in mind and try to book workers for regular shifts, and do this in as far advance as possible.
• Professional (full-time) support workers may have set ideas about the work you need and ways to do things, and may not be as flexible, but they may also have very valuable experience.
• Are you looking for community access – someone willing and able to get out and about with you or your child, or are you really looking for in-home support? These activities are not necessarily incompatible, but a young student may not have the domestic and life experience to just “notice” what needs doing and show that initiative (remember *your* first share house?).
• And one more thing – the NDIS will not fund parents or family members of participants to provide personal care supports except in the most exceptional circumstances (and even then, only for a short time), and there are many good reasons for this policy decision – it’s hard to fire Grandma or your sister!
Where to go for more information
Here’s a guide to recruiting and interviewing potential support workers from HireUp: https://hireup.com.au/wp-content/uploads/RecruitmentManualforUsers_July16.pdf
Here is some great Easy English information about how to choose staff from MyChoiceMatters: http://www.mychoicematters.org.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=9&Itemid=113
July 11, 2017
Briefing and Hiring Support Workers (part II)
A Support Worker is someone you pay to help you because of your disability related needs, a Carer is someone who is not paid – usually family or a close friend.
Service Agreements with Support Workers
Once you have interviewed and chosen a support worker, it’s a good idea to have a written agreement with them. You will also need to decide how to pay them.
What might you include in your information to, and WRITTEN agreement with a support worker?
• Expectations of work – what does the work actually involve?
• Trial Employment/probation – How long until you review/decide to keep a worker?
• Are there minimum shift requirements?
• Communication – how and when will you communicate with each other – phone, text, messenger, email, communication book? Must their phone always have credit? Can they use your wi-fi at home? Is it OK if they answer calls/texts while working?
• House – what are the expectations around housekeeping/cooking/cleaning etc. eg: Should the worker wash feeding supplies/dishes after each meal?
• Use of equipment/food etc – can the worker help themselves to what’s in your fridge?
• Medical stuff – all about you/your child’s needs and action plans
• Professional boundaries/privacy etc – how much does your family value privacy? – what do you expect from a support worker around privacy issues – would you accept a “friend” request online?
• How will the worker debrief after a tough shift – do they have a support network/mentor of their own for difficult times?
• What to do when things go wrong – contact lists, emergency information etc.
• Attire – how do you expect your worker to dress?
• Ongoing learning/training – what ongoing training do you expect from your worker, and who will pay for it (the time to train, and the costs of training)?
• Notice of cancellation – What happens when a shift is cancelled?
• Beliefs and Values – if you have certain beliefs or a cultural background that is important to you, make sure you know what that means for you and your support worker (eg: no pork in the house, or always fish on Fridays, or no animal products)
Setting Yourself Up as Employer
• There are lots of things to think about when you employ your own workers. Have you factored in the cost of training for your workers? Do you expect them to pay for their own training costs? What happens if there is a WorkCover claim?
• Do you have a back-up person who can do payroll if you’re not able? You may wish to hire an agency or broker to manage payroll for you to look after tax, super and insurance obligations – that way if you’re ever sick or away, your workers are still taken care of. These management fees can be paid from Core supports in your NDIS plan if your plan is self-managed.
• Hiring Workers for the first time? It important to know your tax obligations – here’s some info from the Australian Tax Office (ATO) https://www.ato.gov.au/business/your-workers/hiring-workers-for-the-first-time—checklist/
When Things Go Wrong
• If a worker isn’t doing as a job a job as you’d like, the first thing to do is to speak to the worker. You might want a friend or family member to be with you. Let the worker know clearly what your expectations are and what you need from them. Review your written agreement together.
• If your support workers are not keeping your affairs private, you might want to let them know that privacy is important to you.
• If a worker is abusive or dangerous to you or your child, it’s important to immediately stop their shifts, and report them to police, even if it just to stop them abusing others. If you need other support workers urgently and don’t know anyone, it might be a good idea to call a large support worker agency to help fill the gaps until you find others to employ.
• If NDIS does not pay your bills on time, you will need to contact your local LAC or Support Co-ordinator or send an email to email@example.com and ask for immediate support. If you are self-managing your NDIS plan, you can, with permission, make claims a week in advance, so it might be best to always be a week ahead with your claims to cover times when your internet isn’t working, or the NDIS portal isn’t working like it should.
Where to go for more information
• There are a bunch of guides on the internet about the practicalities of employing your own workers. The NDIS has more information at https://www.ndis.gov.au/participant/self-managing-budgets/engaging-your-own-staff .
• There’s some great information here about self-employment for disabled people from MyPlace: http://www.myplace.org.au/downloads/MyPlace_EngagingBooklet_Web.pdf
September 7, 2017
A BRIEF for your Support Workers
Do you provide a brief for your support workers?
And I don’t just mean the medication routine and emergency contacts.
Here’s a sample brief The Growing Space developed with the Mum of a participant.
There were little things about their previous support worker that had been annoying – like leaving the heater on with all the doors open, and not locking the front door for safety, so we wrote something like this together.
This kind of brief can not, and never will be, a “final” or “complete” document, but it can help set the expectations for a new worker, or form the basis of initial discussions with a potential support worker. I see too many support workers sitting around while dishes pile up in the sink, or the rain starts on the dry washing on the line.
Make sure you and your support workers have a good understanding of what is and isn’t expected.
Here’s a sample brief for a child – I hope it can be a useful start and example, and keep in mind it is not thorough and you will need to rewrite/tailor it for you/your child.
Support worker brief
George is 12 years old in Grade 6 at Pretty Place Primary School. He is in a mainstream class but has difficulties with social and emotional regulation, friendships and academic skills.
He has autism and takes what you say very literally. Be aware of your language and how you use it. Never make a promise you can’t keep as this will upset him a great deal.
When George is getting upset, you will notice he will have a short temper, talks with a stern voice and clenches his fists. When you see this behaviour, some tricks to help him calm, you can say (verbal scripts to be added by psychologist).
When his behaviour ramps up further, please give him warnings and tell him it’s a red card if he gets too upset. When he gets a red card, he does a “calm down activity” which are listed on a chart under the kitchen bench.
George really likes listening to music like the “Fast & Furious” soundtracks. He would probably like to listen to more kinds of music on the CD player (you could bring some music to share).
George enjoys a breakdance class every week, and should practise this regularly.
He’s a cheeky, fun and bubbly kid who love jokes and joke books. He’s an energizer bunny, and it’s important that the last hour before bedtime and at the end of each shift is very very calming for him – no crazy outside bouncy activity.
George does not like being touched although high fives are a winner with him. If he hugs you, you are in the very good books!
He is very routine driven, and gets upset at changes, so if you do need to change something in his routine, it’s important to warn and prep him as early and as much as possible.
Do not flood George with choices of activities – it’s better to just offer him the choice of two to three each time.
If there is a chance to do dishes or sweep the floor, please do this, and please include *all* the dishes – water bottles etc.
Please have the boys do the dishes with your help as much as possible. Your job is not to babysit George, but rather to help him learn stuff. So anytime you can stretch him “What do you need with you to go for a walk?” rather than “Go grab your hat”, that would be awesome.
Being on time is very important to our family. If you are going to be even five minutes late, please text and let us know so I can prep George and try to reduce his stress.
Jobs he can/should do on with your support:
• Put away dishes
• Take out rubbish, recycling
• Take bins to street on Tuesday nights, and bring back in on Wednesday.
• Shop for and cook a meal and do all clean up afterwards
• Walk Fido
Activities to do with George:
• Please, no TV or electronics during shift (unless he’s sick etc)
• Walk without dog down street, bring footy
• Board Games
• Shooting hoops
• Car racetrack
• Listen to music together – hip hop
• Bike ride
• Remote control cars
• Read books together – he loves Harry Potter General house rules
• Front door to be locked at all times
• When weather is cold, please close external doors and pop gas heater on.
• Always leave room/house no messier than you found it – clean up after yourself!
• Always pack up toys after use (with George)
I have read and understand the requirements of this role. I will do my best to adhere to them and to communicate if/when they don’t work. I will regularly (fortnightly) review this with George’s Mum.