Navigating the NDIS can be daunting, especially if the NDIS marks the first time you or your loved one are accessing supports and services. The Inform NDIS 101 series aims to take some of the confusion out of understanding, accessing and using the NDIS by providing straightforward information and resources.
With more than 80,000 people accessing supports for the first time through the NDIS, the role of support coordination is especially important. But what exactly is support coordination? What can your support coordinator do for you? And how can your support coordinator help you to get the most out of your plan?
Inform spoke with Alex, a support coordinator who has worked in the role for almost two years, to get the answers to those questions and much more.
What is Support Coordination?
Support Coordination is a new role within the NDIS. And while the scope of the role is quite broad, Alex says that support coordination is about building your capacity and helping you see the possibilities and opportunities available to you.
The role of support coordination in your plan will depend on your situation and what your individual needs and wants are. The task of your support coordinator is to assist you to explore and determine what your goals are or might be, what services or supports you might need to achieve them and how you can access those service or supports. Support coordination can be particularly useful when you first get your plan and need help working out what those services and supports are and how to get them implemented.
But Alex says that the role of support coordination is about more than just NDIS related supports. Your support coordinator can also help you access mainstream and community supports and support you in your interactions with other government systems.
‘It’s like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, once those needs at the bottom of that pyramid are met, then people have the ability to start thinking about other things,’ she said.
‘It’s not just, oh I’m having an issue with my provider that comes in every day, to help me with self-care, can you help me with that, it’s also: I want to go on holiday.’
In addition, your support coordinator can work with you to support your informal support networks. Because if your support networks are better supported then you can be better supported.
How can your Support Coordinator assist you?
While they aren’t advocates or decision makers, there is plenty that your support coordinator can do to assist you.
Support coordination could be considered holistic capacity building. From navigating a crisis to planning a holiday, your support coordinator can act as research tool providing you with the knowledge and facilitating access to skills building that you can then use to engage with the people in your life, whether that’s your support workers or your family.
‘Sometimes people just need someone to walk through things with them. And sometimes we might be that right person the first time or the second time, then it’s about planning together how you can be supported to go through this? What can we put in place for next time? Or is there a support or service we can engage to help you build these skills?’ Alex said.
‘It’s definitely about reducing barriers. What are the gaps in your supports? What’s the current situation? These are your goals, where are we at now? And then mapping out what are some of the main barriers, and then it’s putting in an action plan of how you’re going to work together to reduce those barriers.’
Alex points to something as seemingly simple as joining a local community group.
‘So, what would you need to get there? Or what are the barriers? And those barriers might be “I can’t get there” or “I don’t get up in time or a shift doesn’t start in time to help me get up, so I can get to this group”. So, it’s literally about going right back to what is it that’s getting in the way and then slowly breaking down those barriers.’
How to get the most out of Support Coordination
While it takes time to build relationships, Alex has some advice for how you can get the most of support coordination.
‘I think it starts right from the beginning with understanding what support coordination is and how vital it is to assist you to achieve your goals,’ Alex said.
Part of that is knowing that you can choose your own support coordinator, and that before you choose, you can ask them questions. Alex likens it to interviewing.
‘[NDIS] participants are consumers. And it’s like engaging any sort of service. For example, if I was looking to engage someone, a nanny or something like that, you would sit down with them and you would you do some screening. You’d ask them questions. It’s the same, participants have the same choice. People have control over who provides their support to them.’
In those initial conversations, Alex suggests discussing what your goals are and asking how the support coordinator could help you achieve those goals.
‘Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask your support coordinators those hairy questions. There are no silly questions,’ Alex said.
In addition, don’t shy away from expressing your needs, from telling your support coordinator what’s working for you and what’s not working. Alex says that can help your support coordinator to have a better understanding of how to work with you to best achieve your goals.
‘Sharing how you communicate; how do you best receive information? How do you learn?’
‘Some people need information mailed out to them. Some people can read emails, and it’s fine. Some people need a text. Everyone has got different communication styles. So being really clear up front, with any service providers about how you need your information.’
Questions to ask potential Support Coordinators:
Once you’ve received funding for support coordination, the next step is choosing a support coordinator. And Alex has some advice for the kinds of questions you can ask a support coordinator to determine if they are a good fit for you.
- How long have you been a support coordinator?
- What sort of experience do you have?
- How many participants are you working with right now?
- What kinds of complexities do these participants have?
- What hours do you work?
- Do you attend workshops/professional development?
- What’s your reporting style like?
- These are my goals; how would you help me?
Things your support coordinator can help you with:
- Support you to learn more about the NDIS and your plan
- Support you in implementing your plan
- Help you find service providers
- Communicate with service providers or supports on your behalf
- Teach you to use the online portal
- Assist you with referrals for assessments or equipment requests
- Finding opportunities to access mainstream and community services
- Preparing for your plan review
Ready to read more? Try these Inform links: