Building direct support and health professional workforce capacity: Embedded and digital

Building direct support and health professional workforce capacity: Embedded and digital
Organisation: Monash University Partner: Osborn Sloan & Associates Partner: Applied Communication Skills (ACS) Partner: Emma Gee Partner: Yooralla Partner: The Tipping Foundation Partner: Victoria Community Living
Contact: Libby Callaway

This project aimed to increase the number of support workers skilled in working with people with neurological disability in group homes.

Close videos
Close photos
Close flyers
Close connections

The Context

The project aimed to increase disability support worker skills and the number of allied health workers supporting participants with complex neurological disabilities in Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA).  The project investigated ways to build the direct support and future allied health workforce capacity in the accommodation workforce to positively influence participant outcomes including increased social participation.

The Problem

Disability accommodation services experience high turnover and burnout of staff.  The NDIS has increased demand for services and support and this is placing additional pressure on available workforce.  A skilled workforce that understands complex neurological disabilities and how to build the capacity of participants will lead to greater independence and better outcomes for people with complex needs.

The Solution

Targeted web-based training via a dedicated platform that includes professional resources to train DSW staff and allied health professional students to support participants with complex neurological disabilities. Increased support worker and future health professional knowledge of acquired brain injury and participation-focused supports to build capacity of people with ABI for supported independent living. Other outcomes include:

  • An evaluation of allied health professional student training delivered through the project Evidence of the impact of the digital training provided to the SDA workforce and Allied Health students will be gathered.  Positive outcomes experienced by NDIS participants as a result of the model of mixed disability support worker and allied health professional student support will also be documented.
  • An online, manualised approach for providing allied health student training in SDA.
  • A set of clear role, delegation and supervision definitions and structures for Allied Health Assistants (AHA) which – if available and adequately priced within the NDIS – participants may be able to purchase through their NDIS plan.

Expected Impact

Participants with an acquired brain injury residing in SDA have increased opportunities to build their independence and skills leading to greater social inclusion and home and community participation, and potential to reduce reliance on attendant care supports.  Increased understanding of working with people with acquired brain injury and greater retention of staff will be achieved by extending the capability of existing support workers and encouraging allied health students’ employment and training opportunities whilst studying, with the goal of increasing their interest in the disability workforce.

Stage and Spread

Four SDA sites in two large Melbourne providers are piloting the project.  Disability support workers from these services and a mixture of occupational therapy students and physiotherapy students will take part in the project.  The SDA sites include student placements from Monash Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy departments initially, with view to manualise this approach for replication and scaling.

Lessons and Insights

The project has found that participants’ plans have limited resources for capacity building supports.  This is problematic as allied health professionals need to supervise both the students and allied health or therapy assistants (see below), and are usually only registered to provide capacity building activities.

Although Allied Health Assistants are potential a workforce identified by the NDIA, there has been no clear definition provided or other characteristics such as training and supervision requirements within the NDIS.  There is also no line item available to fund such supports at the appropriate level.  The NDIA funds ‘Therapy Assistant’ but this role is not defined and is priced at support worker level.

Roadblocks and Risks

These include:

  • Low uptake of allied health professional students to direct employment roles in SDA whilst studying.
  • Reduced number of allied health professional student clinical training placements with NDIS providers (and thus reduced opportunity to produce NDIS-ready graduate health professionals) given the growing fee-for-service model in the NDIS and, at times, low investment in capacity building supports which fund health professional input.
  • Low uptake of online training by direct support staff working in SDA. 
  • Lack of clear role definition and structure for allied health assistant roles in conjunction with set lower hourly rate than disability support workers may not encourage students to participate and does not recognise the skill set required for the service model. 
  • Low amounts of capacity building supports in an NDIS participant’s plans may also limit supports that can be provided (and supervised or directed) under the model.