Evaluation of capacity-building strategies: building the right relationship between service-users and support workers

Evaluation of capacity-building strategies: building the right relationship between service-users and support workers
Organisation: Griffith University
Contact: Margaret Ward

This project built on earlier research and aimed to further develop and test resource material to support self-direction and the development of right-relationship in the context of disability support provision.

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The Context

The constructs of person centredness and self-direction in service delivery are central to implementation of the NDIS. Often, this language is used by disability service providers. There is not, however, a shared understanding of what these constructs mean in culture and practice between policy makers, service providers (and workforce) and the individuals and families who use services. There is also a lack of resources to support the recruitment, training and retention of support staff who can work with self-direction and person centred approaches. Reflection on culture and practice is needed for such approaches to be genuine and sustainable in an organisation.    

The Problem

There is a lack of shared understanding of the application of person centredness and self-direction between individuals, families, workers and organisations. Secondly, many specialised disability organisations struggle to embed genuine person centredness and self-direction into their culture and practice. Finally, there is a lack of useful, accessible resources to support service providers to apply person centredness and self-direction for NDIS participants.

The Solution

The project aimed to develop and test resource material to support self-direction and the development of right-relationship in the context of disability support provision. The project built on earlier work by researchers which examined the service and workforce practice and culture of three person/family centred services in South East Queensland over a period of ten years. The product of their research was the development of a framework which has become the basis for developing a resource handbook for disability support staff and the people they support.

Expected Impact

Drawing on the observations of ten years of person-centred practices, the researchers have developed a clear framework for service provision from intake to exit that informs selection and performance management of workers. Specifically, the resource provides:

  • Clarity of expectations of their role for support workers
  • Tools for reflection and improvement of practice
  • Empowerment of service users to explain and train staff on the job with regard to self-directed support and right-relationship.

If, as suggested by the researchers, disability organisations have spent significant resources on reconfiguring their policies and processes to accommodate the transition to NDIS, this resource will support the shift of attention to the interaction between worker and NDIS participant. It will also provide well-intentioned services the opportunity to operationalise the constructs of self-direction and person centredness. That is, to understand the implications for job design, staffing ratios, attraction, development and retention of staff, working arrangements, performance management for individuals and families, workers and organisational policies and processes.

Stage and Spread

The researchers have compared the capacity building strategies used in three self-directed services who used their process over a ten year period. They subsequently tested the views of a mixed group of stakeholders, using survey and workshop methods, as to the preconditions and attributes required for success.

They have also developed and tested a resource workbook to optimise the working relationship between people with disability, families and committed friends and support workers.

Lessons and Insights

Specialised disability organisations need a willing to review and adjust policy, culture and day to day practice to fully embrace self-direction and an understanding of right-relationship.

Opportunities for all stakeholders to come together must exist in order to understand the framework and apply to policy, culture and practice.

Organisations and workers require an openness to reflective practice.

Roadblocks and Risks

A roadblock to change is prioritising standardisation over responsiveness to individual needs and preferences.

Workers’ assumptions about what’s possible for individuals are roadblocks to person centredness and self-direction.

A risk is that skills and confidence in using the approach will not be cultivated in NDIS participants, families, disability support workers and throughout organisations.

A risk to the success of this approach is the failure of workers and organisations to reflect on practice.