This project involved the development of a new service model that was based on utilising the strengths of organisations to develop culturally specific pathways for Aboriginal people to access holistic assessment and early intervention services.
Aboriginal people experience higher prevalence of disability than non-Aboriginal people. The Galambilia Aboriginal Medical Service is working in partnership with an Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) Transition Provider Service to provide a culturally, collaborative and holistic service to young children and their families in the Coffs Harbour and Nambucca Valley region of NSW.
This project involved an innovative cross-sector partnership between the established Aboriginal Medical Centre and Children First, an established early childhood intervention provider and current ECEI partner in Western Sydney. The partnership was designed to facilitate the development of effective pathways for Aboriginal families to access the benefits of the NDIS in a manner that is respectful of their individual cultural and service needs. The model allows trusted support workers to assist and facilitate access for children with developmental delay or disability and their families to NDIS supports.
Aboriginal children with developmental delay or disability are not accessing early childhood intervention supports. Data indicates that families do not always engage support services that are not delivered internally from services such as Galambilia or a trusted support service. There was the added challenge that many families did not know anything about the NDIS. Only 5% of families with children with developmental delay or disability reported that they understood the NDIS and were supported well.
The project aimed to provide:
The development of Aboriginal key workers/allied health assistants will assist in managing referrals and collaboration between early childhood intervention support services and Aboriginal children with developmental delay or disability. The key workers' role will be to ensure that children and families are linked into and provided with early childhood intervention supports. The project focuses on providing early childhood intervention allied health workers the knowledge and information to assist them to provide support services in a culturally competent manner. Aboriginal key workers employed by the Aboriginal health service will assist in facilitating support services to ‘hard to reach’ families enabling children to receive NDIS early childhood intervention supports in a timely manner.
It is expected that more children and families will access NDIS early childhood intervention supports, resulting in increased functional capacity for children with developmental delay or disability. This familiarisation with the NDIS might also translate into more Aboriginal people being deemed eligible for the scheme.
The project is located in the Coffs Harbour and Nambucca Valley region of NSW and provides a collaborative, holistic and targeted approach to NDIS Early Childhood Early Intervention Services for Aboriginal people. It involves the Galambila Aboriginal Medical Service working in partnership with Early Childhood Intervention Service, Children First to provide a culturally targeted person-centred pathway for Aboriginal families to engage the NDIS in an early intervention context.
Having male and female workers that were from, or strongly connected within, local communities in Coffs Harbour and Nambucca Valley 'was the single most important factor' in stakeholder engagement. Developing rapport and stakeholder engagement was also critical to ensuring that the project was well received. Therapists gave vey positive feedback about the role of Aboriginal workers within the model, and through the project 8 children were able to receive access tho the NDIS ECEI.
There is high demand for families seeking assistance and support to access the NDIS. It has been important for key workers to provide good information and manage community expectations about what is able to be provided. The strength of the model is integrating supports for children and their families in a familiar place by trusted workers.
Other challenges the project navigated include the difficulties families were having getting functional assessments to support their requests for eligiblity under the NDIS. This resulted in people's eligibility cliams being rejected. The project addressed this by seking funding to pay for assessments, with the result that 14 additional assessments were obtained and the participants deemed eligible. No structural solution to the need to provide significant support to Aboriginal people during the process of applying to the NDIA was achieved.
Early Childhood Partners will be contracted by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) to provide support and undertake assessments and support for children with developmental delay and disability. Part of their role is to ensure that they are providing supports to all children in the geographic area. Understanding and working collaboratively with the new Early Childhood partner will be critical for continued success and continuity of key worker role.