HR 1:1 – Family Leadership in Workforce Management

HR 1:1 – Family Leadership in Workforce Management
Organisation: Community Living Project Inc. Partner: Flinders University, SA Partner: Kath Milne Consultancy
Contact: Sally Strzelecki

This project documented CLP’s family-led model to empower service users and families to manage their own support workers in such a way that informal and formal supports are strongly aligned with the participants’ needs and wishes.


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The Context

For over 30 years, Community Living Project (CLP) has been committed to strengthening family leadership and creating conditions where ‘right relationships’ can flourish between participants, families and workers. In CLP’s family-led model, workers are sourced from diverse (non-traditional) backgrounds who are individually recruited and employed to work with a single person and their family. Subsequently, individual job design and the use of an interactive, behavioural orientation package continues the individualised approach. CLP partners with participants/families to co-design all the workforce management processes around their individual support.

Key to this is building the participant/family’s skills and confidence to manage their own support workers, simultaneously coaching workers to respond to the central role of the participant and family, and constantly looking for opportunities to develop freely given relationships to safeguard the future.

The Problem

A misalignment between formal and informal supports has led to a lack of coherence in service delivery, and questions being raised around ‘whose needs are being met’. CLP developed the family-led model to empower service users and families to manage their own support workers in such a way that informal and formal supports are strongly aligned with the participants’ needs and wishes. The model evolved into what it is today, but had so far not been properly documented or reviewed.

The Solution

This project built a robust evidence base of critical co-design elements for a sustainable and autonomous workforce that delivers outcomes for participants and families in this family-led model. Through examining what workforce practices currently build participant self-direction and family leadership, and why, it aimed to build on what works and further adapt this model to the NDIS environment. This includes the use of person-centred tools and practices and reaches as far as the culture, beliefs and behaviours required of providers to partner in ‘right relationship’ with participants, families and staff.

Expected Impact

The project set out to develop a validated strategy, ‘how to’ resource and improved tools to provide to families, support workers and the broader disability sector around implementing family-led workforce management practices.

At the end of the project the following was developed:

  • a short video describing and articulating the model, benefits and challenges of family-led workforce management
  • an information booklet was produced to articulate Family Leadership and Self-directed Support, describe the benefits of Self-directed Support, identify who does best with this model, alert to barriers and challenges of the Self-directed Support model and inform readers about other resources 
  • a worker information document that articulates the Family Leadership and the Self-directed Support model 
  • role descriptions of the Key Worker and Worker roles, focusing on building the knowledge and confidence in the model of current and potential workers.
  • role descriptions to clearly articulate the scope and responsibilities of the Inclusion Coach and Support Manager 
  • tertiary education curriculum resources that will be integrated with the current Disability Services course at Flinders University and hopefully influence future Support Coordinators, service managers, and Support Workers by encouraging them to become aware of different service design and the impact and power of family led services to improve the lives of people with disability and their families. 

Stage and Spread

To support the project a Project Steering Group (PSG) was set up. The group consisted of two service user representatives, two family representatives and a key worker representing frontline staff. The other members are representatives of CLP senior management and the partner organisations in this project, Flinders University and Kathleen Milne Consulting.

Flinders University was engaged to review of the family-led model. Kath Milne Consulting was engaged to review best practices in available person-centred workforce practices and innovative family-led approaches happening elsewhere in the sector.  

Lessons and Insights

  • This was CLP’s first experience with an ethics approval process needed to engage Flinders University. Working through it took longer than expected; CLP is now more aware of the time and resources such a process requires. Despite the delay against the original timeline, the deliverables were still completed by the end of the project.
  • CLP had made an assumption that people/families who self-manage feel well equipped to manage their workers. The review highlighted that this may not be the case and this realisation also informed the new Self-directed Support model. 
  • The initial concept focused largely on building the capacity of people and families to “self-manage” their group of workers. During the project it became evident that CLP needed to more consciously develop the capacity of the Support Workers to work in a family led model; develop autonomous teams, develop more responsive communication pathways, work in right relationship with the person and their family/friends, build resilience, recognise and respond to risks and solve problems quickly and locally.
  • The project highlighted the need of the “Inclusion Coach” role – this role has been a key deficit of the CLP model and is both a prerequisite to building capacity and also minimising risk – creating an opportunity to support and strengthen continuous learning. This role is pivotal in developing, building and maintaining: right relationships, critical communication pathways, and a constant focus on the person’s hopes and dreams.
  • The results of the review of best practices has confirmed that the family-led model in which workers are especially recruited to work solely with one service user and their family is very different from what most other services providers are doing. It has strengthened the idea that this is CLP’s point of difference. 

Roadblocks and Risks

CLP realised that while their original model was highly valued by people and families, discussions with workers revealed some potential risks:

  • support workers feeling unsupported if the person/family are not communicating well with the support workers with some workers expressing that they felt that CLP had not been interested in their needs in the past and that the focus had mostly been on the participant and the family, at their expense.
  • support workers and families risked stress and signs of burn-out if support plans did not have a strategy in place to cover unexpected support worker absences
  • not being able to sustain support workers if they don’t get the hours of employment they need by working with only one participant and their family

In their new model CLP has taken this feedback on board and the changes to the workforce model – through the split to an Inclusion Coach and a Support Manager - directly address these concerns.