This project documented the experiences of self-managed participants who managed the employment relationships with workers themselves. It was an Australia-wide project, and documented the perspectives of the person living with disability (and/or their family) and their support workers. It created online resources to assist others considering this arrangement as an option.
Although most people living with disability who receive individualised support do so from workers employed by a service provider agency, a small percentage have chosen to manage their support workers directly themselves. This project draws on the experiences of 25 people living with disability and their families who have been self-managing their support for some time and 15 of their support workers. The goal is to identify and share the key factors for success (or difficulty) in these arrangements. Six organisations across Australia collaborated on the project with JFA Purple Orange providing the lead role.
To date, people living with disability who self-manage the employment relationships with their support workers have largely learnt the process by trial-and-error. The practical logistics of recruiting, training, remunerating and retaining workers is complex, with both social and legal requirements. It would be very useful for others considering this approach to ‘fast track’ their understanding of the process by having ready access to practical information from those who have already undertaken it.
People considering direct employment as a support worker by a person living with disability or their family (particularly those new to the disability sector) would also benefit from access to resources that would help them to understand whether this type of arrangement would suit them.
Each partner organisation in the project has conducted 6 or more interviews of people living with disability who self-manage their support and, where possible, with their support worker(s) (total of 40 interviews covering at least 25 employment relationships).
The project reported an analysis of the aggregated interview data, identifying key themes and characteristics of these employment relationships.
To make the findings very accessible, the project has developed a short series of ‘Quick Guides – Tips and Traps’, each tackling a practical aspect of self-managed supports. Twelve of the interviews have been videotaped and the project has also produced fifteen video clips to focus on a particular aspects of the findings. The report, the Quick Guides, and the video clips have been uploaded to a dedicated website. Users of the website are also asked to further contribute by entering their ‘tips and traps’ via a data collection link.
In the 9-month timeframe of the project a set of resources has been created and made available online for people living with disability and support workers. An online satisfaction survey of users has been implemented to assess their responses.
Because the project spans a wide range of jurisdictions, interviewees have had different types of experience of self-managed support over a period of time (as participants in the NDIS and prior to the start of the NDIS). The innovation in the project is to articulate these experiences (some positive and some negative) for others to learn.
In the longer-term it is hoped that more NDIS participants will use this information to consider self-management options, and that direct employment arrangements that do occur will be successful. This will mean that more workers enter and remain in the disability support role.
This project draws on the experiences of 25 people living with disability and their families who have been self-managing their supports for some time, and their support workers. All the resources are now available online on a separate project website.
Themes emerging from the interviews include: (i) the main drivers to undertake self-managed arrangements are the desire to increase choice, control and flexibility in provision of support and the ability to achieve ‘better value for money’; (ii) the challenges include where to access advice; how to choose the person to employ; how to set pay and conditions; the type or level of training to provide; and the need for effective communication and feedback. Transitioning from service provider to host agency (providing some employment support services) to self-managing is a successful approach to building skills and confidence. Various types and levels of on-going external support are also used to assist in self-managing employment relationships.
Running the project with six partners was logistically challenging. Although the Co-design/Steering Group operated over four different time-zones, they managed to successfully coordinate remote co-design meetings. Work on the video clips in the post-production phase (to ensure, for example, accessible and consistent formats) required extra coordination between the partners (which in retrospect would have been more efficient if planned before filming started).
To ensure the videos are fully accessible for the disability community, there has been some thought about how to present for those with community languages other than English (which is not an aspect covered by the current project resources).