Did somebody say improvement to support coordination?– yes you heard correctly
During December 2021 NDIA released a document that details today's situation of support coordination under NDIS. The document also highlighted the possible improvements to come, that may enhance the quality of support coordination to NDIS participants.
The document placed a greater emphasis on making support coordination more consistent and increase quality of the service by building the capacity of Support Coordinators.
It was stated that much of the information within this document - improving support coordination, has resulted from extensive consultations held with stakeholders, recommendations from Tune review report 2019, and the feedback received from the NDIS discussion papers released in August 2020 and the Tune review report.
In line with this document release – a series of information sessions were held for service providers with the goal to explain the expectations from Support Coordinators in NDIS.
Statistics and figures on support coordination
I personally love numbers and statistics and I really enjoyed going over the statistical information that was provided in this document by NDIA and I will summarise it here. It was presented that until 31 September 2021, support coordination was funded in the approved plans of 208,634 active participants which makes up 43% of the total participants in the scheme.
It was further stated that a total of $667 million dollar payment was made under the support coordination category until the year ending 30 September 2021.
This total was further broken down in to the age group and type of disability, participants having an intellectual disability were funded the most support coordination - up to a value of $154 million and the least being $1 million dollars to those with sensory/speech disorders.
As per the age group - the most funding for support coordination was provided to participants aged between 55 to 64 equalling to $144 million where as the least funding being provided to the age bracket of 0 to 6.
Clarifying the role of support coordinator
The best thing within the entire document to me was that NDIA finally tried to shed much needed clarity on the role of support coordinators. I do believe that many coordinators struggle when it comes to understanding exactly where a support coordinator’s job starts and where does it end. Fortunately, the document specified the four key areas a coordinator should operate under. NDIS did acknowledge that the outcomes from the consultative process held, stressed on gaining consistency with support coordination practices across the country and there was broad agreement on coordinators following the below duties –
Help participants connect to NDIS and other supports
Build a participant’s capacity and capability to understand their plan, navigate the NDIS and make their own decisions
Broker supports and services in line with a participant’s wishes and their plan budget
Monitor plan budgets and support effectiveness.
NDIA also tried clarifying the roles of a support coordinator and an advocate and what is the boundary between the two, stating that support coordinators are not advocates and that Support coordinators need to be aware when their involvement moves beyond supported engagement into the role of a formal advocate.
While there is no hard and fast line between supported engagement and formal advocacy, this is an important consideration for support coordinators in determining the scope of their service.
The paper framed important questions that could help check the crossover between the roles thus helping coordinators determine if they have moved in to a formal advocates role.
What gaps were identified with Support Coordination during these consultations?
Within August 2020 discussion papers on support coordination, an attempt was made to better understand how the support coordination service model works in practice and how it can be improved to better support participant outcomes. The consultation sought feedback on five key areas:
Inclusion of support coordination
Understanding the role of a support coordinator
Quality of service and value for money
Capacity building for decision making
Conflict of interest that may arise for providers providing support coordination and other services.
One another gap that I noticed to be prevalent out there and was not mentioned above is that to educate participants that they can change support coordinators just like any other service even thou it is assigned by NDIA via request for service (RFS) route. Support coordinators linked by NDIA via this process called RFS is just a referral mechanism and a way NDIS would support participants who don’t know how or where to approach to look for a support coordinator in their area, and that it does not mean NDIA have assigned the coordinator permanently.
This along with further consultation led to the identification of below gaps that would need to be worked on, including -
Greater clarity is required around the role of a support coordinator
Support coordinator lacks the necessary skills or knowledge needed to help them to make informed decisions.
The quality of support coordination services is highly variable
Support coordinators should be up-skilled
Stronger measures should be introduced to promote independence
The three levels of support coordination should be simplified
Funding for support coordination is inconsistent
So what should be expected as a change in future for support coordination service?
NDIA quite confidently proposed that they will take a market stewardship approach to bring positive change with an aim to bringing improvements and stated that it would do it by –
Lifting quality by encouraging the sector for a better engagement with existing quality standards.
Encouraging all NDIS providers, whether they are registered or not, and NDIS workers that they have current obligations to comply with the NDIS Code of Conduct.
NDIA mentioned that range of initiatives to come from them, which were specified but it could mean steps towards building capability of the sector.
NDIA did highlight an already implemented capacity building initiative that started in late 2019 named as Exceptionally Complex Support Needs Program (ECSNP) which ran for two years and is a national program aimed at building capability of support coordinators working with participants with complex support needs.
Support coordination will be considered in the Annual Pricing Review (the Review).
Ways to Promoting and protecting the safety of participants – emphasising that all NDIS providers and workers have an obligation to promote the safety of participants under the NDIS Code of Conduct
How would NDIA help improve coordination and build capacity of coordinators
Some possible mechanisms listed for improving the capacity of the sector are as below -
Run information sessions for participants
Provide and promote information to help develop market capacity
Run information session on topics of interest for support coordinator
Many of the above steps are already undertaken by NDIA, however how exactly would NDIA further develop and streamline the tasks and role of coordinators across Australia remains to be explored.
This document - Participant Service Improvement Plan 2020-21; that I have explored and discussed above can be downloaded from the NDIS Website LINK HERE and the paper directly from the ELS LINK HERE. I am sure those who love to explore whats upcoming within NDIS, they would love reading every bit of this document.