Finding the right support worker for you
For many NDIS participants, having one or more support workers can be a necessity in helping with day-to-day life. But for those who are new to this kind of support, or those needing specific help, including personal care, choosing the right support worker can sometimes be daunting.
As anyone in the disability world knows, support workers have an important role, not only within the client’s life, but in the family’s life too. This is why it’s so important to choose a support worker who has both the skills and training to assist you, and who fits professionally within your family dynamic. In this article, we’ll cover what you need to know before hiring a support worker, questions to ask a potential support worker, how to interview them, and what to do if they’re not right for you.
What you need to know before hiring a support worker
If you’re new to needing assistance from a support worker, there are a few things you should know – or at least think about – before putting one to work.
When preparing for your NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) planning meeting, it can be a good idea to think about where you see yourself in the next 6-12 months. What are your goals? What kind of support will help you achieve them? Think about what assistance you might want and need from a support worker.
This could be things like:
Identifying the type of assistance you need from your support worker(s) is important, as is recognising how many hours you might need them to work. Thinking about details like this and being specific in your support requests can ultimately help with your NDIS support and funding request.
What questions should you ask a support worker?
Whether you’re going through an agency, or hiring privately, asking questions to find out more about the support worker is a must. The benefit of going through an agency is that they can recommend someone they think will be the right fit for you. However, qualifications alone shouldn’t be the deciding factor. The responses to your questions, the way they engage with you and the specialised support they can provide should all be considered in the hiring process.
Here are five questions to ask your support worker before you hire them:
Tell me about yourself?
What’s your experience in care work? Have you worked with someone similar to me before?
Can you work the hours I need? Could you adapt if I needed to adjust them at short notice?
How confident are you in doing the kind of support work I need?
What qualifications/certificates do you have?
Remember, asking questions is a good thing. You can never ask “too many” questions. This process can give you peace of mind, let your potential support worker know what you’re looking for and make sure both of you are on the same page. Given how involved support workers can be in both your life and your family’s, it’s crucial you find the right support. If they’re not at ease with you (or you with them), or there is some uncomfortability with certain family members, don’t be afraid to keep looking. Sometimes it can take time to find the right support worker, but the wait will be worth it.
How should you interview a support worker?
Interviewing your support worker face-to-face and having verbal and nonverbal feedback can determine whether or not you engage with each other on a personal and professional level. Meeting at your home or the location most of your support needs will take place, will allow the support worker to familiarise themselves with your routine, where they might be working and, have a more rounded understanding of what the job will look like.
It can be helpful to have your questions flow freely, in open conversation. This can expose a more honest version of the support worker – and probably of yourself, too – and will inform whether the relationship works for both of you. Inviting the support worker to ask questions of their own can be a good way to make sure no detail is missed, and is another a way of seeing how committed they are to understanding and assisting with your support needs.
If you’re not comfortable interviewing a support worker on your own, or simply want another person who can assist in asking questions, invite a family member or friend to help.
Some qualities you might want to look for when interviewing a support worker are:
Sense of humour
Their interest in you and the job
To use NDIS jargon, don’t forget that your support worker(s) can help you achieve your ‘short, medium and long term goals’. If you’re wanting to improve your swimming ability and know you’ll need assistance to do it, ask if the support worker has an athletic background or keen interest in swimming.
Even if the support worker presents well when interviewed, you may also like to contact their referees or previous employers to ensure you’re making the right decision for you.
What if the support worker isn’t right for you?
Let’s face it, at the end of the day, you and your support worker might not click – and that’s okay.
Unlike a lot of other jobs, support work can cross some personal boundaries. Although that might be a source of uncomfortability for some, if this is something that has been discussed between yourself and your support worker, and can provide a wanted or needed benefit to you, this can create a great working relationship. But it can also make it difficult to draw the line and say, “No, I no longer want to employ that person.”
Remember that you are hiring a professional to perform a service, just like any other job, and that it’s okay to say no and keep looking for the right support worker.
It might be a good idea to set some professional boundaries for the support worker, or perhaps identify some in your own mind so that it’s clear when you’re not getting what you want out of the service. Keeping an open dialogue with your support worker is important in creating a healthy and well-rounded relationship.
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