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2019 Support Management Solutions Pty Ltd T/AS First2Care. Provider Registration No. 4050003364 First2Care.

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A road map to engaging the right support worker

Avoid making these mistakes and hire the support you need to reach your goals

Choice and control are no doubt the rock star qualities of the NDIS. Combined with a recognition that everyone needs individualised support, these are the core elements that drive this new client-centred funding model.

For the first time, you get to choose who, how, when, and where you get support. You can meet your goals, and live the life you’ve always wanted – on your terms. But a crucial part of this, is understanding your support preferences, and how your abilities, your interests and your goals should influence who you engage to support you.

My family and I have hired a few support workers now for my brother, and we’ve interviewed many more. My hope is that our experiences and these tips will help by giving you a roadmap to give you some insight into how to engage the right support worker for you or your loved one. This is a bit of a long post, but there is a lot to know, so I hope you’ll stick with us.

1. Understanding what the NDIS will pay for

Before you start searching for the right support worker to assist you, the first thing you need to understand is how the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will fund your supports, how the prices are set, and what benchmarks and fees can apply to your circumstances. If you haven’t already, it’s time to get cosy with the National Disability Insurance Agency’s Price Guide.

This Price Guide is your support bible. It gives an overview of the ‘Core’ or ‘Capacity Building’ support categories under which your workers can be funded to assist you. But importantly, it also outlines the way fees can be charged in different situations – from complex behavioural support to overnight stays, travel charges and cancellation fees. Download, print and keep this booklet handy.

Core activities your Support Worker can help with:

Assistance to complete daily living activities that enable you to work towards your goals and meet your objectives, such as personal care, cleaning and assistance with social and community participation.

Capacity Building activities your Support Worker can help with:

Support that assists you to build your independence and skills across different areas of your life. This might be as part of your daily routine at home, to assist with social and community participation, to find and maintain work, improve relationships, health and well-being, improve your education or Support Coordination (building your skills to connect with supports as you need them).

2. Engaging the right support worker: are they compatible with you?

Everyone’s needs are different, but hiring an NDIS support worker is not just about your support needs – it’s also about finding someone who shares common interests, hobbies and approaches to solving problems.

Chances are that when you hire someone, you’ll be spending quite a lot of time with them, and if your personalities or beliefs clash, you won’t feel 100% comfortable with the support you or your child is receiving.

When my autistic brother moved out for the first time in early 2016, we engaged two primary support workers to help him: One for in home, daily living support and the other for support with social and community participation. We chose these workers based on their experience and their locality, but over time we found that the approach of the younger support worker clashed with my brother. A few months down the track and my brother was becoming increasingly anxious and defiant in this worker’s company – a sign that he wasn’t completely comfortable.

We’ve learned that there’s a need to ask some tough questions from the beginning. These questions might feel awkward, but can save you time, money, and you can avoid problems in the long run. The great thing is, First2Care makes this easy with their ‘Personal Match Profile’.

Not only does this save you some awkwardness during the recruitment process, it makes finding the right person so much easier. You can set your preferences for:

a) Activities and interests

b) Preferred gender

c) Preferred age

d) Preferred sexual orientation

e) The smoking status of the worker

f) Transport requirements

g) Preferred religious or spiritual beliefs

h) Preferred ethnicity

In a similar way, support workers who have registered with the First 2 Care app to connect with clients are encouraged to include this information in their bio so they can easily connect with people they are compatible with.

3. Where can you find the right support worker?

There are three main options for hiring NDIS supports. You can self-manage and engage them directly, you can opt for a shared management agreement with a service provider or you can use a financial intermediary or plan manager to help you with payments and rostering of your supports. Knowing how you plan to manage your supports and who will help you do this, will help determine where you find the right workers.


This involves creating your initial agreement, managing rosters and paying invoices yourself. You’ll also be responsible for checking references and qualifications and communicating any potential risks or challenges that may arise during their work with you or your child.

TIP: We recommend opening a separate bank account just for disability support payments to assist with maintaining a concise record of expenses.

Shared Management Agreement:

This agreement should clearly define the roles and responsibilities that you and your service provider hold in relation to the support while working towards your goals and aspirations. This agreement might also be known as a hosting arrangement, consumer/family governed agreement or ethical/ genuine partnership.

Financial intermediary/Plan Management:

This involves the financial management of your disability support funding by a third party. The third party (usually a provider) assist by paying support workers on your behalf and providing you with regular information about your expenditure and funding balance. Your Plan Manager would maintain the legal obligations of a normal employer, while you benefit from the support the worker provides.

My family has chosen to Self-Manage my brother’s support worker. We’ve searched, interviewed, hired and paid for everything privately and will be moving to the NDIS soon. We advertised the positions on Gumtree and chose people based on previous experience, references and locality. But, we’ve had the benefit of professional experience from my sister and brother in law – both Drs of Psychology in Autism Research. They’ve guided us through the recruitment process and the program development for my brother. Without this, I doubt we would have been so successful.

The First2Care marketplace is built to assist participants and families who would like to have more control over their support workers and be more involved in shortlisting, interviewing, recruiting and rostering of these workers. It is built to support self-managing participants who wish to do everything themselves, but you can also invite your service providers or plan managers to connect with you inside the app.

They can then assist you if you decide to opt for a shared agreement or have someone help with plan management. 

First2Care can also be used to assist with managing support workers from service providers and staffing agencies. You can build a team of supports, with preferred primary and emergency carers and publish rosters straight to their mobile phones.

TIP: Being successful and engaging the right support worker can come down to attributes. Make a list of the attributes your support worker must have – from most important to least important. Such as, qualifications, interests, empathy etc and use this to evaluate how you will feel when receiving support from them. Take your time and don’t feel pressured into accepting someone who doesn’t meet your expectations

4. Engaging the right support worker: set the terms from the beginningWhether you’ve decided to engage your support directly, draw up a shared agreement or get assistance with plan management, you need to be clear on what your support workers will be engaged to do by drawing up a clear job description and agreement. This will be particularly important for people with complex needs, but even for people who are less dependent, there will be times when things don’t go according to plan.

When we employed the support workers from my brother, we developed a plan that centred on his goals, (just like your NDIS plan). From this, his support workers knew how to:

1. Work with my brother to improve his speech so he would be better understood

2. Help him stick to a budget, plan meals and help him develop cooking and cleaning skills

3. How to help him navigate tricky social situations, and support him to gain confidence in the workplace, and

4. Assist him with reaching his goals (i.e. obtaining his learner’s permit)

But there were a few instances where my brother needed extra emotional support (due to things that were causing him stress) and we quickly found out that we needed to cover these areas in our initial plan as well.

When you draw up an agreement that sets clear boundaries on what will be required, you give prospective workers a deeper understanding of who it is they are supporting. This can facilitate a deeper relationship between you and the supporter. There will be times when things don’t go to plan, so being equipped to cope with these times from the beginning helps everyone stay calm and in control. It doesn’t matter how experienced your support worker is, everyone reacts differently to different situations and the more information, the better.

Plus, having an agreement and job description in place (remember to create it with your goals in mind!) means you’ll be able to establish which skills and qualifications you seek in a support worker. You can prioritise certain attributes during the recruitment process and you’ll be clearer on which award or classification you’ll be hiring them under.

TIP: Peer Connect have a great resource called Briefing and Hiring Support Workers with a detailed list of the information you might include in your written agreement with a support worker.
Resourcing Inclusive Communities also have a very detailed booklet on engaging support staff with detailed checklists and examples.
Disability Matters has also put together an informative pack to assist with engaging the right supports.

5. Engage a team of core and emergency supports

There are many different types of support roles that may be required to assist you reach your goals. It’s vital to keep these different areas in mind when you’re designing your NDIS plan, because it’s likely you’ll need the funds to recruit multiple workers, each assisting with a different part of your life.

You might need to engage:

a) Allied Health professionals such as Occupational or Speech Therapists

b) Community and social support as part of a team activity, which may or may not be provided by the program facilitator

c) Employment support, provided by a disability employment provider

d) Self-employed, in-home support workers for home maintenance

e) Self-employed, in-home support workers for personal care and daily living

f) Community connector/support coordinator to help connect you with community groups and further supports

g) Plan managers, financial intermediaries or accountants to help you build your skills to take care of the funding, track expenses or pay invoices

h) Tutors or educational facilitators to help improve skills – such as computer skills or assist with flexible learning arrangements

i) Personal Trainers to help you reach your health and fitness goals If you are self-managing your NDIS plan, you won’t be restricted to Registered NDIS providers, so it’s important you know what you’re looking for when engaging someone. If your goals hinge on the support you get to help with daily living, and this is crucial to your ability to live independently, you want someone reliable and punctual. Or in the reverse, you need someone who is flexible.

From personal experience, we have found that when my brother is anxious about meeting a new support worker, he can drag his feet, stay in bed or shut himself in the bathroom, meaning he isn’t ready on time to start the shift when his support worker shows. We’ve been fortunate enough to have understanding workers, and they’ve allowed some flexibility in late shift start times for when these instances occur.

Emergencies happen though, and even when things are running smoothly, there are times when support workers can’t make it, and you want to be sure that you’re not left in the lurch. Hiring a core support team and having an emergency on-call team of people you trust, can bring you peace of mind.

The rostering function coming soon within First2Care, enables you to advertise an emergency support shift to a pre-selected team of other support workers. Anyone from this group who is available can pick up the shift. This means you avoid the stress of being left in the lurch, and you get assistance from someone who’s familiar with you and your needs.

Haven't signed up yet? Register now.

6. Check credentials and stay safe

When you’re advertising for new support workers, it’s good to be careful about the amount of personally identifiable information you include in the advertising. Make sure you don’t publicly share anything that leaves you or your family vulnerable, such as your home address or your full name.

You may wish to meet in a public space, where you or your child feel safe. Unfortunately, we live in a world where people like to prey on the disadvantaged.

Advise your prospective support workers that you will be checking their credentials, their references and their criminal history. Check that they have:

1. Current State or National Police Clearances (info here on criminal history too)

2. Current First Aid Certificate

Note that each state manages their checks independently and they are only valid in the state they are issued.

TIP: These relevant links might help: Police checks relevant for aged care workers Information for interstate visitors Checks Information of Criminal History Screening from the Dept of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services

7. Get professional advice before you start

Employing someone to work for you directly can come with additional responsibilities and risks. As each situation differs, it’s important you seek out the advice from a range of professionals.

We recommend you speak to:

The Australian Tax Office – to find out if you are classed as an employee or a contractor and what that means for your tax or super obligations

The Fair Work Ombudsman – to check your responsibilities towards your worker

WorkCover Queensland – to speak to someone about possible insurance you might require

The NDIS will have further specific information on finding and engaging the right support workers and providers and it’s a good idea to speak to multiple service providers in your area.

Remember, you’re in control now. A good service provider will be able to assist with planning, advocacy, coordination of your NDIS Plan, but also offer a range of flexible support options. It may seem daunting, but hiring your supports directly can save you time, money and give you the best chance of reaching your goals on your terms.

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Over to you

What has been your biggest challenge or fear when engaging support workers to help you? We’d love to hear about it.