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

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Partnership Support: How to get better outcomes for participants and yourself

Partnering with participants to ensure your future success and theirs

Most service providers will tell you they have a great partnership relationship with their clients and their families. But these partnerships are built on one-to-many support programs that don’t facilitate real relationships with individuals. Yet, research says, the best outcomes come from personalised, partnership support programs where the client at the centre gets given choice and control over the support they receive.

Every person is different. Even if they have the same disability, syndrome, brain injury, or mental capacity – every person’s abilities and talents, their interests and their barriers and fears are all different. Which means the support they need is different too.

Partnership Support: What does it mean?

The NDIS recognises that people with disability have the same rights as everyone else. Which means they should get the opportunity to choose their supports and control how their delivered. This is what partnership support means. It is a way of delivering what the participant (or client) needs at an individual level.

The NDIS Act says:“People with disability have the same right as other members of Australian society to be able to determine their own best interests, including the right to exercise choice and control, and to engage as equal partners in decisions that will affect their lives, to the full extent of their capacity”. (NDIS Act 2013: Ch1, Part 2, Sect 4 (8) p6).

While their capacity to advocate and choose their supports might be limited in the beginning, NDIS assistive technology like First2Care is designed to support partnership relationships between participants and their care providers. And over time can help build capacity for self-management while getting as much, or as little support as is needed.

Partnership support has other benefits

Despite its issues, the NDIS has already made a difference in this country. I don’t just mean on an individual level (although this is the aim), I mean on a cultural level. The NDIS has already given people with disability a voice and so many people are now standing up for their right to receive adequate support.

Under the old funding model, it doesn’t make economic sense for a service provider to create individual programs for groups of people when you can save money by providing support that is generalised enough to appeal to many. And because you control the funds, you control the choices, so you opt for financially viable programs – to ensure your organisation is financially viable for years to come.

Not only does this breed a reliance on funding, but it also encourages people to view those with disabilities as a collective that you have the right to make decisions for. In this marketplace, the standard of outcomes for people with disabilities is what you decide for them and it fails to take into account the individual needs, goals and desires of each person.

The change in culture: supporting people’s right to choose

The NDIS is about fostering a true partnership between participants and support providers. It is about recognising that every participant has the right to make decisions about their life, or the support to do so if they find this challenging.

As Leighton Jay writes in his article, Service Providers, the NDIS and conflicts of interest; “There isn’t a sub-clause noting that this applies only when it fits with a service provider’s business model, budget or staffing requirements.”

The transition into true support partnerships doesn’t happen easily, or without consequences. Service providers need to adjust their business models to suit the change in support delivery and industry demands, and in many cases, the people with the disability need to learn how to search for and advocate for their right to choose the support that best suits them.

Dr Sally Robinson from the Centre for Children and Young People at Southern Cross University is leading an investigation into the relationship between young people with disability and their support workers. This project, which aims to better understand how support relationships work, runs until 2018.

Sally said, “Through talking with people and then seeing the photos they decided to take, we learned a lot about what matters to both young people and to workers…The importance of respect in relationships is clear, and the good humour and sense of companionship between many of the pairs comes through strongly in their photos.”

If you’d like to, you can see the photos they took collated into a book called Relationships and Recognition: Photos about working together.

Partnering with participants: What you need to know

As a family member of a (future) NDIS participant, I can tell you that the number one thing we’re looking for in a support partnership (with a support worker or a service provider) is genuine care and trust. So how do you build this relationship so that you can attract clients that want your support services?

Partnership support: Communication

Any support relationship relies on great communication. And with great communication you build trust. Your clients need to know that they are being heard, understood and accommodated – and that you are going to do everything in your power to make that happen.

While it’s important to maintain professionalism, it’s also important to understand that your client is in a vulnerable position by default – even if they don’t understand this completely themselves. This means that they need to feel 100% comfortable with you, as they might not be able to articulate when something doesn’t feel right. So, it’s clear that being open and honest with communication is key to having a great support partnership. But how can you demonstrate this to future clients and support collaborators?

Firstly, we need to understand how the language we use affects others. The written and spoken words we use reflect:

a) Our attitudes

b) Our beliefs and

c) Our assumptions As a support worker or provider, you need to consider the importance of language in everyday context – whether it’s one-on-one with your clients, but also within the way you communicate with peers and colleagues. This will form part of your support worker or provider’s brand.

Through positive language, you can promote and empower the people you work with, increase their self-esteem and ensure their success. When this is clear to others, it will help ensure your success.

Partnership support: Respect

When you are delivering support to your clients it’s important to remember that your aim is to integrate with your client’s life as respectfully, and seamlessly as possible. They will already have their own coping systems in place, which may or may not need improvement.

Show your clients you respect them by:

a) Showing understanding of their current systems

b) Using clear communication about any changes required

c) Showing a genuine interest in improving their outcomes

d) Listening and taking action (or inaction) when required

e) Advocating for their support when confronted with barriers

f) Working with them to achieve goals, not doing things for them

g) Respect for different needs, values, beliefs and culture

Previous experience has taught my family that healthy curiosity in things like cultural differences can cause tension in client-supporter relationships. But there may be times when your deeply held beliefs clash with the client’s or their family’s. If this is likely to cause issues, it can be a good idea to respectfully decline your support services. To avoid getting in situations like this, clients using the NDIS management app, First2Care, can use the ‘Participant Match Profile’ to find like-minded support workers. While support workers can create profiles that will share their own values, skills and qualifications.

Partnership support: Good Humour

Positive behaviour support is an evidence-based approach to providing support. Its aim is to increase the quality of life while decreasing the possibility of challenging behaviours. Being the recipient of support in any capacity can feel dehumanising and challenging behaviours can often be a way of coping with a stressful situation.If respectful humour becomes part of the way we communicate with clients, it can build trust, allay fears and increase positive outcomes. Making light of stressful situations, and sharing a joke or a laugh can help build positive relationships.After all, we all make mistakes and we’re all self-critical. Good humour can demonstrate there is no imbalance of power within the support relationship. Instead, it shows clients that you want to be supporting them and that you’re having fun – even if things don’t happen as planned.

Partnership support: Professional companionship and empathy

It doesn’t matter how old or how abled we are, as humans, two of our most fundamental psychological needs are to feel love and belonging. When you understand this, you understand that part of being a supportive partner is knowing how to help the client foster their existing friendships, or seek out other social opportunities.

It is important to communicate your professional boundaries from the outset. Some clients aren’t able to distinguish between who is a friend, and who is a support worker. Being able to stick to your boundaries, and say no with empathy is a skill many support workers need to learn.

Likewise, providing home care can also be confronting for many people, and you might be privy to confidential information. It is important to show empathy, as well as professionalism so that your client benefits from a positive, support partnership without the boundaries being blurred.

When you are a supportive companion you will:

a) Help your client assess each situation and choose a course of action, rather than telling them what to do

b) Affirming their ability to make decisions, and act on them

c) Helping them build their skills so they can achieve more over time

d) Understand where the professional boundaries lie, so your equipped for every situation

e) Help them foster their existing friendships so they can feel connected to the community

As the NDIS rolls out, the disability sector is estimated to need approx. 70,000 new support workers to meet with demand over the next 2-3 years. And this will continue to grow. There has never been a better time to explore these rewarding career opportunities.

Get ahead of the pack and connect with participants and providers, set up your professional network and your support profile within First2Care today.

Read more about the benefits of working with a Plan Manager. Alternatively, register with our FREE NDIS Plan Management platform, so we can start helping you best manage your plan today.

Read more about First2Care’s plan management features.

Over to you

What goals and big dreams are you going to tick off in the new year with the NDIS? Let us know in the comments.