Are Peer Workers qualified to be Support Coordinators?

We were confused and disappointed to learn that Peer Workers were recently removed from the list of professions able to deliver NDIS Support Coordination. As of November 2017, the Guide to Suitability was updated, removing Peer Workers from the list of professions for registration group  [Life Stage, Transition], along with Mental Health Support Workers and Community Mental Health Practitioners. The list of professions who can now deliver Support Coordination is limited to:

  • Disability Support Worker 
  • Developmental Educator
  • Social Worker
  • Welfare Worker
  • Aboriginal Health Worker

The discrete change in the Guide slipped our notice until now and to say we are disappointed is a huge understatement.

In the few years since Support Coordination funding has been available in Plans, the NDIA have committed hundreds of thousands of dollars to this support and yet have provided shockingly little in the way of training for Support Coordinators.

To now exclude peer workers from delivering this support is to exclude some of the most highly qualified workers from a market that desperately needs their expertise.

To add further confusion to this change, the minimum qualifications for Support Coordinators (previously Cert IV with work experience) have now been removed. This creates a loophole whereby just about anyone can be classified as a Disability Support Worker, allowing the Peer Workers employed as Support Coordinators around the country to continue their work. While this is a welcome loophole, the lack of acknowledgment of Peer Workers as a separate and valued profession is short sighted, to say the least.

Over the past two years of working with organisations to understand and develop best practice Support Coordination services, the best examples I have seen have always been those that were based on lived experience. In a market where so many organisations’ approach to Support Coordination can be described (kindly) as ad-hoc, the few organisations who have been actively designing services that make the most of their peer workers’ unique expertise are standout examples of best practice.

Support Coordination is arguably one of the most important supports in achieving the NDIS’ goals of choice and control. Their core functions include supporting participants to understand the NDIS and connect not just to service providers but to community, mainstream and informal supports. The experience that a peer worker brings to this role is invaluable.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone in the sector. The NDIS itself is all about ensuring services are designed around people’s lived experience, involving participants as active determinants. So why would the NDIA take a backwards step towards this goal?

This decision is a blow to Peer Workers, Participants and the sector at large. Whilst classifying Peer Workers as Disability Support Workers provides a workable solution in the interim, we would urge the NDIA to reconsider this decision and recognize the value of Peer Workers’ qualifications to perform the Support Coordinator role to the level they deserve and remove all barriers to providers looking to implement peer led models.