Avoiding Support Coordinator Burnout

At DSC, we’ve been lucky enough to train over 1,000 Support Coordinators and Support Coordinators to be over the last few years. This experience has given us a really interesting look into the experience of organisations around the country and the chance to watch as similar challenges arise for providers at different stages of the NDIS rollout.

We are now two and a half years into rollout and that’s been two and a half years of unrelenting change at all levels, with the policy constantly evolving and organisations being forced to adapt at a speed that many are unaccustomed to and nobody signed up for. It’s probably fair to say we’re all becoming a bit fatigued and weary.

This NDIS change fatigue impacts us all – providers, Participants, families, LACs and the NDIA. In this article, however, I want to focus on what this looks like for Support Coordinators and explore the ways this context impacts on their role and their sustainability in that role.

The heart of the Support Coordinator role is supporting Participants to design and find the supports they need to reach their goals. Support Coordinators should be the “Yes” Person in the room. A big part of their role is overcoming road blocks that stand in the way of getting to those goals. Where others think something is too difficult, too complicated or too ambitious, they should be the person who says, “Let’s find a way to make this work”.

In the current climate, Support Coordinators find themselves constantly going the extra mile for people and frequently coming up against resistance and systemic barriers. Add to this the frequent crisis management and the consistent underfunding of this support and it’s little wonder that some Support Coordinators burn out, and many struggle to stay in the expansive, optimistic and collaborative mindset required for best practice support.

It’s clear that Support Coordination is a role that is difficult to sustain, especially when it’s being done really well. So what can be done to support our Support Coordinators to remain in their really important role - and doing it well?

Below are some of our suggestions -

  • Provide support to plan and practice difficult conversations, like tricky planning meetings or conflict with stakeholders.

  • Encourage Support Coordinators to set clear boundaries around things like the scope of their role and how they are to be contacted.

  • Celebrate the wins, big and small.

  • Support Coordination can be an isolating role – try to provide opportunities for peer support - to debrief, share challenges, and tackle systemic barriers together rather than alone. If appropriate, this might be online in some of the fantastic private Facebook groups that have popped up in the rollout. You can find them by searching for terms like “NDIS Support Coordination”. 

Ultimately, the central risk we’re trying to mitigate here is ensuring our Support Coordinators continue to have the energy and time they need to really show up in their roles day after day. Learning to set and hold boundaries is one of the best ways to do this, particularly when it comes to the pervasive challenge around the type and quantity of support they should be providing to someone with few or no hours left.

We will be tackling the question of how to set and hold boundaries and the alternative types of support you may provide when someone’s Support Coordination funding is inadequate in a future article. If you have insight into this challenge, we’d love to hear from you! Email your comments, thoughts or experience to evie@disabilityservicesconsulting.com.au

Image: ‘Bowie’ by Fiona Taylor, 2017, print on paper, 30.5 x 20 cm, image courtesy of Arts Project Australia.