Today we had Nicky’s first NDIS plan review meeting. We’ve come a long way since our very first planning meeting two years ago. We’ve changed providers, several times, looking for the kind of support we need; we’ve worked out how to play with our flexible supports to get more of what we need and even some of what we like (such as a night away every now and again for just Mike and me); and we’ve also learned that Nicky’s potential to communicate and enjoy the things she loves (like hydrotherapy and massage) could never be reached with her current plan’s meagre allocation of therapy support hours.
So going into today’s meeting I was anxious. Ridiculous really considering that the NDIS is my bread and butter. I work with parents almost on a daily basis to alleviate their fears about moving into NDIS but I was truly anxious. A lot rides on getting a good outcome from a single meeting: I wanted to maintain Nicky’s current supports and increase her allocation of therapy supports to 50 hours. On the back of horror stories coming out of the ACT about NDIS eligible people being turned away, I was anxious (have I mentioned that I was anxious?!).
To make sure we had the best chance at stating our case, I chose a face-to-face meeting over a phone meeting. We always take Nicky with us to our meetings – no one does a better job of advocating for her needs, despite being non-verbal, than Nicky. And I wanted to be prepared, unlike our initial meeting when we pretty much just turned up. The stakes are too high this time to not be prepared.
So I reached out to Nicky’s therapists (Speech Pathologist, Occupational Therapist and Physiotherapist), who happen to all work with the same provider, for help in making a case for increasing Nicky’s therapy support hours. Unfortunately the call from NDIA with the date of our review came late last week so I could only give Nicky’s therapists a couple of days warning. At this point, I want to clarify that not so long ago I was thinking of taking our therapy business elsewhere. I was concerned with the high turnover amongst the therapy staff allocated to Nicky, which had meant time wasted in getting to know each other, over and over again. I was unsure of what, if any, value they were bringing to Nicky in exploring her potential.
But they nailed it! The three therapists rallied together to write a single combined, powerfully succinct, outcomes-focused review report written entirely in NDIS-speak. They responded with a report the next day that clearly indicated they knew Nicky, had registered my goals for her development and was short; clearly not a lot of therapy hours were wasted in bringing it all together. It was not until I read the report that I realized I actually do speak another language, NDIS, and fortunately so do Nicky’s therapists. It was art in a report, but on reflection it revealed 5 secrets to getting it right for participants.
1. Create support teams for customers for continuity of care and a better support experience. Receiving a single report from all of Nicky’s therapists felt so much more reassuring than it would have to have received 3 separate reports. It gave me confidence that Nicky has a team of professionals truly collaborating to support her and that any future staffing changes would be facilitated by this connection.
2. Empower your front line staff to work without management intervention. The report from Nicky’s therapists came through within a day of my asking. Rather than stuffing around talking to their supervisors, they just got on the task. Not only is this more efficient for their organisation, it is wonderful for participants and their families who don’t really want to unnecessarily engage with members of staff who they’ve never spoken to before and probably won’t again.
3. Engage the key stakeholders in decision making: show parents and carers that you’ve listened to them. A huge proportion of NDIS clients have their NDIS decisions made by their families so make sure you include their input in the pre-planning documents you create.
4. Speak ‘NDIS’ like a pro to get the best outcomes for customers and your businesses too. The moment our NDIS planner saw the therapy report I could see her shoulders drop and her breathing deepen. She was in NDIS Planner Nirvana. NDIS Planners need to make the case for every support they include in a plan, and they’ve got a ton of plans piling up for completion. So the easier you make it for them to justify the supports you need, including using the right terminology and focusing on outcomes, the better for the NDIS Planner, the participant and ultimately you – the support provider. The NDIS Price Guide is the best tool for learning the lingo: read it, use it and save it to your desktop for constant use.
5. Money talks. Give evidence of value for money in everything you do. Don’t waste time on lengthy reports – get straight to the point in delivering value. It was clear from the report that we received from Nicky’s therapists that a template had been created which made it easy for them to include all the information needed by the NDIS Planner and nothing more. I appreciate that minimum time was spent on preparing the report so that maximum time could be spent where Nicky needs it most.
We’ve come a long way since our very first planning meeting two years ago. We’ve changed providers, several times, looking for the kind of support we need and today I decided that I won’t be taking our therapy business elsewhere after all.