Support Coordination is so important – let’s get it right!

What could the transfer of Support Coordination to LAC/ECEI partners mean for Participants and the Scheme?

The NDIA has long flagged its intention to have Local Area Coordinators (LAC) and ECEI Access Partners take on an increasing share of Support Coordination functions, supporting participants to understand the NDIS and activate their plans. We are now starting to see this policy be put in action around the country, as Evie outlined in a previous article.

While we’ve known all along the role of the LAC/ECEI Access Partners was designed to include these functions, given the role LAC/ECEI partners play in plan development, is this aspect of the scheme well designed? I don’t believe it is.

My specific concerns around the appropriateness for LAC/ECEI Access Partners to take on Support Coordination include:

Little incentive to “get it right” for the Participant: In my experience the very best Support Coordinators are those who understand their reputation in doing a great job is key in building their business. They do a great job for Participants not only because it’s the right thing to do but because they rely on word of mouth referrals from happy customers. They are accountable to the Participant and their family first a foremost, while the KPIs for LAC/ECEI Access Partners appear to prioritise quantity, not quality of output.

Insufficient skill set: The people who make the best Support Coordinators are those with an intimate understanding of disability and the challenges participants face in living an ‘ordinary’ life. These people have the experience, maturity, empathy, nous and stamina to troubleshoot the specific physical, communication and attitudinal barriers individual participants face - transposing solutions into tactics the participant and their informal support network can use when Support Coordination is no longer available. There’s no doubt LAC/ECEI Access Partners are bright and capable people but the remit under which they were recruited, first plan development and review, is a completely different task with far less ambiguity than plan implementation.

No time for thorough Support Coordination: With LAC/ECEI Access Partners currently creating and reviewing plans for 70%+ of Participants they simply don’t have time to offer quality Support Coordination. We are hearing from a number of regions this lack of capacity is leading to a breakdown between plan approval and implementation. One of the key roles of a Support Coordinator at the start of a new plan is supporting the Participant and their family to initiate the plan by accessing The Portal. Without this assistance Participants are floundering between their previous state based funding and NDIS.

Possible conflict of interest: As planners, LACs make recommendations for the level of Support Coordination required in a plan. They also deliver most Support Connection and increasingly Support Coordination, which means they are set to gain from these recommendations and are less motivated to recommend Specialist Support Coordination and complex Support Coordination which goes to a third party provider. To avoid conflict of interest Planning and Review should be conducted by independent parties.

Best practice Support Coordination is a complex gig requiring the following, at a minimum:

  • Active design of Support Coordination practice in partnership with Participants
  • Development of capacity building with tools and resources that participants can keep and use on an ongoing basis
  • Intimate knowledge of mainstream, community and informal supports in order to link Participants with those that apply to them specifically
  • Understanding of the NDIS inside and out including the price guide and its flexibility and the capacity to support participants to do the same
  • Ability to build confidence in the participant and their support network
  • A relationship built on trust and mutual respect

I really do believe best practice Support Coordination is the most important function in implementing the NDIS. In supporting Participants to enjoy lives filled with mainstream, community and informal connections, with paid supports only where needed, it is the cornerstone of the scheme’s sustainability and ‘ordinary’ lives for Participants and their families. And I just want to see it done right.