Support Coordinators play a unique and powerful role in a person’s NDIS journey. A great many providers will only get a glimpse into a fraction of a Participant’s life, but for Support Coordinators to do their jobs effectively, they need to be looking at the whole picture. They must consider the person’s goals, interests and vision of their future, as well as their family, friends, community and mainstream supports. Support Coordinators invest in the people they work for. It is a job that requires heart, soul, sweat and tears (hopefully of joy). And for this reason, Support Coordinators deserve to be celebrated.
There are a lot of technical skills behind being a great Support Coordinator. But at the heart of it, the difference between the good and great is often a matter of personal and organisational philosophy. The Support Coordinator’s philosophy informs their vision of their role. It dictates how they approach collaborating with Participants and every single task that comes their way.
In that spirit, we are pleased to announce that the winner of the 2018 DSC Provider Award for Support Coordination is Mind the Gap.
Like so many great things, Mind the Gap was the product of good friends with lived experience of disability coming together over a bottle of wine. That evening in pre-NDIS Newcastle, Linda Hughes and two good friends began discussing the dominant role service providers play in the lives of people with disability. They were particularly concerned about the lack of choice and control people exercised over the services they used and how these were delivered. Mind the Gap’s initial mission was to shift the conversation. They worked with providers and spoke at conferences, hoping to put person-centred service delivery in the forefront of everyone’s mind. With the arrival of the NDIS came new opportunities. Mind the Gap is now a thriving Support Coordination, Plan Management and Self Management Support business. In 2019 they will be rebranding, an announcement that is coming shortly.
The Mind the Gap team skillfully puts into action the ideas and values that underpin Support Coordination. They are an independent organisation with practical approaches to the challenges that all Support Coordinators face. They focus on building people’s skills, knowledge and confidence to self direct their support as well as facilitating meaningful community involvement to pave the path to an ordinary life.
The Community Navigator
One of Mind the Gap’s Director Linda Hughes told me her team is motivated to lead the shift from segregation towards true inclusion of people with disability in the community. It is this kind of community access that allows NDIS Participants to build social capital- one of the most important safeguards available.
For The Mind the Gap team, a Support Coordinator is both an NDIS and community navigator. The team prides themselves on knowing the NDIS inside and out. Most members of the Mind the Gap team have lived experience of disability and personal experience with the NDIS. They keep themselves well informed and up to date with all the latest developments in the sector.
The combination of their NDIS knowledge with innovative approaches has allowed many people they work with to find opportunities to participate in the mainstream community. Mind the Gap team members have been integral in helping people find work in open employment, establish a micro enterprise, join in with regular community groups and activities, gain further skills and qualifications, and move towards independent living.
Self Directed Supports
At Mind the Gap, they are also big believers in self-direction. That is why they have dedicated part of their business to training people to Self Manage their NDIS Plan. They see self-direction as being about encouraging providers to say ‘yes’ rather than ‘no.’ Or ‘let’s find away’ as opposed to ‘why?’ This approach involves acknowledging risk, but figuring out a way to work through it in order to meet the needs of an individual.
One of the most important forms of self-direction is allowing people to select their own support workers. Not only does each Participant have their own unique needs, but they will probably be looking for different people for different tasks. The support worker who helps them cook mind-blowing meals might not be the support worker they want around when their mates come over. Linda describes creating incredibly specific advertisements for support workers that match exactly with what the Participant is searching for. The Mind the Gap team are also interested in how the right support worker can allow Participants to explore microbusiness ideas. For example, if a person is interested in learning how to sew they might look for a fashion design student keen to earn some money through part time support work. The specific skills the Participant learns from this support worker could then allow them to set up a thriving cushion-cover business. Or they might decide sewing is boring and move on to something else. Either way, by allowing the Participant to self-direct their supports based on their interests, you are helping to open doors that should never have been closed.
Making Room For Uniqueness and Individuality
For the Mind the Gap Team, the most important step in the Support Coordination journey is getting to know the Participant and their interests. For a long time, the block funding model did not allow for uniqueness or individuality in people with significant disability. Many people might not even be aware of their own interests, because they have never been given the opportunity to experiment and try things out. With the principle of ‘choice and control,’ the NDIS was designed to address this issue. But change does not happen over night. Other than the Participant themselves, nobody is better placed than Support Coordinators to ensure that people with disability are put front and centre in their own supports. Because the stakes could not be higher, nor the opportunities greater, to change what a life with disability looks like in this country.