What Do Support Coordinators Actually Do?

“That’s the Support Coordinator’s job.”

It’s a line that providers, Planners, Plan Managers, Participants and families say and hear all the time. But how often are they actually correct?

After three years of running training for Support Coordinators and their managers, we are still consistently asked in every workshop what the Support Coordinator role actually entails.

If many Support Coordinators do have a firm grasp on the scope of their role, it’s little wonder that so many have trouble setting appropriate boundaries in their work. This is leading to a growing problem of Support Coordinator burnout and concerns over the quality of services provided to Participants.

In this article, we want to answer some of the most common questions we get asked about the roles of Support Coordinators. This will help Coordinators and their managers better understand the role, and clarify for Participants and families what they should expect for their Support Coordination dollars.

 

What roles can a Support Coordinator fulfil?

The most recent version of the NDIS Price Guide includes a pretty good definition of the Support Coordinator’s roles:

  • Connection: assist the Participant to develop knowledge, experience and connections with the community and broader systems of support.

  • Support Design: works together with participant to understand Plan funding and its purpose. Support Coordinator will understand the Participant’s confidence and skills, and helps participant identify what they want from services. Will develop and design support solutions to meet Participant outcomes.

  • Establish Supports: assist the Participant to identify and consider support options, and link the Participant to the broader systems of supports. Where practical creates a supports and action plan to facilitate the participant to implement their plan.

  • Crisis: Assistance to resolve points of crisis and developing capacity and resilience in the Participant's network.

  • Coach, Refine, Reflect: Coach the Participant through challenges that come up. Helps Participant prepare for review and report on achieved Participant outcomes.

     

Does a Support Coordination have to do everything on that list?

Support Coordinators are paid by the hour, just like most other NDIS supports. So once the Participant’s funding has run out, Support Coordinators are under no obligation to continue providing support (provided that discontinuing support would not breach a duty of care). But it’s no secret that many Participants do not receive enough funding for a Support Coordinator to do everything on the list above.

The best Support Coordinators will take some time at the beginning of a Plan to discuss how much they can realistically achieve given the person’s funding. From there, they can explore with the person which of the roles outlined above are most important to them. This allows them to work together to set clear expectations about which roles the Support Coordinator will fulfil and which they may provide limited or no support in.

Tip: Wherever possible, try to ensure you save some hours to support the Participant to prepare for their Plan Review! This can be really high impact work, enabling the person to have a great year to come. Moreover, many people will have their Support Coordination funding significantly reduced or removed at Plan Review time. So this may also be the last opportunity you have to support the person. If invited, Support Coordinators can attend planning meetings, so long as they are not acting as an advocate.

 

How much crisis management are Support Coordinators expected to provide?

While it does fall within the scope of Support Coordination to provide support during periods of crisis, people often have inadequate funding for their Support Coordinator to both provide crisis support and fulfil their core role. But nobody wants to say ‘no’ to a person in crisis.

DSC would suggest that a best practice approach for Support Coordinators working with people likely to experience crises is to take a proactive rather than reactive role. This would involve investing in building the person an informal or paid  support network that can respond to a crisis. This is also a more prudent long-term strategy for people who may not have Support Coordination funding renewed in future Plans.

 

What is clearly outside of the Support Coordination role?

While the Support Coordinator’s role is a pretty diverse one, there are some things that we see Support Coordinators charging for that are clearly not intended to be a part of their role:

  • Rosters, administration or intake processes: When organisations provide both Support Coordination and direct supports to the same person, the person should never be charged for the time spent administering the direct supports. It is not appropriate for a Support Coordinator to undertake intake or rostering processes, and to be qcharging the Participant for this time.

  • Plan Management: In cases where organisations provide both Plan Management and Support Coordination, these roles should be clearly delineated to ensure that Support Coordination hours are not being used to “double dip.” That is, the Support Coordinator not charging for tasks that are expected to be covered by the monthly Plan Management fee (e.g. processing invoices).

  • Direct supports: Support Coordination funds should not be used to provide supports more appropriately funded by Core budgets.

  • Signing service agreements: Service agreements are not valid contracts if signed by someone who does not have the legal capacity to sign on behalf of the Participant. However, Support Coordinators can play an important role in reviewing service agreements and helping people identify dodgy conditions (check out our Service Agreement cheat sheet)

Support Coordination is a relatively new role. So it is understandable that many providers do not have a clear sense of what it entails, and as such are putting too much on the Support Coordinator’s plate. Most Support Coordinators come into the role because they want to make a genuine difference in people’s lives. Therefore, establishing boundaries might feel very unnatural. In order to avoid Support Coordinator burnout and to ensure that Participants receive high quality supports long term, it is crucial that everyone has some understanding of the scope of the role. Otherwise before long, a Support Coordinator will end up doing everything and nothing at same time.