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Support coordinator checklist – what to know and do when working with clients

A person sitting on the bonnet of a car inspects a large map.

As a support coordinator, you’re playing a key role in the lives of National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants, supporting them to implement their plans and exercise choice and control over the supports and services they receive.

But when you’re new to the job, it can be overwhelming if you don’t have a clear roadmap.

That’s why we spoke with Kristie Findlater, Founder of the Western Sydney Support Coordinators Network. Kristie – who swapped a career in support coordination to work as a Community Engagement & Partnerships Manager at My Plan Manager – has created a checklist of what to know and do when working with clients, mapping out the support coordinator role and breaking it down into more manageable steps.

Before working with clients

To be a support coordinator, it’s important to have a good understanding of the NDIS Code of Conduct and relevant legislation, including the NDIS Act, as well as the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission and mandatory reporting obligations.

You can brush up on the NDIS Code of Conduct here.

It’s also good to have a strong understanding of the NDIS Pricing Arrangements and Price Limits, funding categories and usage.

Tip: Being a support coordinator involves making your clients’ funding work for them. In this article, we explain how the NDIS Pricing Arrangements and Price Limits can unlock better supports and more funding value, so clients can have greater choice and control over their plans and providers.

You may also want to check out our ‘NDIS funding explained’ resource, which breaks down the different NDIS budgets and the key categories within them, and provides practical examples of what funding can be spent on.

Then, there’s the softer skills like good organisation, administration, time management, the ability to cope and adapt in high stress situations, and the ability to be empathetic and caring while also having clear boundaries in place. Boundaries can help prevent burnout – one of the most prevalent issues facing support coordinators.

Tip: You may want to read this article, where a panel of support coordinators explores the complexities of providing support in the disability sector and challenges such as burnout.

When working with clients

Once you’re ready to start working with a new client, you can use this checklist as a roadmap to guide you.

1. Accept the participant’s ‘Request for Service’

National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) planners and Local Area Coordinators (LACs) can connect participants with support coordinators by sending a Request for Service (RFS), which includes information about the participant’s goals, funding that has been allocated, assessments required, and reporting dates.

These are sent through the portal, which will trigger a notification email.

An RFS isn’t the only way to receive a referral – it can also come from a participant or nominee directly.

Before you accept an RFS, consider if you can best support that participant to pursue their plan goals.

2. Complete the client’s intake paperwork, including creating and signing a service agreement

In addition to a service agreement, this could also include a consent form, a customer service charter, and any other documentation you require to get to know the participant.

3. Review the RFS or plan – including your client’s plan goals, their NDIS plan funding, and the supports they’ve requested. Then create a plan budget in a spreadsheet or whichever platform works for you, like a plan manager portal.

Be sure to consider:

  • the amount of support coordinator funding allocated – budget it out to ensure it’s adequate to provide supports, complete reports and attend review meetings.
  • if current therapies and supports are adequate, inadequate or too much.
  • what assessments and reports are required for a plan reassessment (and allocate the funding to cover their cost (tip: assessments and reports must be written within three months of submission to the NDIA – be sure to time this with your client’s plan reassessment date).
  • assessments required for assistive technology (and allocate funding to cover their cost).
  • if consumables are required, if they’re under $1500, and if funding is allocated (a Consumables budget can be used to purchase reasonable and necessary everyday items valued at up to $1500 – this may include single-use disposable items, such as absorbent pads, eating aids like modified cups, specialised food supplements and some personal care items).
  • support coordination reporting dates that are outlined in the RFS (support coordinators are also required to submit a report to the NDIA two to three months before their client’s plan reassessment).
  • if your client has a nominee or guardian – and request the relevant paperwork to save to your client’s file.
  • if your client is under the Public Guardian (if they are, request the relevant paperwork to show guardianship and service functions allocated).
  • if there are assessments and reports from the client’s providers that need to be reviewed.
  • if your client needs support from a specific team within the NDIA – like aged care, justice liaison or complex supports.

4. Meet with your client

  • Discuss goals, supports required, funding available, and whether it’s adequate.
  • Check if they’re happy with their current providers or want to change.
  • Get to know them better, including who they are as a person, what they do and don’t like, what’s important to them, and what their current routines, activities, cultural and religious practices are. Find out about their support requests, current living situation, and what their support network looks like – and how disability impacts their life. Interactions should be completed in supportive, person-centred and gender-affirming ways – this can be clarified by asking them how they prefer to be addressed and interacted with.
  • Ask if they have goals that aren’t in their plan – these could relate to relationships, education, skill building around their own rights, and the ability to advocate for themselves. These need to be approached in a sensitive, culturally appropriate manner, with the participant on their own, away from others who they may be influenced by or embarrassed to talk about things in front of.
  • Discuss what new services and therapies they need and want (this may not align with what’s in their plan, as not all things discussed in the planning meeting are funded). How often are they required? What days and times work? And does this align with their goals and budget?
  • See what consumables/assistive technology are required (again, this may not align with what’s outlined in their plan) and if they’ve been funded appropriately.
  • Work out the cost for requested supports until plan end date versus funding available, then see if you can come to an agreement around frequency of supports if needed.
  • Ask if they think their funding is appropriate compared to what was discussed in their planning meeting. Is a review of a reviewable decision required?
  • Discuss ‘what if’s’ that may occur – like if they or their carer get unwell, if a provider is unavailable or if a staffing shortage occurs.
  • Discuss any concerns your client may have, like funding available.
  • If they have transport funding allocated in their plan, is your client receiving this into their bank account? If not, they’ll need to update their bank details with the NDIA.
  • Discuss what supports aren’t funded by the NDIA and provide information to your client to link them in with appropriate services.

5. Implement your client’s plan

  • Contact existing providers and introduce yourself.
  • Share new plan dates (if required) and request service agreements to review – and get them signed.
  • Negotiate required supports with providers in line with your client’s budget and requests.
  • Research new providers and collate a list to discuss with your client. Set up new providers or keep researching.
  • Submit all signed service agreements to your client’s plan manager (if they’re plan managed) and save copies of each.
  • Monitor budgets to ensure providers are not over servicing.

6. Throughout your client’s plan:

  • Regularly check in with your client’s providers to ensure that supports are running as per their service agreements.
  • Check in with allied health providers to assess the progress of therapies. Can they be provided by a therapy assistant or a support worker to free up funding?
  • Regularly check your client’s plan manager portal to see if they’re overspending or underspending their NDIS plan funding. If they are, why?
  • Complete and submit support coordinator reports as per your client’s NDIA planner request (this can be monthly, quarterly or annually).
  • Regularly check in with your client to ensure they’re happy with supports and providers. Have there been any changes to their support needs, informal supports, health and wellbeing, home situation, work or disability, or has there been a new diagnosis? Is a change of situation required?
  • Discuss upcoming changes and support your client to plan for these. These changes could include leaving school, a carer taking holidays or falling ill, hospitalisation, and changes to goals – like turning 18 and wanting to move out.

We’re here to help

If you have any questions, we’re here to help. No question is too tricky for our plan management experts.

You can email us at [email protected] or call us on 1800 861 272 from 8am-6pm (SA time), Monday to Friday.

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