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Winning a support coordinator’s tick of approval

Two people stand together in a cafe.

A good support coordinator is worth their weight in gold for National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants and their loved ones.

Knowledgeable, well connected and informed, support coordinators are go-to sources of information, especially when it comes to finding providers, supports and services.

And although support coordinators can’t recommend specific providers to their clients, they can and do provide participants with lists of providers they like, trust and know to be working well with others in the Scheme.

So how do you get on that all-important list?

We went straight to the source, speaking with Elizabeth Hickey from AFA Support Coordination, Megan Ellis from Marli and Moe, and My Plan Manager’s own Kristie Findlater – founder of the Western Sydney Support Coordinator Network.

Their advice won’t just help to get you on the support coordinator’s unofficial good list – it will ensure your customer service is exceptional, and that’s great for your business too. Better for participants and better for you? That’s a win-win situation.

Communication is key

It might seem obvious, but clear communication about what you offer, your rates, and your policies helps support coordinators to understand your business.

You’ll need to communicate effectively, not only with support coordinators, but potential clients too – and you’ll need to do it in the way that suits them best, using the channels they prefer.

Elizabeth says she speaks with her clients to find out exactly what they’re looking for before searching out providers to best meet their needs.

“One of the first questions I ask is ‘What do you specialise in?’,” she says. “By asking this question, I’m aiming to find out who they work well with, what sort of services they offer, and how they work to provide the best service.”

Elizabeth is adept at finding that special ‘something’ that makes a provider a potential match for a participant.

“A provider who understands the National Disability Insurance Agency’s (NDIA) requirements and who’s able to clearly define the support they can offer is ideal, as is a willingness to listen to, and interact with, the client,” she says.

“A great provider is typically one who asks questions about who services are to be delivered to, when and where they are to be delivered, and who is responsible for making decisions. Great providers also confirm the required consents are in place for all parties involved.”

Easy to do business with

For Elizabeth, transparency is a non-negotiable – it helps participants, providers and support coordinators to understand what’s on offer. In fact, a lack of detail is a red flag.

“Having a service agreement or other clearly communicated service delivery information in writing is the best way to ensure everyone is on the same page,” says Elizabeth. “A provider who’s unwilling to provide information about their cancellation policy, the cost of services (including travel), and what it is they’ll do is less likely to provide a good longer-term service.”

For more information about cancellations, click here to find a provider’s guide.

Megan agrees, saying a good provider should have ‘easy to navigate online systems’. She says she highly rates the providers that adopt a resolution-focused approach and those that are committed to assisting clients and their support coordinators with concerns.

Demonstrate your NDIS know-how

Kristie says that when she worked as a support coordinator, she looked for providers who were on top of their NDIS knowledge and knew what could and couldn’t be claimed.

That means it’s vital to stay up to date with the latest NDIS news and on top of key sector developments – such as the NDIS Review.

“The NDIS is a complex beast that’s continually changing, and keeping across its systems and processes to help maximise funding and create better outcomes for clients is vital,” says Kristie.

“For example, certain services – like rehabilitation and support after a recent medical or surgical event – sit under Medicare, and a good provider will know if a support is covered under a mainstream service.

“This can save a client’s funding to invest into therapies to achieve their plan goals faster… so knowing the ins and outs of the NDIS and using them to the client’s advantage is key!”

Show integrity and reliability

Elizabeth says she wants to know exactly what providers offer and how they’re going to make it work for her clients.

“I might ask if they’re able to provide services when the client wants them, if they’ll do less than a two-hour shift, how they’ll communicate with the client, what other charges there are, and if there’s anything else they can assist with outside of their typical role,” she says.

Kristie says good providers are only as good as their staff, and it’s important to know the providers your clients choose have a workforce that can provide them with consistent support.

“A reliable support worker who’s committed to coming to a client’s house at 6am will be there, and they’re the type of providers everyone’s looking for,” says Kristie.

“And it has to be said – honesty and transparency truly win the race!

“That means being the type of provider who builds a schedule of supports that meets the participant’s needs, not one who makes a grab for their available funding, regardless of what level of support is actually required, or one who charges more than what’s fair, just because they know a client’s in the NDIS.”

Make it personal

Person-centredness isn’t just lip service – it should be an intrinsic part of your business, according to Megan.

“This includes service that’s personalised to the client’s needs and situation, going above and beyond in assisting them with any concerns in a timely manner, and keeping everyone involved and up to date in the process,” says Megan.

“It is important participants have access to an allocated staff member, where appropriate, for person-centred approaches, and that there’s attention to detail and consistency with support.”

Elizabeth recommends providers offer meet and greets for participants and their loved ones – saying it’s just one of several ways providers can show they’re willing to go the extra mile to help participants feel comfortable.

Demonstrate your track record

Kristie says support coordinators look for allied health providers that have a combination of knowledge, experience and availability – as well as a solid track record in completing assessments and writing quality reports that are essential in securing appropriate plan funding.

“Allied health providers provide evidence through assessments and reports that inform access and planning decisions made by NDIA partners,” says Kristie. “They can also provide ongoing regular therapy supports to NDIS participants, but they can choose not to.”

“I always preferred to recommend providers who were willing to, and had the capacity to, get to know a participant and provide the supports they needed – either in clinic or via home drop ins, or online where appropriate.

“I looked to providers who would not only conduct assessments and write reports, but roll their sleeves up to work hands-on with their clients.”

This is where client testimonials, case studies and feedback come into play. Make sure they’re easy to find on your website or in the collateral or information you send to support coordinators and prospective clients.

Reporting with impact

Kristie says assessments and reports impact a participant’s NDIS plan funding and that means providers need a sound knowledge of writing effective reports to communicate a participant’s needs, goals and outcomes to assist them with securing the funding they need.

“It’s crucial to know the different terminology and information required for different reports. For example, there is a different structure used in a functional capacity assessment report versus a housing assessment report, each of which speak to different criteria and are differently worded,” says Kristie.

“The quality of the information in the report can mean the difference between securing funding to cover 24/7 care in supported independent living, and a support worker dropping in for a couple of hours a week.”

Megan agrees, saying the ability to secure plan funding through strategic report writing is essential.

“When writing reports, it’s important to use outcome-based strategies with breakdowns and be able to keep track of important information like due dates,” she says.

Reputation is everything

Your reputation is your best way of coming to the attention of a support coordinator, and your capacity to bring on new clients will be vital too. Do you have a cancellation list or offer telehealth appointments for clients who are in urgent need? If you do, make sure the support coordinators you work with know about them.

“This is a catch 22, because often the best allied health professionals will have a waitlist, but as a support coordinator it’s a top priority to get clients the supports they need fast. That is why, if I found a provider who had availability, I would reach out to my network to see if they had positive experiences with them, before I discussed them with my participant,” says Kristie.

“If there’s a waitlist for face-to-face support, a participant may get seen faster via a telehealth appointment. In those cases, if both the participant and the provider were open to it, I would work with the allied health provider to create a plan where telehealth was used initially until there was availability to provide in-person therapies.”

Elizabeth agrees that reputation can be make or break for providers when it comes to support coordinator recommendations.

“These days, everyone is more than willing to share information about their experiences with each other,” she says. “A bad reputation is usually cause for consideration and further questions.”

Ultimately, the best way to know support coordinators are telling participants about your business is to be operating at your best.

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My Plan Manager acknowledges the objectives of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

My Plan Manager acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia, and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures, and to Elders both past and present.
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