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UpSkill Q+A with Linda Hughes

Summer Foundation Projects Support Officer Helen Jeisman chats with our UpSkill Lead Linda Hughes about her experiences and advice to support coordinators:

So, Linda, let me get this straight – you’re a parent to Jacob who is 28 years old and now living in his own home. Jacob has complex needs and you assisted him to share his house with supportive housemates. You’ve worked as a support coordinator to achieve great outcomes for the people that you work with, you founded Mind the Gap in Newcastle, and you’re the Summer Foundation’s UpSkill Lead building the capacity of support coordinators and allied health professionals in the industry. Given that you live and breathe the NDIS – I was keen to get to know you a little better! 

What do you see as the greatest achievement of the first few months of 2021 for the NDIS sector? 

I think there has been really good collaboration between people with disability and providers this year. And this is being led by people with disability and disabled people’s organisations. I think this is a real triumph and worth acknowledging and celebrating.

What are the main challenges support coordinators are navigating right now? 

I think it has been a tough year already and keeping up morale is a challenge for many in the sector at the moment. We are hearing from a lot of support coordinators and allied health professionals that they are feeling weary…and it’s only April! 

Your roles are integral in assisting  people with complex needs to achieve good outcomes and we have such dedication in the workforce. We know you are working your butts off and we know that it can be demoralising when reasonable funding requests are declined. 

UpSkill offers professional development and our training can help you understand the complexities and challenges of the NDIA. The more you understand about the NDIS and the evidence the NDIA requires, the better you can target funding requests. 

It is important that you have strategies for self care. Here are some ideas:

  • Build a supportive network –  friends, family, GP, counsellors, psychologists, community of practice (Watch – Building Networks of Support and Recognising Vicarious Trauma)
  • Ensure you have opportunities to do things you enjoy and recharge – eat well, exercise, sleep well and practice mindfulness
  • Create opportunities to debrief with regular and proactive supervision 
  • Seek secondary consultancy and mentoring 
  • If available, access employee assistance programs and organisational pathways to access additional support

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to any support coordinator just starting out?

One piece of advice? I don’t think I can give just one. Here are a few starter ideas!

  • I think being inquisitive and curious is a great way of learning the ropes. Be that, understanding as much as you can about the NDIS and also listening intently to the person you are assisting to get a deeper understanding of their capacities, gifts, skills and dreams for their life.  
  • It is not all about billable hours. It is important to have good supervision and mentoring and create good habits in case notes and follow up. The people you are supporting might find themselves caught in complex systems and you will be their navigator. Call on the expertise around you to help you guide you through the maze.
  • Work within a best practice framework – develop a solid understanding of human rights, the  social model of disability and person centred approaches. Understanding these will shift your practice from the old medical model of disability and service centred planning to a rights based, equality and inclusion framework. 

If you work in NSW or Victoria, you can catch Linda at many UpSkill workshops coming up over the next few months.

Topics include: 

  • Working with people with complex needs in complex systems
  •  The NDIS & Housing
  • Evidence for SDA Outcomes
  • Supporting young people living in aged care to benefit from the NDIS
  • Working with people in the hospital setting
  • Supporting someone to move into a new home
  • Supporting someone to live well in the community
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