Get more from your NDIS funding with Therapy Assistants

The NDIS brings a lot choice and giving some the opportunity to try new ways to meet their goals and get the most out of their funding. One method being used by Melinda and her family in the ACT is combining Therapists with Therapy Assistants. Melinda is an NDIS participant and the primary carer for two boys aged 8 and 9 who are also NDIS participants. We recently chatted with Melinda about how her family are accessing Therapy Assistants to help them achieve their NDIS goals.

How did you come up with the idea to use therapy assistants?

From what I hear it’s not a new idea but it is new to our family. My husband was taking time off work to attend a mainstream circus class with one of our sons and I was supporting both boys at their physiotherapy session.

Then one day while searching for a support worker on Hireup I came across the profile of someone who has a child on the spectrum and was a personal trainer. In my mind she came with the perfect set of skills to, in the first instance, support our son’s therapist and circus trainer with behaviour support instead of us. However her skills as a personal trainer also meant she had the skills to implement the therapy also.

One of our son’s goals pertains to accessing the community and generalising skills. So I approached this worker about the idea of becoming the boys’ therapy assistant. The beauty of doing this through the Hireup platform is that we were able to increase her pay accordingly. We pay her at the SCHADS level 4 for the intensity of the work and the additional skills she brings, which were skills that we just couldn’t have taught.

We then started thinking about other areas that this model would work and the types of people we could approach for the role. University students studying in OTPhysioSpeech and Education would obviously jump at the opportunity to get some hands on experience and have the opportunity to network within the industry. Many of the Hireup support workers are uni students studying in these fields.

It sounds like Hireup has played a big part in empowering your family to use assistants,
what is it about their service that you love?

Yes, they took the headache out of finding and hiring the right people for the role and they make managing staff so easy. We get to define the role and deal directly with our support workers, who are employed directly by Hireup and not just contractors.

This is attractive to us and our support workers because they take care of the superannuation, tax and insurances. We book our staff through the platform and communicate with them directly. Hireup simply send us an invoice for the support hours worked, we pay it and then claim from the portal.

Because they are an online platform their overheads are considerably lower than other providers and they pass these savings on to us as a client. At the basic level 1 SCHADS award rate we pay only $35p/h. All but $2.90 of this goes to the worker and covers insurance, super and tax. NDIS funds support hours at $42.77p/h. The savings we make by engaging with support workers through the Hireup platform can then be used by us to purchase additional support hours or services.

Those dollars really do add up and it’s great to see the bulk of the fee going to the workers themselves.

How have your therapists helped with this process, is there collaboration or do you manage it all yourself?

Yes, we are still included in the conversation but the therapy assistant worked directly with our son’s physiotherapist initially. Then as she became confident and the program had been developed, the physiotherapist has stepped back. The therapy assistant also works on keeping things consistent across settings and helps him to generalise the skills he’s learning in the local community.

Our speech therapist sets ‘homework’ to practice between sessions. With physio the exercises our boys are doing are to assist them toward their goals of learning to ride bikes. There are so many real life situations that give you the ability to extend on the skills they are learning.

So having a therapy assistant implement the therapy has also helped connect your sons to their NDIS goals as well by bridging therapy to daily life!

What (if any) challenges did your family face in getting this set up?

The biggest challenge has been the time taken to train the therapy assistant in our son’s individual care. He has a tracheostomy and it generally takes new workers a few months to become competent in tracheostomy care and emergency management after the training we provide to them by a Registered Nurse.

Currently this means that until the therapy assistant feels confident in his trache care, I am still required to be nearby in the waiting room in case of emergency. This isn’t a unique challenge though, nor is it unique to this situation. All our support staff take quite some time to feel confident and comfortable with providing this level of support.

I can imagine that for others who don’t have this added level of complexity it would be a much easier process. You would want to make sure you choose someone who is reliable and able to commit long term so they don’t walk away with all the knowledge you have instilled in them too.

Finding long term reliable staff is definitely a challenge that a lot of people face, whether they self manage or use agencies.

Your family self manage, would an arrangement like your’s with a therapist-assistant combination be possible for people who’s plan is managed by NDIA?

Only if the therapy assistant was or came under an NDIS registered provider. Hireup are not an NDIS registered provider so to use that platform to engage someone as a therapy assistant you would need to be self-managing or with a plan manager.

Some plan managers are locking people into only using their services or only using providers who charge at the NDIS fixed rate which is sad because it takes away the choice and control of the client.

I hope this sort of conduct will become less common as the market becomes more competitive though.

There are a lot of people across the country who are preparing for NDIS, how has being a part of NDIS impacted your family and what would be your advice to people getting ready?

I have a video for this 🙂

Thank you for sharing your experience, Mel. It’s great to hear how NDIS is working for your family, giving you the opportunity to think differently and make choices that are right for you.

PS: The art therapist Mel mentions in the video? Ink Brush Art Therapy

Comment

  1. CJ

    Hi Melinda,
    Thank you for sharing your story. This is valuable information for myself as my son is on NDIS is SA, I self manage and am fearing that my social and community inclusion funding will not be available after his review in Sept. Hearing about your story means that I may be able to engage a qualified Allied Health Assistant for helping my son work towards his OT goals out in the community.

    Does anyone know of any other states that have these assistants doing this work?

    Thanks