After eight years of operation, the National Disability Insurance Scheme’s name is well known. But the invisible glue holding the system together is not government run. It is non-profit service organisations such as Woden Community Service, which encourages participants to form support networks, and help people with a disability work out how to collaborate with the scheme to receive the support they need.
And if it all runs smoothly, the role of a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) support coordinator, such as Mikayela Hill, is virtually invisible to the general public. As a NDIS support coordinator at Woden Community Service, Mikayela’s role is varied, sometimes challenging and always rewarding.
“One of the things I like is we work within a person-centered and recovery based framework,” she says. “We don’t tell participants how to manage their condition; we support them to lead the process.
“We’re building a relationship with them so they can make decisions about what they want and need in life, and assist them to access services that provide this, which can be rewarding on a personal level.
“Everyone with the NDIS has a plan, which is usually funded for 12 months at a time, and it’s tailored to the individual. We don’t get to decide what’s in the plan, but we can help the person make informed decisions about what they need in their plan and communicate this to the National Disability Insurance Agency.
“It can be daunting for people. The funding can change a lot from year to year.”
Mikayela’s job is to ensure NDIS participants have access to a range of services and choices, and Woden Community Service supports participants to establish and maintain connections.
Those connections include support workers, social activities, allied health, and long-term ongoing support with familiar faces which allows participants, particularly with psychosocial disabilities, to learn to trust and be comfortable with their support workers. Ensuring people with a disability are able to negotiate the NDIS process is a primary part of her job.
“I think the thing that stands out for me is working with people who are new to the NDIS,” says Mikayela. “Often we meet people who are overwhelmed and confused about what their package means and how to use it.
“It’s really nice to help them see how to use it, and break it down for them, and give them significant support to implement it.
“One of the other really important things is being able to support participants on a long-term basis. It takes some people a long time to be comfortable with that so it needs to be done in their own time.
“An interesting thing about the psychosocial space is that social support is not always considered essential, but for many participants, having opportunities to build friendships and connect with their community is one of their most significant supports.
“For example, we have a Friday social lunch which started a few years ago with around four or five people who didn’t really want to talk to each other, but now it’s grown to 20-30 people who have been supported to build friendships and grow their confidence in the community.
“From a systemic point of view, I think consistency is hugely important within the NDIS. Outcomes can vary person to person or year to year, which greatly impacts anything that happens after that point.
“I think the community sector is doing a great job adapting to the NDIS. I would encourage people to continue to think about how they can make their services accessible to people with disabilities.”