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DISABILITY SUPPORT PROVIDERS 13 May 2024

Best Practice: Supported Independent Living

Author Yasmin Peiris's Image

Yasmin Peiris

Head of Commercial
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The Australian Royal Commission and increasing number of media storms highlighting instances of poor practice indicate that Supported Independent Living (SIL) is not currently operating at best practice and furthermore that action needs to be taken for all the victims who have died or have been seriously abused whilst in care of NDIS Service Providers.

While it is very easy to villainise service providers associated with these horrific public cases, the majority of these organisations were registered providers who invested in systems, processes, and people specifically intended to review quality within their organisation. This raises question what needs to be done differently to ensure quality, safety and standards are raised?

The NDIS is designed to empower individuals with disabilities by supporting their independence while ensuring they live safely and with dignity. However, the challenge of maintaining high-quality standards and robust safeguarding measures is complex and critical.

Supporting Potential works with service providers who genuinely want to improve the lives of the people they are supporting. They believe there are two key areas where organisations are failing the original intent of the NDIS and therefore short-changing the participants they work with:

Each of these areas have external drivers that make it more difficult for providers to be successful, but there are things still within the control of the provider.

Reactive quality management systems

We are all aware of the need for providers to adopt a continuous quality improvement approach to regularly assess and enhance their service offerings. This process involves setting clear quality objectives, collecting and analysing performance data, and making iterative improvements based on this analysis. The issue is having the tools to allow the collection and analysis of performance data. Policies and procedures need to better inform staff of how to deliver a quality service in a simple, easily implementable way.

Many organisations will rely upon paper-based internal audits to understand compliance with policies and procedures, which we know only provide a glimpse of the service as it is often being presented that day. Other organisations will rely on their front-line leaders to guide practice and ensure compliance with policy. But the question we need to ask is, do frontline leaders have the skills to identify issues in policy application, but then to also correct the issue? And finally, the last line of defence is usually if there is a reportable incident, requiring some sort of review. Currently there are very few solutions that let you maintain daily observations of the quality of support provided at all of your various SIL sites.

Tendable is one of these solutions. This digital quality assurance platform, overlayed with the way disability support providers operate, provides organisations with an easy to use and cost-effective quality management tool. Organisations collect bite-sized data from across the organisation. Staff at all levels of the organisation answer a few simple questions, related to their role. Questions target both the quantifiable audit requirements (meaning that you no longer have to conduct a laboursome annual audit), as well as a pulse check on some of the ‘soft’ indicators. Are participants engaged and supported with decision making? Are employees still passionate about the job at hand or is burn out beginning to creep in? The intelligence of the tool means these simple questions that attached to existing process are mapped to both the NDIS Practice Standards as well as best practice quality indicators. Alerts allow senior leaders to see in real-time where there may be a decline or problem beginning to arise. This is such a simple tool to implement and within 2 – 3 months you would have established your trend data to begin to utilise your quality staff to be pro-active. It also helps to identify the root cause of some of the more subtle but continuous improvements that face SIL providers, such as medication errors.

Quality staff drive quality service

When funding for training is already lean, many leaders struggle with to evidence the return on investment for training staff. We also know that adults need to hear a consistent message at least 7 times before a behaviour change can even begin to be initiated. Once again, it’s a simple change to the cadence that you do things. Continuous but short training. The Supporting Potential leaning management suite:

Every person with a disability has unique needs and circumstances. These can vary widely even among those with the same type of disability. This diversity requires individualise support plans and frequent adjustments to services, making standardized solutions difficult. Layer this with cultivating an organizational culture that prioritizes quality and ethics in all aspects of service delivery is not an easy feat. Especially when services are geographically spread, and key staff are consistently in bush fire mode. But now is not the time to pause. Perhaps you can spend 5 minutes taking a quick NDIS readiness check? The Disability Org Full Potential Scorecard (scoreapp.com).

Contact us to learn more about how we work with Supporting Potential to support NDIS service providers to understand and improve their quality.

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