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10 Things to Know: NDIS Recovery Coaching

Thinking of engaging in this emerging market? Suzy gives the lay of the land to get you prepped.


Updated 15 Apr 20247 Dec 2020

When the Agency introduced the new Recovery Coaching support in July 2020, it was a huge milestone. It signalled that the needs of people with a psychosocial disability were, at long last, being considered in the NDIS’ design.  Integrating recovery-oriented practice into the Scheme is long overdue and is welcomed by just about everyone.  Supply is still low in the Recovery Coaching space, but demand is picking up. We know that people with a primary psychosocial disability are receiving Recovery Coaching every single day, for the first time in their plans. 

Through our time working with coaches and people exploring the space, we’ve produced our top ten things you need to consider before taking up a Recovery Coaching role:


1. It’s not Support Coordination

While the Recovery Coach is expected to deliver all the functions of a Support Coordinator, the emphasis and focus of the Recovery Coach is just what it says on the tin – coaching.  Your coaching service will primarily support and enable people to progress on their own personal recovery journey.  You’ll be delivering a coaching service that motivates and empowers people to realise their potential.  You’ll be a person with unlimited empathy and optimism, and an unconditionally positive regard for a person’s ability to learn, change and grow in the direction they want to head in. As a Recovery Coach, you will have a deep understanding of psychosocial recovery (either lived or learnt), as well as skills and techniques to assist people to manage their illness and effortlessly navigate the complexities of the mental health system.  

So where do we find people who know all the ins and outs of the NDIS, the reams of Price Guide and the services available, who are also skilled in the field of coaching people with severe and complex mental illness?  There’s no doubt this new role is going to be difficult to recruit for in the early stages of the market.  That’s why some organisations are prioritising personal recovery experience and looking to upskill coaches in the world of NDIS coordination.


2. It’s not a daily direct support

The coaching role is intended to work closely with the person and build up strong rapport and trust. So it could arise that the person asks their coach to provide support with daily activities or accompany them to events and milestones along their journey.  A coach cannot be everything all the time; for one, the budget won’t allow it. But you also want to ensure the person has a range of funded and non-funded supports in their life.  Keeping a good eye on your professional boundaries, and the scope of the coaching service, will leave you free to focus on facilitating outcomes.  In addition, providing coaching and direct services is widely considered to be a conflict of interest in areas where there are multiple providers and it can be very confusing for participants.


3. Don’t trip on the purple tape

Following on from Point one, if you’re extensively experienced in the field of recovery-oriented services and coaching, chances are you’re not an expert in the complex and ever-changing discipline of NDIS bureaucracy.  We’ll leave the analysis and explore the Agency’s psychology another day.  Suffice to say, if you’re working with someone who has an NDIS plan and sometimes complex circumstances, you’re going to need a degree in Purple Tape to activate their plan and unlock its potential.  If you don’t know your SDA, ILO, from SIL or your ECSNP from ILC and DSO, you’ll want to get on top of it before you leap in.


4. Make sure you enjoy collaboration

To facilitate great outcomes, you’ll need to be a skilled collaborator who communicates well and brings others together around the shared goal and understanding of the person’s support needs and aspirations.   You’ll have to enjoy and welcome collaboration with family members, carers, clinicians and other providers, in order to reduce the barriers and work together in times of crisis and intense need.


5. There’s going to be some number crunching involved

If you’re not a natural number cruncher, connect with one!  The price is 20% less than the hourly rate for Support Coordination, but at $83.15 per hour (weekday) it is marginally doable. But you’ll need to model scaling  a new business or service stream carefully before you commit to leases, IT infrastructure and other overheads.  You’ll also need to have a good understanding of all the costs associated with employing people, as well as what a coach can and can’t charge for, to see if you have enough capital to kick start your business.  Modelling the scaling of your participant base is going to be vital before you dive straight into the coaching world. Work out how many participants you need to break even and beyond.


6. There are NDIA registration and minimum qualification requirements

The Recovery Coaching registration group is the same as the one for a Support Coordinator –Assistance In Coordinating Or Managing Life Stages, Transitions And Supports.  This means, technically, if you already have your Support Coordinator registration, you can start providing Recovery Coaching.  

But because there is no mandate for participants to select a registered Recovery Coaching provider, people who are plan-managed or self-managed can access a non-registered provider.  You may wish to start up your service and work towards a registration, as it is an additional start-up overhead.  In terms of having the right experience and background to perform this para-professional role, the Agency (through the Price Guide) requires coaches to have a minimum qualification of Certificate IV in Mental Health Peer Work or Certificate IV in Mental Health or equivalent training; and/or a minimum of two years of experience in mental health-related work. 


7. Australia’s mental health system is not person-centred, but your practice must be

This month the Productivity Commission’s final Inquiry Report on Mental Health was released to the public.   Over 1600 pages, it explores the role of mental health in supporting economic participation and enhancing productivity and economic growth.  On page six it reads: ‘Put simply, Australia’s mental health system is not “person-centred”. It should be’.

As a Recovery Coach you must ensure not only that your service is recovery-oriented and person-centred, but that all the services around a person are.  With the mental health system across Australia stretched and known systemic issues at play, expect to encounter challenges throughout your day, week and year.  It will be frustrating and at times exhausting but, I won’t lie, it will be immensely rewarding too.


8. You’ll need to memorise the mental health mainstream principles

When navigating the complex, stretched and systemically challenged mental health system, you’re going to need to come equipped with your encyclopaedic knowledge of what the NDIS will and won’t fund for people with a psychosocial disability.  Get hold of the NDIS Operational Guidelines on whether a support is most appropriately funded by the NDIS and COAG principles– bookmark them, read them, learn them and get ready to assertively share what you know. I did warn you in Point 3.


9. Your people may not be using all their funding

Recovery Coaches will be key to ensuring people are activating and unlocking their NDIS plans’ potential.  The latest data available on plan utilisation by disability indicate people with psychosocial disability use low levels of their funding, ranging from 45% to 68%, depending on where they live.  There will be a focus on getting this number up; it’s an indicator of success and an area for reporting back to the Agency.


10. It’s a big market out there

The latest quarterly report tells us there are over 40,000 people with active plans in the Scheme with a primary psychosocial disability.  Technically, there should not be any obstacles to people with a primary psychosocial disability receiving funding for Recovery Coaching. So we can assume the marketplace will be much bigger for Recovery Coaching than for Support Coordination within the mental health space.  We also know from market data released that people with a psychosocial disability select being plan-managed more than any other disability group (59%) so there’s scope to build up your business while working towards your registration.

It's an exciting time with this new market still emerging.  There is so much potential to get involved and make an impact. If you’re ready to get going, start researching and prepping today!


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