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5 Ways to Pivot Your SIL Business

Supported Independent Living (SIL) providers have been hit with a lot of bad news lately- from the Joint Standing Committee recommendations to the new Price Guide. Rebecca explores what providers can do to re-design their service to thrive in the new world.

By Rebecca Brissett

Updated 15 Apr 202429 Jun 2020

The pressure seems to be firmly pushing on Supported Independent Living (SIL) from all angles right now. Last week the release of the 20-21 price guide gave a glimpse into the changes that are coming, with the reduction of classifications reduced to standard and higher support needs, and capped prices. We explored some of the implications that you might expect last week in this article. 

Since then, we have also seen the SIL provider pack disappear from the Agency website and a heavy emphasis on the plan to “roll-over” funds wherever possible. There will be a new SIL provider pack released in the next few weeks, which may have significant implications for the way SIL services will need to operate.  Combine this with the small issue of a pandemic keeping people at home, and the question of covering the cost of the extra staffing. All these things together, you are left with a group of providers hanging out on the edge of chaos, with an understandable desire to understand what comes next. 

Maybe the Joint Standing Committees Inquiry into SIL and the lengthy list of recommendations is a crystal ball that will provide some insight into where we are heading. Many of these recommendations will benefit both Participants and SIL providers, providing you can make the transition successfully.

Success in all services right now seems to be linked to the ability to pivot your business model, increase flexibility and make financially sustainable choices that will withstand the next crisis whatever that may be. This is all well and good, but how do you achieve this when your business is supporting people, and the variables are endless and complicated? There is no clear answer to this, but here are five things you can consider to future-proof your SIL services.

1. Know what people want

Know what the people you support want.  And be willing to expand the limitations of what you can achieve. The NDIS has afforded choice and control and has also broken down many barriers to much-needed supports and services that people have desperately needed.You might find that some assistive technology will help someone move light years ahead in building relationships, or a Friday night out with likeminded people is now possible, and can be funded by Community Participation (CP). 

Historically long waiting lists for services and assessments such as allied health and equipment created real barriers for outcomes. We were the case manager, the CP provider, the volunteer and in some cases, the only support system a person had. The funding in an NDIS plan is becoming more and more flexible, and there are numerous supports and services that can assist Participants and SIL providers to widen the support network and achieve some fantastic things.

We can’t encourage you more to know your price guide, know your Plan and how to maximise outcomes for the people that you support.

2. Know the service you provide

When asked “what do you do”, the answer needs to be more than “Provide Supported Independent Living”. What is your service? What is your philosophy? How do you differ from the service next door and why should I give you my hard-earned funding? The following are examples of things that aren’t a part of SIL but can be included if you can make the costings work.

  •   Access to a vehicle
  •   Internet or data plans to facilitate therapies and social integration
  •   A high emphasis on community access and engagement
  •   Partnerships with specialists in areas to assist with outcomes

If you are looking to justify a change or an increase in funding, with the higher emphasis on need for clear evidence, things just got harder. Be prepared to sell why your service is worth the investment and how you will achieve the intended outcomes. If you don’t have that clear in your head, now is the time to start preparing your elevator pitch. Back that up with documented and professional reports and you are much more likely to see results.

3. Know what is fixed and what is variable

Define your service and understand what you have to provide, what you choose to provide, and what you don’t provide, and the costs associated. Then, when the situation changes, you know what you can move around. For example, trained staff are a must, but access to a vehicle is negotiable. If you haven’t been able to narrow down your fixed and variable costs and introduce flexibility into your workforce, this is now essential. 

If your staff roster is fixed and unable to change because of an award an EBA or obligations to provide set hours, the last few months will have been incredibly tricky regardless of the service you provide. Consider how to attract and retain your trained and valuable staff while still building flexibility into the service that you provide. The following questions may be a helpful place to start:

  • Can the roster be changed?
  • If we have a vacancy, can we reduce hours?
  • What if we don’t get the quote we wanted?
  • Will our SIL quote be viable if all our Participants chose to use different providers for Community Participation?
  • Do we support people to activities outside the house? 
  • If someone has a short-term illness, have we factored this into our SIL quote?
  • Have we built the viability of this accommodation on having a particular category of supports, and what will we do if we can achieve this?

It is looking more likely that Participants SIL funding will be more static in the upcoming changes. And you might even find yourself inheriting a SIL allocation that has been quoted and costed on the services offered by another provider. Are you able to quickly assess that funding and consider whether it will work in your scenario? If not, it may be time to go back and look at your cost modelling and the service you provide.

Just remember to outline clearly in your service agreement what people can expect and communicate any changes carefully and appropriately.

4. Know your people…. All of them

Have you ever been in a Planning meeting and discovered that the SIL quote you worked on for weeks was redundant because the Participant and their family had changed their goals? Nobody wants to be blindsided. The only way to avoid this is to build relationships and know your people. Know your Participant, know their family, their Support Coordinator, and the staff working front line in their house. Know that their support needs have changed and know how to articulate that. Know the therapists and the GP. SIL quoting doesn’t need to feel like a battle for the funding you need to make your service work. Sometimes collaborating on a goal with a person’s day-time activities will make a significant impact on the extra staffing required when the person comes home frustrated from work and unsure how to address these emotions. 

5. Pick your battles

There are some battles that are worth throwing your whole weight behind, but there are others that could be avoided with some strategic preparation and decision making. Develop a reputation as a provider that is clear about their service, about what they can provide and able to adapt and be flexible when required.

Are your costings so tight that you have to fight for every dollar? If this is the case, you need to revisit your service model. If you have a little bit of wriggle room, you will be able to adapt to the ‘spanner in the works’ every time the NDIA, or someone changes the rules. Create a scenario where you can know with confidence what you can give on and what is vital. And if it is vital, be prepared to invest in collecting the evidence to justify it. 

The future of SIL is as uncertain as the future of the global economy right now, take the time to pause, reflect, and gain some confidence that your organisation is heading in the right direction and will be around to see what unfolds.

We are excited to be offering a SIL Workshop Series where we deep dive into these issues and give practical solutions to making this work. 


Rebecca Brissett

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