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Breaking News: NDIA releases Support Coordination Paper

The NDIA have finally released their response to last year's Support Coordination Discussion Paper. Evie's got the details.

By Evie Naufal

Updated 15 Apr 202430 Nov 2021

It may be the most long-awaited piece of policy in NDIS history, but the NDIA have just released their Improving Support Coordination for Participants Paper. This paper is the result of an intermediaries review launched four years ago and consultation with the sector through a discussion paper last August.

Seasoned Support Coordinators who were hoping for a detailed practice guide or resolutions to chronic issues will be disappointed. But the Paper and its accompanying website content does provide a clear, structured outline of Support Coordination that will likely be helpful to those new to the role and as a resource to support conversations with participants and families.

So what exactly does it say?

Clarifying the role of the Support Coordinator

The Paper and website outline four key roles of Support Coordinators:

  1. Help participants connect to NDIS and other supports
  2. Build a participant’s capacity and capability to understand their plan, navigate the NDIS and make their own decisions
  3. Broker supports and services in line with a participant’s wishes and their plan budget
  4. Monitor plan budgets and support effectiveness.

For each role, the NDIA outlines the typical tasks and expectations associated with it. The role as it is described is a brief summary of current practice and does not introduce any new expectations or delve into the real complexities. Interestingly, the Paper does not differentiate between the three levels of Support Coordination, though the website does detail the difference.

Summary of consultation

The Paper includes a five page summary of the feedback NDIA received through the discussion paper and while it’s great to see some open acknowledgement of the issues, the whole section is an exercise in how to acknowledge problems without taking any responsibility for them. The issues raised were:

  • Support Coordinators sometimes feel the need to “fill gaps” when they perceive a participant needs an advocate (my personal favourite example of blame shifting in the list)
  • Support Coordinators can experience challenges when supporting participants to make informed decisions
  • The quality of Support Coordination services is highly variable
  • Support Coordinators should be upskilled
  • Stronger measures should be introduced to promote independence
  • The three levels of Support Coordination should be simplified
  • More targeted support coordination may be beneficial to meet specific goals
  • Outcomes-based pricing is probably not an appropriate lever to incentivise better performance, given current Scheme design
  • Funding for support coordination is inconsistent
  • Greater clarity is required around the role

(Not) addressing conflicts of interest

Perhaps the most hotly anticipated part of this Paper is what it would say about conflicts of interest. While it states that the NDIA “strongly supports” the IAC and Tune Review recommendations to separate Support Coordination and other supports, it stops short of actually changing anything.

There is a mildly infuriating promise to “partner with key stakeholders to agree on a path to implement these recommendations”, as if this Paper was not the result of 421 submissions from key stakeholders on exactly this topic. We’ll take this as a sign there won’t be any decisive action on conflict of interest any time soon.

What’s next?

The Paper points to a range of initiatives that may help resolve some of the other issues raised through the discussion paper, including an upcoming Support for Decision Making policy, updates to the Home & Living Operational Guidelines, workforce initiatives and the pricing review. In classic NDIA fashion, they’ve also thrown in a couple initiatives they’ve already rolled back (like the Exceptionally Complex Support Needs Program) or that they have nothing to do with.

When the NDIA kicked off their intermediaries review four years ago, the question “What does the NDIA want Support Coordination to look like?” was a lot more relevant than it is today. The Paper endorses the work being done by peak organisations, training providers and communities of practice to build capacity in the sector and with over 200,000 participants purchasing Support Coordination, the NDIA is no longer the deciding force in determining what quality support looks like.

While it doesn’t address the chronic issues that are within the NDIA’s control or the complexities of the role, the Paper doesn’t overreach. By sketching the basic outline of the role, they leave space for participants and leading providers to colour in the rest.

You can read the Paper here.

Authors

Evie Naufal

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