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New High Intensity Support Skill Descriptors Out Now!

The NDIS Commission has revised its skill descriptors for high intensity supports - compliance required by 1st February 2023 + updates to DSC's fora module

By Jessica Quilty

Updated 15 Apr 202412 Jan 2023

The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission (NDIS Commission) has modified the High Intensity Support Skills Descriptors which come into effect from 1 February 2023.

What are the high intensity support skill descriptors?

The skills descriptors describe the skills and knowledge that workers should have when supporting participants with the high intensity daily personal activities in the NDIS Practice Standards (High Intensity Daily Personal Activities Module 1).

Who is affected by the changes?

Providers delivering high intensity supports contained in Module 1 of the NDIS Practice Standards. These are:

  • Complex bowel care
  • Enteral feeding support
  • Dysphagia support
  • Ventilator support
  • Tracheostomy support
  • Urinary catheter support
  • Subcutaneous injections
  • Complex wound care support

+ There is also updated general advice for providers delivering epilepsy and seizure support.

The NDIS Commission has clarified that these are the ​​skills and knowledge expected when supports are delivered by a competent worker who is not a qualified health or allied health practitioner. Other providers and workers may also use this guidance to ensure best practice when supporting people who require these supports.

  • Auditors can use the skills descriptors to determine if a provider has complied with the NDIS Practice Standards Module 1 at audit.
  • Participants, their family and their support network can use the skills descriptors to understand the quality of support they can expect and in selecting providers/ workers.
  • NDIS providers and workers can use the skills descriptors to understand the expectations they should meet to provide high intensity support and to help select training courses that deliver the relevant knowledge and skills expected.
  • Trainers should use the skills descriptors to ensure the training they offer equips workers with the skills and knowledge expected to provide these types of support.

Why the change?

The review of the skill descriptors was undertaken as part of the NDIS Workforce Capability Framework and includes:

  • Updated content of the descriptors in line with contemporary practice and expert advice.
  • Updated format and language of the descriptors to align with the contemporary language and participant focus adopted in the Framework.

What has changed?

The skills descriptors document has expanded from 18 pages to 47 so there is now a lot more information to get across. Here are a few key changes:

  • Language: The language has been updated to participant focused language, consistent with the NDIS Workforce Capability Framework, including replacing terms like ‘management’ with ‘support’. For example enteral feeding and management is now enteral feeding support (noting the NDIS Practice Standards terminology remains unchanged).
  • Alignment between the practice standards and the skill descriptors: The funny little discrepancies between what is considered a high intensity support in the practice standards and the skill descriptors have long kept us quality nerds up at night. But they have fixed it so the two documents speak together (with the above caveat of slightly inconsistent terminology). The alignment updates include:

○      A new descriptor to support participants with dysphagia.

○      The stoma care skill descriptor has been integrated into descriptors for bowel care, enteral feeding, tracheostomy support, ventilator support and urinary catheter support.

○      The wound care skills descriptor has changed from being additional advice to being included as a skill descriptor.

○      Some of the revised skill descriptors include optional guidance to support common applications. For example, the skill descriptors for subcutaneous injections now include guidance when supporting a person with diabetes; the enteral feeding skill descriptors provide guidance for supporting people with medication via a feeding tube.

○      The skill descriptor for workers who support participants to manage epilepsy and seizures remains as an additional descriptor, as it was in the previous version.

○      The skill descriptor to support mealtime preparation and delivery (which was in the previous version as an additional descriptor) is now included as an additional capability in the workforce capability framework.

  • More guidance on training and maintaining skills: The revised skill descriptors emphasise the need for currency of skills and knowledge and providing ongoing training as required. The NDIS Commission recommends annual competency assessments and refreshers, as well as when a person’s needs change or the worker hasn’t provided the support in 3+ months. There is also a requirement to keep audit records.

Where to get started?

Identify which people, support plans, policies, procedures and documentation will be affected by the changes. You might like to look at your training registers and audit plans as well. Providers have until the 1st of February 2023 to comply so there is no time to waste. These documents will help you get started:

Finally, DSC has also worked hard over the break to update our e-learning with all the changes. Check out our newly updated High Intensity Support Compliance module, it’s free for fora subscribers!


Jessica Quilty

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