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Practical Tips for Capacity Building

How do you embed capacity building in a busy support coordination schedule? Lisa & Stephen have some ideas to help.

By Lisa Duffy and Stephen Webster

Updated 15 Apr 202430 Aug 2021

It’s well known that Support Coordination is a capacity building support, but what exactly does that mean?

If we are honest with ourselves, it really means that we need to work in a way that facilitates independence from … us. That sounds simple enough in theory, but how do we go about achieving this in a meaningful and realistic way in practice?

The NDIS Pricing Arrangements and Price Limits document suggests some Support Coordination capacity building activities, including:

  • Strengthening the participant’s ability to design their own supports;
  • Supporting participants to be the directors of their own lives;
  • Assisting participants to build and maintain a resilient network of formal and informal supports.

In short, it’s about supporting people to become their own Coordinator of Supports. But one major barrier that comes up again and again is time. Capacity building supports are more time intensive to begin with, with the aim being that the need for these supports declines over time. However, this assumes that the provider works within an environment that can facilitate that aim.

So, if you are a Support Coordinator with a caseload that feels like you can only afford to play a reactive, crisis-response role, how do we truly facilitate proactive capacity building?

Practical ways that Support Coordinators can facilitate capacity building

We often hear from overworked Support Coordinators who say, “I’ll worry about capacity building if I have time for it”.

Let’s get real: When do we ever sit back and say, “Oh great! The time I was hoping would arrive has arrived! I’m completely up to date and organised, and no one is in crisis, so now I will shift into capacity building mode!” Um … never? Capacity building needs to be integrated into our everyday work and not seen as a separate, optional step. You will be interacting with the participants you are working with anyway, so why not have these interactions in a Capacity Building Framework?

Here are some practical tips to support you to work in less of a crisis and response-driven case management model and shift into the goal of capacity building:

  • Teaching participants “NDIS language”. Let’s face it: the NDIS, like any complex system, has its own language, even its own jargon. Dealing with this reality is a challenge for participants, informal supports and service providers alike. When you are having conversations with participants, you can kill two birds with one stone by using the language of the NDIS. You may have to stop sometimes to define terms such as “Occupational Therapy Functional Assessment” and “Reasonable and Necessary”, however, this approach requires no additional time investments and will help the participant to become more familiar with NDIS-specific jargon. Perhaps another way to facilitate this is creating a “how-to” video and checklist for designing goals for NDIS reviews and sharing it with participants, to build capacity and self-advocacy skills.
  • Provide resources and tools that truly facilitate capacity building and a reduced dependence on a funded Support Coordinator. There’s no need to re-invent the wheel here – there are many existing resources that can help participants navigate the NDIS. One of our favourite examples is the checklist on page 11 of NDIS Booklet 3, which runs through what participants can spend their funding on. So, how about the next time a participant asks you whether they can use their funding to purchase a specific support, instead of simply providing the answer, teach the participant how to use this checklist to answer this question themselves. Now that is capacity building. With time, participants will become more aware, more informed, more independent, and less reliant on you for the answers.
  • Provide information about the rights of the participant. Some NDIS participants have never been informed about their human rights, and you may be the first person to explore those rights with them. By providing time and space for participants to understand their rights, you can help them become their own self-advocates, which can lead to increased independence from the Support Coordinator. Why not include this information when you have your next planned chat with the participant or when the participant is in a situation where their rights are not being respected or upheld?
  • Co-design the participant/Support Coordination relationship in a way that attempts to prevent crisis-driven work: Instead of relying on ad hoc, reactive meetings with participants, consider booking regular, timed check-ins. This approach can allow time for updating information, checking in on goal progress, and potentially catching a pending crisis or significant transition period before it becomes a risk to the participant. This will also enable you to better plan your week and organise and prioritise your work and your time. Win, win!
  • With the participant’s informed consent, build a team together around the participant that does not rely on funded NDIS supports. Guys, it’s time to hand some shit over. You can’t be everything to everyone, nor should you be. We often hear planners say that Support Coordination funding is not guaranteed, long-term funding. One way to prepare for this is to start phasing yourself out now and begin building the capacity of the participant and their other supports, informal and paid. Don’t start the relationship by fostering dependency that you then need to undo!

Hang on. Won't all this capacity building do us out of a job?

No, we don’t think so. Support Coordination not only plays a key role in building capacity with an individual participant but also within sector, community, and informal supports.

Part of the Support Coordinator role can also be to highlight how important and non-transient that role may need to be for some participants. Just like other capacity building supports (such as Allied Health), Support Coordination can also play a role in maintaining a participant’s capacity, safety, goals, and outcomes. So, Support Coordination may be justified in future plans as reasonable and necessary, regardless of whether an increase in capacity is a goal.

When Support Coordinators work within a capacity building framework, they are operating in line with the true vision and goal of the Scheme: to recognise and value the existing capacity and strengths of the participant, foster a co-designed support relationship, and work in a way that helps the participant best meet their potential.

The ending of formal funded Support Coordination for a participant can be seen as a sign of a successful and co-designed participant/Support Coordinator relationship. It also provides new capacity for the Support Coordinator to work with someone else who is at a different stage in their journey, and a new relationship and dance can begin.


Lisa Duffy
Stephen Webster

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