As a Leisure and Health worker, one likely reason you chose this career path was to make a positive and meaningful difference to someone’s life. You may not have known exactly where your career would lead you within this diverse field of practice, but it was clear that you would have many opportunities to engage in genuinely rewarding work.
The implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has only increased these opportunities for Leisure & Health workers. One reason for this is that NDIS participants engaging services and support, and the sector delivering them, are both beginning to view support through a fresh new lens. So, what does this mean for you as a practitioner? What are the NDIS job roles and opportunities available to you?
Leisure & Health and the NDIS are a marriage of Vision, Values, Purpose, and Objectives
On 17 July 2008, Australia was one of the first countries to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Department of Social Services, 2016). This demonstrated our country’s commitment to take action to promote the equal and active participation of all people with a disability. The implementation of the NDIS is one direct outcome resulting from this commitment.
The NDIS has significantly changed the way services and supports are contextualised and delivered for Australians with a disability. We are distancing ourselves from the old medical model of support and we’re embracing a social model of support. From the perspective of the medical model, a person with disability is seen as having deficits that need to be fixed or cured; the problem is with the person. This in turn compounds a cultural belief that having a disability makes a person somehow abnormal or incapable, and in need of pity or mollycoddling.
The social model of support on the other hand understands ‘disability’ as a social construct. This perspective sees limitations experienced by people with a disability as the direct result of persons interactions with inhospitable environments where physical, attitudinal, communication and social barriers limit ability. Therefore, it is the social environment that must change to enable people with a disability to participate in society on an equal basis with others.
This does not mean a social model of support rejects the reality of the impairment or its impact on the individual. Rather, it challenges us all to view disability through a new lens; one that accommodates impairment as an ordinary and expected occurrence of human difference and diversity. Given this, the NDIS supports the view that all people with disability have a right to be fully participating members of society, and those facilitating services and support within the scheme have an obligation to be part of the solution.
Leisure and Health with its holistic, person-centred, strengths-based, and capacity building approach to support aligns well with the vision, values, purpose, and objectives of the NDIS and NDIS job roles. As a profession, Leisure and Health workers play a significant role in supporting the independence and social and economic participation of people with disability through capacity/skill building activities. There are great opportunities for you as Leisure and Health worker to actively feature within the NDIS space, and to lead social change through the provision of your practice.
The numbers are in your favour too
It is estimated that the NDIS workforce will need to grow by up to 90,000 full-time equivalent NDIS job roles (FTE) between 2019 to 2023 (National Disability Insurance Scheme, 2019). The government’s approach to building this significant workforce in this short period of time is to target recruits with the right skills, knowledge, and values, opposed to just targeting specific qualifications. Here is where the vast opportunities begin to become apparent for practitioners of Leisure and Health.
Approximately 71 per cent of newly created NDIS job roles are expected to be support worker roles, 12 per cent allied health service roles, 11 per cent support coordination and social worker roles, and 6 per cent administrative and managerial roles (Australian Government, 2019). Within your diverse field of practice as a Leisure and Health workers, you have the potential to work across any of these areas, with some caveats around certain allied health roles.
Within the old service system, service providers were largely in control of supports delivered to people with a disability. Under the NDIS, participants receiving funded support can determine for themselves (in most respects) which services suit them best to reach their goals. Individuals engaging support finally have agency. As a result, we are seeing the emergence of a rich and diverse workforce where ‘the right people’ are chosen for the role, opposed to the person with the right job title.
Support work as a field of practice is a great example of this. NDIS participants are engaging the services of support workers to assist them to build their physical, social, emotional, psychological, and economic capacity and wellbeing. No doubt this type of work sounds familiar as a Leisure and Health worker. As participants build their confidence and understanding of the NDIS, they are becoming more discerning when choosing who supports them to assist with meeting their goals, needs and preferences.
Given this new type of demand, professionals from a broad range of backgrounds are being drawn to the rewarding work of a support worker, including Leisure and Health workers. Flexible funding management types under the NDIS have also helped, as support workers now have the potential to be paid commensurate with their skills, knowledge, and qualifications.
Leisure and Health workers can also make exceptional support coordinators. Many of the skills and attributes required of a Leisure and Health worker are the same as those required of a great support coordinator. These include the ability to research, plan, design, coordinate and implement supports based on understanding the person in the context of their goals, interest, needs, strengths, and abilities. Combine these skills with strong networks, industry knowledge, and the ability to think creatively and innovatively, you may have just found a new and exciting way to utilise your skills, knowledge and career in a different way.
Likewise, in the allied health space there is a much greater scope for Leisure and Health workers; including those who have chosen to diversify and specialise. When the NDIS first rolled out in trial sites across Australia, funding for allied health supports were somewhat restricted to more traditional therapy models like psychology, speech therapy, and occupational therapy as examples. Now however, both the scheme and NDIS participants are realising the tremendous value in more creative and innovative therapy models like art therapy, music therapy, and equine therapy. As empirical evidence has grown supporting these methodologies, so too have opportunities for participants to engage in these types of services.
How to be NDIS workforce ready
The NDIS and its individualised funding model has created a large decentralised workforce and an abundance of opportunity for NDIS job roles. Many participants are choosing to receive support directly in their homes, workplaces, and in open community spaces – opposed to centre based or other congregate care facilities. After all, the NDIS is about building support into everyday life to increase independence, capacity and quality of life. This means many professionals are regularly working remotely from their teams and leaders, and there is also a growing number of professionals who are moving into self-employment.
For those who are accustomed to working remotely or who are self-employed already, you know that remaining connected and informed requires purposeful effort. You don’t experience the luxury of the incidental learning that takes place when you share a close quarters working environment with colleagues. For those who choose to work with NDIS participants, being (and staying) informed about the workings of NDIS is essential. As a frontline worker, regardless of your role, you may be the only regular direct contact your participants have with a person who understands the NDIS. Therefore, they look to you for advice and guidance, even on matters that may not directly relate to your service provisions.
Keeping informed is not an easy undertaking though. The NDIS is a continually moving feast. As the largest social reform in our country’s history, the scheme will take some time to bed down. Even when it does though, because the scheme is designed to be responsive to people with a disability in the context of real world changes – take COVID-19 for example which triggered significant changes – there will always be a need to keep your finger on the pulse.
Australian Government (2019). Growing the NDIS market and workforce; supporting the market to deliver innovative, people-centred services so that participants can achieve their goals. Retrieved from https://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/03_2019/220319_-_ndis_market_and_workforce_strategy_acc-_pdf-.pdf
Department of Social Services (2016). The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Retrieve from https://www.dss.gov.au/the-united-nations-convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities-uncrpd-in-auslan-australian-sign-language
National Disability Insurance Scheme (7 August 2019). Australian Government announces funding to help deliver NDIS workforce. Retrieved from https://www.ndis.gov.au/news/3430-australian-government-announces-funding-help-deliver-ndis-workforce