Key Support Workers, Who Are They?
The Key Support Worker is a support worker that leads the support worker care team. They are generally a more senior worker or have a longer relationship with the participant understanding their support needs and the history of the supports. Also, they usually offer the most support hours per week or equal to other support workers and not generally less.
The Key Support Worker is the communication lead or guiding ship of an effective support team. They have built trust and demonstrated integrity with the participant through consistency and commitment of their supports over time.
A Care Team
A care team is all the support providers and workers that make up the care across a given time in a participants plan. For example, a care team could consist of a Key Support Worker, two support workers, a support coordinator, an occupational therapist, a speech pathologist, a disability employment consultant, and an exercise physiologist. Having open lines of communication, being professional, participant centred, and maintaining integrity within the care team will ultimately improve outcomes and the overall experience for the participant.
Like any team, things become disjointed if support workers and providers are not resecting and talking to one another with collaboration towards a common purpose. Essentially this is to offer the best possible care and outcomes for your participant.
The Role and Responsibilities of A Key Support Worker
So what is the role of the Key Support Worker? A Key Support Worker is a delegated team leader within the participant's support team consisting of two or more support workers. Their primary role is to maintain the integrity and direction of the supports and activity plan and the go-to person between key stakeholders, including the other support workers. They are also the lead advocate for the participant to ensure open and approachable communication channels within the care team. The care team is a valuable asset for the participant and should be continually nurtured and fine-tuned in the participant's best interests and the pursuit of plan goals.
Examples of their day to day duties include;
- Report, record, and raise any concerns in the interests of the participant. Support the participant and any plan nominee/s if they wish to make a complaint about any of the support services they receive or want to change any supports.
- Ensure the participant's needs are being met, their ndis goals are on track, and the things the participant wants to pursue are being listened to by everyone.
- Ensure the participant's choice and control is being upheld at all times. Support workers and all NDIS services providers must always promote and protect individual rights, including freedom of expression, self-determination and decision-making of the participants receiving supports. The choice includes more minor decisions about everyday living through to more complex consultation on co-design of service.
- Liaise with key stakeholders any information related to support requests from the participant or nominee/s to the plan manager, another support worker, providers, or support coordinator, for example, to action accordingly.
- Are the Go-To person to address and action any concerns raised by the participant, nominee/s, other providers, or other support worker/s. This includes raising any changes in participants behaviour or health and report to the right parties appropriately.
- Brief the other support worker/s on any alterations or modifications to the support plan, including new activities, circumstances, new service providers, or changes in the support care team. Make sure everyone is involved and feels equal but understands the purpose of your team leader role as the Key Support Worker.
- Communicating new participant requests or changes to supports to the other workers and discuss anything that may alter the delivery of their supports. Opening the dialogue of any new duties delegations with the other support worker/s, for example, a new physiotherapist commences each Tuesday starting in 3 weeks and who can provide that support. What is everyone's availability, the details, the participants' preferences, and the purpose, etc.
- Ensuring the participant's information is kept confidential at all times. Any plan details or information that is shared must have the consent of the participant or plan nominee/s. This includes the participant or plan nominee/s understanding the reason and purpose based on their requests, decision, and goal.
- Keeping a check on other support woker/s self-regulation and ensuring this is not impacting on the participant negatively. Also ensuring professional boundaries and being maintained in the interest of all parties.
- Collaborating information and obtain progress reports from all the support workers for requested plan reviews.
A Key Support Worker should recognise the strengths of the other support worker/s in the care team and have a clear picture of the participant's needs where everyone fits or if there is a shortfall in a particular area or mismatch. As support workers, we simply can't offer all things. Every support worker has their own uniqueness and qualities to provide NDIS participants. It's amazing what we can all learn from the experiences and knowledge of other people in this industry and other support workers. Support workers should be upfront and transparent of what they can and can't do, including their own service limitations, such as strenuous activity or supports that require a speciality outside of their scope and skillset. Any concessions must be fair, safe and reasonable to the participant, or the Key Support Worker should advocate an alternative in the participant's interest.
As a Key Support Worker, there will be times in the participant's (or the support workers) best interest to either expand the care team with an additional support worker or advocate for change. If the participant has a support coordinator, they should also be involved early on, and coordinate/quality check any new candidates. It can be a process and doesn't need to be rushed, but it can have numerous positive benefits with having an extra person on board or advocating for change in the participant's interest and requests. There are many potential benefits when bringing a new support worker into the care team. This includes their unique skill sets, fresh ideas, energy, different shared interests, and more variety for the participant. Sharing supports can also remove the focus from one support worker, especially when they become too dependent on one worker. Also, when someone is unavailable to a shift or sick, there is a backup option with additional support worker/s. It often becomes evident if a clear advantage could be seen for any worker addition or change. Still, this process should never be rushed. Proper consultation and professionalism with key stakeholders should occur.
The Key Support Worker should always respect the participant's wishes which should be the case for the other support worker/s. The support care team can provide professional input and options by painting a clear picture of what those options might look like to the participant and the potential benefits. Choice and control must always be front and centre, with the participants decisions honoured. The Key Support Worker should also take on board and listen to the other support worker/s suggesting changes to the support plan. This is achieved by being approachable and open-minded then validating/discussing their views and ideas on any subject about the participant's best care or support. If there is an agreeance on a clear benefit or something the participant should know about, it is essential to provide them with those options or new information.
A Support Coordinator is the best person to link provider services together, collaborate with the participant, and connect resources and information if there is one in the participant's plan. The Key Support Worker provides the glue to communicate any concerns that have been raised or highlighted by other support workers, providers, participants, or plan managers and liaise with the right parties to act accordingly. This includes collaborating with the other support worker/s important feedback of any changes with the participant or new requests. Not all plans have support coordination, so in this event, the Key Support Worker would take more of a leading role with direction from the participant or plan noninee/s. It's also crucial Key Support Workers do not take on too much to ensure they are looking after their own health and not doing things outside of support hours. All support workers need to look after their mental and physical health to offer good value to participants, so maintaining self-care is essential. All support workers should reach out to support networks to discuss any issues and provide that space needed to maintain self-regulation. This is not uncommon as a support worker or Key Support Worker. In fact, it's completely normal and vital to plug into trusted supports and reach out for help and support when we all need it.
Want to open or improve on your own NDIS Support Business and really understand how things work? Call Josh for all your needs: 0418 732 895