Creating a voice for the Disability Sector
Creating a voice for the Disability Sector
All you need to know about support workers

All you need to know about support workers

16 March 2022

Another often confusing National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) question is the role of support workers.

For participants who require high intensity support or participants requiring surgery or hospitalisation, can a support worker accompany them to hospital? Can support workers take a participant’s children to school? Can they help with domestic chores like cooking and cleaning? What is the difference between an independent support worker and a provider agency-run one? Can a friend become a support worker?

While the depth of their job descriptions all comes down to a participant’s goals, first, let’s understand the different types of support workers out there.

Under the NDIS Commission, a worker is classified as anyone who is employed or otherwise engaged to provide NDIS support and services to people with disability: Workers can be paid or unpaid, and can be people who are self-employed, employees, contractors, consultants, and volunteers.

Disability support workers help aged and people with disabilities with a range of daily tasks from personal hygiene facilitation, mobility support, shopping tasks, food preparation, housework tasks, and the coordination of social events.

Disability support workers may visit regularly or live-in with their clients on a roster basis if the participant requires 24/7 support.

Today, we will be looking at paid disability support workers, who chose to work in the NDIS sector, either independently (sole traders) or with an NDIS provider business.

Self managed participants can hire their own support workers with an ABN. As a self-managed participant you can use ANY provider whether they are NDIS registered or not.

When you self manage your NDIS Plan, you can hire a support worker to help you achieve the goals set out in your plan.

You can:

  1. Engage the services of a care company who provides you with a support worker of your choice OR
  2. Find and then hire an independent support worker as a contractor if they have an Australian Business Number (ABN)

Plan managed participants can also hire their own support workers with an ABN.

It is often misunderstood that as a plan managed participant you can use ANY provider whether they are NDIS registered or not.

The ONLY features of plan management that are different from self management are that:

  1. The plan manager handles the financial side of things and pay your bills and
  2. You cannot pay a support worker more than the NDIS price guide hourly rate

When you plan manage your NDIS plan, you can hire a support worker to help you achieve the goals set out in your plan.

You can:

  1. Engage the services of a care company who provides you with a support worker of your choice or
  2. Find and then hire an independent support worker as a contractor if they have an Australian Business Number (ABN)

If you are National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA)-plan managed, you are able to choose from a range of NDIS-registered providers only. The NDIA will manage your book-keeping and records of your spending.

What qualifications do you need?

All Australian disability support workers must be double-vaccinated against COVID-19.

According to the Australian Government, to work in the care and support industry, you will also need a worker screening check, which requires a police background check. 

There is also a national NDIS Worker Screening Check for people who work with participants of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). This is conducted by the Worker Screening Unit in the state or territory where a person applies for it.

States and territories have different requirements for obtaining approval to work with vulnerable people, such as Working with Vulnerable People (WWVP) or Working with Children (WWC) checks.

Standard qualifications

For care and support workers, there are no minimum standard qualifications for entry-level work. However, particular roles and organisations may require you to have formal qualifications.

Common qualifications

There are many courses you can undertake that will give you qualifications relevant to care and support work. These can unlock new career paths, strengthen your skills and may be required for entry into some positions.

Read more about these courses on the My Skills website. These include:

  • Certificate III in Individual Support

    This Certificate III is a common, nationally recognised qualification for people entering the support sector.

     Good for: Working with people with disability, working with older people, working with veterans.

  • Certificate III in Allied Health Assistance

    This qualification gives you the skills you need to provide assistance to allied health professionals.

    Good for: Working with people with disability, working with older people, working with veterans.

  • Certificate IV in Allied Health Assistance

    This qualification advances your skills in providing therapeutic and program-related support to allied health professionals. 

    Good for: Working with people with disability, working with older people, working with veterans.

  • Certificate IV in Disability

    The next step in your disability support career, this national accreditation gives you the skills you need to meet the unique needs of people with disability and help them to achieve their goals and greater levels of independence.

    Good for: Working with people with disability, working with veterans, management roles.

  • Certificate IV in Ageing Support

    This gives you the skills and training to provide specialised support for older people in a range of settings.

  • Diploma of Community Services

    This provides more advanced skills for people involved in managing, coordinating and delivering person-centred services. This may still involve direct support, but will also involve management and supervisory tasks.

Other requirements

As a care and support worker, you may need to meet other requirements such as completion of:

  • A First Aid Certificate
  • National Police Check
  • Working with Children check
  • Working with Vulnerable People check
  • NDIS Worker Orientation module
  • NDIS Worker Screening check
  • Department of Health infection control module

If you need training to become job ready, or need financial assistance to obtain a qualification to enter the care and support sector, you may be able to access government support.

How much will I be paid?

The average support worker salary in Australia is $61,834 per year or $31.71 an hour.

Entry-level positions start at $55,623 per year, while most experienced workers make up to $79,094 a year.

The NDIA sets the prices that providers charge participants and sets out bench marks for what providers can charge. Each provider must agree the price for each support with each participant.

However, rates vary widely between agency-run support workers and sole traders, or independent workers and there are many factors which affect the rate of pay.

Support workers employed through a provider have superannuation, insurance and tax factored into their rates by their employer, for example, whereas independents (for example Mable, HireUp) must provide or pay their own super, insurance and taxes so their hourly rates will be higher.

Also, the hours of shifts (weekend work and sleepovers, for example), the location of shifts (transport costs) and the complexity of the participant’s needs also may change hourly rates and additional costs.

Also, the level of care required affects the pay scale.

There are now three levels of price controls as follows:

  • Level 1 – for standard supports
  • Level 2 – for high intensity supports
  • Level 3 – for very high intensity supports

Price controls are linked to the skill level of the worker who delivers the support, in line with the Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Industry Award 2010 (SCHADS Award).

Are there any role restrictions?

According to the NDIS Code of Conduct Guide, support workers have an obligation to:

  1. Act with respect for individual rights to freedom of expression, self-determination and decision-making in accordance with applicable laws and conventions
  2. Respect the privacy of people with disability
  3. Treat participants with Provide supports and services in a safe and competent manner, with care and skill
  4. Act with integrity, honesty and transparency
  5. Promptly take steps to raise and act on concerns about matters that may impact the quality and safety of supports and services provided to people with disability
  6. Take all reasonable steps to prevent and respond to all forms of violence against, and exploitation, neglect and abuse of, people with disability
  7. Take all reasonable steps to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct.

Participants often ask if support workers - who are familiar with the specific needs of the participant - can accompany them to hospital during procedures or treatment.

While the NDIS will not typically fund support workers to help participants while they are in hospital, the Scheme may fund reasonable and necessary support to give specific training to help hospital staff communicate with you if you have complex communication needs.

Registered NDIS providers must ensure that key personnel and other workers in certain types of roles have a worker screening clearance that meets the requirements of the NDIS Practice Standards.

This helps ensure that key personnel and workers in these roles do not pose an unacceptable risk to the safety and wellbeing of NDIS participants.

Requirements relating to worker screening form part of the NDIS Practice Standards. Registered NDIS providers in all states and territories are required to comply with all of the relevant NDIS Practice Standards.

The requirements relating to worker screening are set out in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (Practice Standards – Worker Screening) Rules 2018.

Disability support workers and providers deliver valuable services to NDIS participants.

From help with household tasks and transport to appointments, to someone to talk to and social activities - the work of a passionate, dedicated support worker cannot be understated.

If you feel this is a career you want to pursue or would like to find out more about this growing disability industry, talk to a support worker or a provider in the sector about their experiences.

Many providers hire workers and provide training, so that is something worth checking out.

Otherwise, check out Guide to Becoming a Disability Support Worker in Australia for more information.


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