Employing support workers
Many people who rely on disability support workers may find agency staff can be unreliable, expensive and not very flexible. It can be annoying having to live your life according to someone else's rules. You may want to do away with the agency and do it yourself. This may be possible in the near future through the Direct Employment initiative that is soon to be made available to Individual Support Package recipients in Victoria.
Direct Employment means the person with a disability is the employer, or
boss, of their support workers. That means they have all the rights and responsibilities that come with being an employer. Some of these include
- hiring and firing workers which includes advertising, interviewing and selecting the right people to support you. If you decide you do not want a particular person to support you anymore, you are responsible for firing them and must do so according to the relevant employment laws.
- training your workers so that they know how to support you safely and the way that works best for both you and your workers
- rostering your workers to ensure they are available when you need them. You also need to make sure that you have plans in place when someone is not able to work.
- paying your workers, the correct amount, regularly and on time. There is a minimum amount you must pay people but you can pay them more if you have enough funding. You also need to remember to pay superannuation, withhold the right amount of tax and pay that amount to the tax office by the due date.
- paying for insurance, including WorkCover.
Trial of Direct Employment
The Department of Human Services (DHS) recently released the results of a trial of direct employment. This trial included 11 people who tried directly employing their support workers, and not using an agency. The results of the trial were very positive and all 11 people felt their lives had improved. They wanted to continue directly employing their support workers into the future.
The main benefits described by participants in the trial were:
- more control and flexibility. Without an agency involved, they had more control over the shifts and could change shifts more easily. They could also make decisions that suited them rather than having to deal with inflexible rules that did not suit them. For example, they could employ staff they wanted and decide what to pay them.
- more value for money. Funding was not wasted paying for administration so people could do more with their money. Some people chose to increase the wages of their support staff, which allowed them to have a more stable team. Others were able to afford more support with the money saved.
- better support. Being able to pay support staff at higher rates and having more of a say about how the support is delivered improved the quality of care. Having full control of who was on the support team also made a big difference.
- happier lives. Participants felt their lives improved through direct employment. They felt better about themselves because they had more independence, control, and flexibility in their lives.
DHS has committed to making direct employment available to people with Individual Support Packages sometime in 2012. They have also said they will support people to learn what they need to know to do direct employment and decide whether or not it is right for them. For example, they have produced a resource guide with Fair Work Victoria that will soon be available.