Poor Coordination by Support Providers affects real lives

Poor communication among service providers has always been one of the worst aspects of the business. Allow me to share a personal tale.

I need to preface this blog with an acknowledgement that this is about an issue that I am personally involved in. I also want to say that I realise mistakes happen, and those are often due to miscommunication. No coordinator is perfect, but I really feel like I need to come to the defense of support workers in this instance.

On two separate occasions this week; I was left without a support worker. The first time, a support worker who was already rostered to be working with me had been double booked. The curious thing about this is that another coordinator, not my own, had booked the worker to be with another client when they were already rostored to be with me. That other coordinator didn’t bother checking with either the support worker or their fellow coordinators about if there would be any overlap. A breakdown in communication. The coordinators then blamed the support worker for the mix up – but what were they supposed to do? One person telling them one thing and another something totally different.

The result? I had no support for the entire day. It was just lucky that my partner was staying over the night before – so she kindly offered to help me with my cares.

The second occasion was even worse. A support worker had put in, and been approved, annual leave for the day. Not only was no other arrangement made, but the coordinator claimed to not be aware of the support worker being on leave. By this time, it was late in the afternoon and typically, all other options failed. A breakdown in communication.

The result? I had no support for almost two hours until something was arranged – and that something was another support worker coming in out of the goodness of their heart when they were supposed to be at home with their family.

Naturally I was furious, and I immediately complained. But it got me thinking – and I realised that this sort of thing is happening to so many disabled people who need this vital support. Calling in an agency staff (a contractor from another service) seems to be the “go to” solution when these miscommunications happen. Ok well that’s fine, but did you realise that an agency staff actually costs a considerable amount more? You’re also charged for the coordination time for all this too – even when the situation that led to you having no support is because of the coordinators screw up.

Always remember – the disability sector and especially these support organisations are a business. It’s about money just as much, if not more, than the people who need help. If you disagree then you’re not only kidding yourself, but you’re an idiot too.

Today we received an apology for what happened – and while I accept it – we need to acknowledge the fact that something really does need to change. Forget about my personal situation and look at the bigger picture for a moment. How many people do you think rely on support and how many do you think suffer the same inconsistent assurance? Make your number and then double it.

Let’s also not forget about the potential safety issue that poor coordination can have. Do these people realise how vulnerable some of their clients are? The paperwork suggests so but all that can often get bogged down amongst all the other admin duties a coordinator is lumped with – the forms and policies etc.

So how do we fix this? Better communication would be good for a start. You’ve got a contract too – the people have these disabilities for life. Does it mess up yours as much as it does theirs? With pay equity being given the green light by the Government this week; providers are about to come under even more financial pressure. At the very least, do your job right at its most basic and fundamental level.