For more than 60 years, Independence Australia (IA) has supported Victorians living with a disability or personal need.
Operating as a social enterprise, IA employs more than 880 support workers who deliver more than 500,000 hours of direct care in the areas of disability supports, aged care and allied health each year.
IA has particular expertise in the area of spinal cord injury and polio, and also supports people with complex needs across a wide range including cerebral palsy, motor neuron disease, spina bifida, acquired brain injury, multiple sclerosis, stroke and impairments linked to ageing.
Much of that support work is required on a daily basis, including one-on-one supports. Getting the right support workers in place is key.
Richard Burn, IA’s General Manager Community Solutions has been working with Newly to recruit support workers on a casual basis since 2016.
“We’d always followed the traditional models of recruitment,” he says. “It was a mix of online, agency and referrals from clients but increasingly, as we saw more verticals like Newly emerging in the digital space we knew we had to do things differently.”
In July 2018, the relationship became more formalised through a project to recruit locally around Geelong, Melbourne’s eastern and south eastern suburbs.
“Like all disability support providers in the market, capacity building is always a challenge. We often find that the need to recruit can be geographically based,” Richard says.
Working with Newly
Richard says that one of the benefits for IA is that Newly “really understands” support workers.
“While our goal is to provide choice and control for our clients, for our staff we aim to provide the kind of work that fits their own aspirations and goals.”
Typically, he says, support staff are flexible, practical, caring people who have great empathy and understanding.
“Newly has always managed to balance the corporate, commercial and personal perspectives involved.
They are very focused on the best outcomes for all parties and genuinely want their clients to succeed.”
Although it’s early days for the new IA project, Richard says they are seeing value already.
He estimates there’s been a 25 per cent increase on workforce numbers after only a few months, and says that the reduced cost of acquisition and increased speed to service delivery have been impressive.
“Newly has provided us a strategic solution and we’re already benefiting from their size, their reach and their oversight,” Richard adds. “It’s looking good.”
Disability service providers all over Australia feel the same recruitment tensions, especially in the support worker cohort.
But it’s not only the need to recruit effectively, retention is vital.
Richard Burn says that IA places major emphasis on ongoing communication and engagement – they offer free, extra training and have an informal system of reward and recognition that is very much appreciated.
“Independence Australia is a large supplier. We want to make the experience positive for our clients, our support workers and our organisation, and the processes as simple and productive as possible.
“If enterprises like ours can figure out exactly what it is they need and get their brief right, I’m sure vendors, who combine a solid digital platform with industry expertise, a responsive approach and the right attitude, like Newly, will have a valuable part to play.”