New directions or disruptions? Digital developments in our sector

direct hire websites

Under the NDIS and its driving principles of ‘choice and control’ for people with disability, new websites that directly connect workers and clients are springing up. A bit like Uber and Air B&B, they can offer both convenience and flexibility to all concerned. NDS was keen to understand what users made of them.

Late last year, we asked people on the carecareers job board to talk to NDS about whether they were doing freelance disability work through these platforms, and what their experience was like.

We are very grateful to those who responded. People’s insights were very interesting. Several people said that websites like this could be a handy way of finding extra hours of work for part-timers – hours that they weren’t able to get from their current employer.

They also felt flexibility and control were the main advantages. A parent, who had to look after children, said she could pick up a few hours here and there. Flexibility for clients was also commented on, for example, a client who only needs a carer for one hour on a Sunday. One interviewee found that it would work well for her, as she was working 15 hours a week and could do with some more hours. As put by another interviewee, ‘you’re only tied to the workload you want.’

Having more freedom to support clients in a person-centred way was another benefit. One person said: ‘it feels like actually working for that person and for that family – not having to follow strict rules and regulations of service organisations.’

However, several people felt that the platforms weren’t as easy to use as it seemed. Some said the sign-up questions were complex and uploading documents awkward. One person had ‘given up on platforms’ and found that they had more luck finding extra work through their own reputation, Facebook network and word-of-mouth.

They were also concerned about how accessible and safe the sites were for service-users. People were concerned about whether checks were done thoroughly, and some felt connecting with someone unknown through a website is ‘fraught with danger’.

Three interviewees spoke about the stability and protection of working for an organisation. As one interviewee said, ‘when working for company, you get a good roster, regular clients – you don’t necessarily have that when you’re a sole trader or working casually – if they don’t need you, you don’t get paid.’

This is a quickly changing field. NDS will continue to monitor how the digital world of disability evolves over time.

If you have any comments or questions please contact;
Caroline Alcorso on 0422 457 002

National Disability Services (NDS)

Disability work websites come in all shapes and sizes. But there are two main types:

1. Matching platforms, like Hireup, Better Caring, Home Care Heroes and Care Support Network (we identified ten). These let people with disability connect with potential support workers, often on the basis of passion and interests as well as previous experience or qualifications.
2. Ratings sites or service directories, where people with disability can check out services and see reviews about them.

True Stories: Kathy Taylor – My one regret is that I didn’t do it sooner!

Photo of blogger Kathy Taylor

Before entering the disability sector I worked in a small goods factory for 10 years. A family member worked in the sector and suggested I try a career change and go work with him at Nexus Inc.

At first I was scared about the change, in particular the fact that someone apart from my family would be relying on me to care for them. After a gentle shove from him I bit the bullet and approached Nexus about a job. After completing a 3 week short course about community services I commenced work on the 27th November 2006.

I was allocated 3 houses to work across a on a casual basis and within 3 to 4 months I was offered a trial permanent position. This was the start of the best experience of my life.

Working with the residents is so rewarding. You feel like you can make a difference to how somebody sees themselves. It’s great going on outings, holidays and most of all just spending time with awesome people.

In 2009 I was offered a chance to try out for a House Manager position. This was something I had planned to do in the future, so when the opportunity arose I took up the position. This gave me a whole new outlook on things.

Over the time I have seen the sector grow and change for the better.

I only have one regret about entering into this sector and that is that I didn’t do it sooner!

Kathy Taylor
House Manager
Nexus Inc.
Granton, Tasmania.

True Stories: Jenny Spinak – Never thought I would end up working at Sydney Opera!

Jenny SpinakI never thought when I undertook my social work degree that I would end up working at Sydney Opera House one day.

In 2006, after spending many years working in the disability sector with both adults and children, I began working as Sydney Opera House’s Program Manager, Accessibility. The role was created as part of Sydney Opera House’s commitment to improving disability access.

My role involves managing the House’s accessibility program by overseeing its auxiliary access services and facilities, conducting regular staff awareness training, providing advice on physical building upgrades, implementing equitable ticketing policies, upgrading our website’s accessibility and customer access information, as well as creating student internship and employment opportunities.

I also organise live performance experiences for people with disability – through such initiatives as autism-friendly performances, audio-description of the opera, sensory tactile tours and sign-language interpreted performances.