Industry Insights into Disability Support Services

Do you love helping people? Why not become a disability support worker? 

Thanks to the recently established National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), health care and social assistance was expected to deliver a quarter of a million new jobs by 2024, although this was before Covid.  https://lmip.gov.au/ 

Gateways Support Services and Encompass Community Services are currently recruiting with entry-level positions in the Geelong area. More good news is that you do not need a qualification but must be eager to work alongside people with a disability trying to live their best lives.

Passion and a great attitude are all you need to get started, as Jacinta Randall from Encompass and Bronwyn Sizer from Gateways told an online industry jobseeker forum hosted by the Gordon Skills and Job Centre on 18th February. 

Recruits can often work flexible hours with shifts which fit around study, children’s school pick up times or part-time work. They can especially suit career changers, parents returning to work and tertiary students studying allied health or teaching.  

It is essential to research organisations to see which suits you best. 

Gateways Support Services specialises in managing autism and ADHD with clients aged 2 to 92 and around 60 support workers to help them reach their goals. Staff work in either the organisation’s 22 accommodation settings, people’s homes, therapy sessions or accessing in the community, so a driver’s licence, first aid certificate and the ability to work independently are necessary. 

Bronwyn began in the industry as a classroom teacher interested in helping her special needs students before training adults with disabilities then into her current role as Individual Support and Recreation Manager at Gateways.  

Encompass caters to young adult school leavers and older participants who mostly attend day programs held from 9am to 3pm on weekdays. The Programs are based in Garden St, East Geelong to The Paddock, a 7-acre urban farm in Leopold, and social enterprises in Whittington such as Homestart Preloved Furniture and two opportunity shops. They also offer weekend respite, travel groups and several accommodation homes. 

Jacinta started at Encompass as a casual support worker in the day program before taking her full-time role, including welcoming and supervising placement students from many allied health courses. 

Jacinta said, “Support workers can use any personal skills and hobbies in sessions such as knitting and crafts, gardening, baking, farm work, ten pin bowling and other popular activities”. 

“This is not just a serious, caring industry. It is a lot of fun and not just one way,” said Bronwyn.  

Both organisations welcome volunteers, which can also become a pathway to work. For anyone inexperienced and lacking in confidence, this was the perfect way to gain insight into the role while accompanying paid staff to carry out their duties, Bronwen advised. 

Although entry-level support workers do not need a qualification, basic digital literacy skills and a drivers licence are essential for both organisations. Support is offered to work out how to use online timesheets, rosters and forms, accessed on an average smartphone or tablet. 

The minimum age for staff is 18 years old, and Bronwyn suggested that you will need to be available at least five hours per week for many employers, although this can be made up of shorter shifts. 

Both organisations offer recruits mentoring and encouragement to upskill to Certificate IV in Disability, provided locally at the Gordon TAFE and through other registered training organisations, including Encompass.  

What sort of person should apply for a position? 

Someone with a lot of patience, according to Jacinta, who said, “those who made the best support workers were people who were able to stand back and only step in once help was needed”. She explained the philosophy of Person Centered Active Support, which meant that a competent staff member would not take charge and chop an onion but rather talk someone through the process or provide hand over hand steadiness to allow them to chop it up themselves if that was needed.  

“They provide just enough assistance of the right kind to enable a person to succeed, in doing all or part of a task…You are supporting an individual to live their very best life,” she said. 

Jacinta recommended watching the late Stella Young’s Ted talk entitled ‘I am not your inspiration, thank you very much,’ for an insight into the social model of disability.  

“We want someone passionate, and we get a sense of that in your cover letter,” said Bronwyn, who interviews her potential staff. She added that active listening, good communication skills, flexibility and a “can-do” attitude are assets gained through previous roles in life, including parenting and studying or working in other industries. Transferrable skills like communication, risk management, customer service were essential to highlight in your application, plus any experience candidates had with friends or relatives living with a disability. 

Gateways have a strict process that allocated scores to cover letter, resume and key selection criteria documents. All must be written and checked before submission if you hope to be shortlisted and interviewed as a suitable candidate. 

“You will be nervous, but we understand and consider that. We are quite friendly, so try to let your personality out and get your passion across. We want your personality to shine,” said Bronwyn. 

Bronwyn’s tips for a great interview were: 

  • do your research into the organisation and its goals, the NDIA and the Disability Act, 
  • choose your referees well and advise them of the position you are applying for, 
  • be on time, 
  • look presentable, 
  • bring notes if needed. 

Host Lucinda Rodrigues, a careers practitioner, said that the Gordon Skills and Job Centre offered free: 

  • assistance and review of job applications, 
  • resume, key selection criteria, transferable skills and interview workshops, and 
  • private and confidential mock interviews. 

Fully qualified counsellors were available online and over the phone. 

So what are you waiting for? Get those applications in as soon as possible! 

Further references: 
Missed the session? Don’t worry, we recorded it! – Click Here
Gateways Support Services
Gateways Website – Here
Gateways Job Opportunities – Here

Encompass Community Services
Encompass Website – Here
Encompass Job Opportunities – Here

The Gordon- Skills and Jobs Centre
March Workshops: Coming soon. Keep an eye on our website here
Email: Skillscentre@gordontafe.edu.au
Phone: 5225 0700
Book Appointment

Stella Young’s Ted talkHere

The Gordon – Certificate IV in Disability Here