Peter Davis is a Wellways support worker. Here he writes about what it’s like to support people under the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

I see being a National Disability Insurance Scheme support worker as an opportunity to work regularly with participants over a long period of time. The role allows a worker to build an atmosphere of trust and reliability, which best supports fulfilment of participants’ goals. It is a privilege to enter a participant’s home and get to know them as unique individuals. 

I also get to know their families and sense how the NDIS support visits have helped all the family members to achieve an improved quality of life. Parents of NDIS participants tell me the scheme has given them time and energy to do fun social things again, with their son or daughter. Previously, these parents were exhausted doing all the work that NDIS funding now enables me to do. 

The support plans have already been designed in consultation with the participants. My role is to fulfill the goals the person has chosen.  There are participants who I visit multiple times per week. For example, I take one person to craft groups, shopping, gym and church on Sundays. I also assist people with their studies, looking for work and house cleaning.  

We spend a lot of time driving around in my little Mazda 2. I let participants choose their favourite radio station. Some days we sing together inside my car when a fave track comes on. 

I’ve supported a few people regularly for nearly a year now. I use my training as a mental health worker to practice active listening to identify their strengths and wellness goals. It’s also therapeutic for participants to be able to openly talk about their life situations. I listen without feeling a need to give advice. Many people have experienced significant social isolation in the past, and it helps them to feel heard and understood.   

Sometimes it is easy to make a big difference in a person’s life, by a small and kind action. One participant loves to sing but couldn’t afford singing lessons. So, I made an audio CD of lessons from YouTube, and she uses this to practice every day. 

For some participants I may be the only person who enters their home for a whole week. I often start visits by sitting with them and having a brief chat. They usually talk about how they’ve been feeling. If someone is noticeably unwell, I have an opportunity, after the visit, to alert my NDIS coordinator about their condition. I can also assist people to consider making a phone call to their case manager or GP. My role is never to function like a case manager by organising activities and appointments for a participant. 

I try to check myself at the door at the start of each visit – just to notice how I’m feeling before a support visit and then afterwards. I do this to be mindful of the possibility of projection, where sometimes the worker may take on the emotional distress of a participant. If I notice I’m not feeling quite right after a visit, I call my NDIS coordinator for some debriefing support. 

One key attitude for a support worker is to try and maintain an even temperament. I don’t let myself get too excited, elevated, or sad during a support visit. Participants rely on workers having a constant and calm energy during visits. My even temperament allows participants to increasingly feel safe and steadily supported over time. This attitude is a bit like practicing mindfulness as a worker, which in the long run also helps me become a steadier person.

Peter Davis is a Wellways support worker. He is also COPES family peer worker with MIND. Peter has a degree in writing and publishing and dual diploma in mental health AOD.