What Does a Support Coordinator Do When a Participant Faces a Crisis?

Jan 31 / Tim McNamara

Crisis Management Strategies for Support Coordinators

At its core, Support Coordination is about providing guidance, building capacity, and ensuring that every Participant can seamlessly connect with the services they need to achieve their goals.

In addition to what a Support Coordinator does on a daily basis, sometimes they are also required to help Participants take action should a crisis situation occur

A crisis, in this context, is defined as a significant, often sudden, emotional or circumstantial upheaval in a participant's life.

It can range from personal health emergencies to broader social or environmental issues.

Crisis Intervention vs. Support Coordination

While both crisis intervention and support coordination aim to assist participants, they differ significantly in scope and approach.

Crisis intervention focuses on addressing immediate, acute situations requiring swift action. Support Coordination is about building the participant's capacity and resilience over time, ensuring they have the tools and support needed to navigate their journey within the NDIS framework effectively.

In crisis situations, Support Coordinators emphasise maintaining the participant's choice and control in decision-making regarding their supports. This principle is fundamental, even when the circumstances demand quick decisions.

The goal is to ensure that interventions are not just reactive but are aligned with the participant's long-term goals and preferences.

Practical Approaches to Handling Emergencies

Understanding Pre-Indicators of Crisis

Crisis management in the NDIS begins with the identification of pre-indicators. These indicators serve as early warning signs that a Participant may be heading towards a crisis. They include:

1. Chronic Disengagement from Formal Supports: This can manifest as a participant consistently missing appointments or refusing services. It might indicate underlying issues like dissatisfaction with services, personal struggles, or a change in the participant's condition.

2. Frequent Interactions with Mainstream Services: Regular encounters with services such as police, healthcare, or justice systems can signal that the participant is facing challenges that the current support structure isn't addressing effectively.

3. Risk Factors in Informal Supports: Overreliance on aging caregivers or exposure to family violence are significant indicators that the participant's environment may contribute to a potential crisis.

Early recognition of these signs enables Support Coordinators to take pre-emptive steps.

Building a strong network of connections – including with family, healthcare providers, and community resources – is essential to create a safety net around the participant.

Planning and Preparing for a Crisis

Preparing for a crisis is an integral part of a Support Coordinator's role and a topic we spend time on in Workshop 4 of our NDIS Support Coordinator Training. It involves:

  • Developing contingency plans that address potential crises, particularly for participants showing pre-indicators.
  • Empowering participants through capacity building opportunities.
  • Ensuring that the participant's choice and control remain central to all planning and intervention strategies.
  • Utilising person-centred planning to align crisis intervention strategies with the participant's individual needs and preferences.

Managing Emotional Responses & Finding Outcomes in a Crisis

In crisis situations, managing emotional responses from participants, their families, and other stakeholders is crucial. Great Support Coordinators are skilled in active listening and motivational interviewing skills, enabling them to navigate the heightened emotions and conflicts of interest that may arise during a crisis.

A key aspect of managing a crisis is being open to various outcomes, balancing the participant’s right to dignity of risk, with the necessity of managing a situation that places the person at risk of harm.

During Support Coordination Academy’s training program, Support Coordinators are taught to navigate this delicate balance, aiming to ensure the safety and well-being of the participant while respecting their autonomy and choice.

Reviews and detailed reporting is critical.

This involves reassessing the participant's needs, reviewing the action plan and risk management plan, and ensuring all interventions and outcomes are well-documented. If there is a significant change in the participant’s situation and support needs, you will likely complete a NDIS Change of Situation to request either a Variation or Reassessment of the participant’s support needs.  Managing a crisis is an evolving process that is integral to the Support Coordinator's role in providing continuous and responsive support to a participant. 

Every crisis brings a lesson.

At Support Coordination Academy, we offer either facilitated workshops or self-paced training to empower you to build your skills and understand how to learn from your experiences and to turn those lessons into strategies for success.

Explore our training programs today and redefine the way you support participants through their most challenging times.
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