Quality over growth… yet the team expands

It has been a long time between updates. A lot has happened in the past year in Veritable.

Veritable has been slowing building up its practitioner team, valuing quality services over growth. This is a very important guiding principle for us. In the end, we want to be seen as a company that promotes the best work for our clients. We have to grow in a careful and managed way to ensure we do not compromise quality services. In fact, we want to innovate and inspire as we go.

For this reason, our focus in 2021 has been on slow and managed expansion. Expansion with a strategic focus on seeking to provide the best remote behaviour support services in Australia, informed by a social work practice framework.

Fiona joined the team as a Behaviour Support Practitioner in May 2021. It is a delight to have such a skilled, competent and caring social worker with us.

Around the same time, we added Clare to the team operations, as Quality and Business Manager. Clare has helped us manage the challenges of growth (including endless rounds of service agreements) while keeping quality front and centre of what we do.

In June 2021, Chris left to pursue other opportunities. We wish him all the best on his own social work business journey, and we know his heart for great work will shine wherever he lands.

Reflecting that evidence-based behaviour support is at the core of what we do, when we learned of Joel’s skills in data analysis and reporting, we jumped at the chance to have him join our team. In August 2021, Joel joined Veritable and is also cutting a path for the provision of ‘Remote PBS’ (working even more remote from us here in Alice Springs!). When you find the right person with the right skill turns up, in remote Australia, you have to adapt to make it work.

Then, in October 2021, we were delighted to have Suzanne to join our team as a Behaviour Support Practitioner. Her passion for social justice, and her sense of humour, is unparalleled. Like our Managing Director, Suz has lived and worked in remote communities for many years and came to social work as a career and a calling later in life. In fact, Sophie and Suz first met in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands about 10 years ago.

Klara continues in the team, with her focus now shifting increasingly to the development of visual resources. We are incredibly lucky to have an ‘in house artist’ who says she has found her calling in our work. The use of visual tools across all facets of our work, and the creativity and insight Klara brings to her artworks, never ceases to amaze us.

Thank you to all who have supported us this past year, and since we established nearly 3 years ago. We are committed to bringing the best of remote behaviour support and social work to Central Australia, and defining innovate practice along the way.

Stay tuned for some photos of the team… including the many dogs of the team that each bring us joy when we down tools and go home to fill our cup.

More posts to follow… with a commitment from Sophie to update you all more often than once a year.

Beyond just setting the bar for behaviour support

I have been preoccupied of late with what it means to be a behaviour support practitioner.

Last weekend, I settled down with a cup of tea to take in the new NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission ‘competency framework’. Surely this eagerly anticipated guide would fuel my thinking, I pondered to myself.

And it was … interesting. It was somewhat reassuring. As a sole practitioner with a business mostly focussed on behaviour support, I need to make sure I’m meeting the requirements for registration.

At another level, however, it was also unsettling.

Unsettling because supporting people to better understand and address behaviours of concern is important work. Someone’s behaviour may mean that carers or staff are reluctant to leave the house with them. Anxious or unsure about how to support them in the community. Afraid they will hurt themselves.

In real terms, what this can mean for the person with a disability is that they end up leading an incredibly isolated life.  A life that gives little opportunity to learn new skills, have new experiences, to have fun, or to anticipate the day with pleasure.

If carers feel uncertain, worried or frustrated, this is not a positive support environment. We are all human. We react under stress, and make mistakes. We all will retreat to familiar (but often unhelpful) ways of responding. Ways that are usually more informed by a parent-child dynamic than one which recognises and responds to the person’s disability.

At worst, it can mean a revolving door of support for a person. For someone who needs carers that know them. For someone who needs to know their carers in order to feel safe in their environment.

Quality behaviour support provides a pathway out. It is proven way to reduce behaviours of concern. But what does quality support ‘look’ like?

To my mind, in order to deliver, the practitioner has to be highly skilled in engagement and observation. Skilled at analysing and building data systems. Able to develop robust hypotheses in new situations. Expert at identifying the right evidence-based strategies. Able to effectively meet the individual needs of carers. Adept at modifying systems and identifying areas to change and improve. Most importantly, they have to be deeply attuned to the fundamental human rights values that define the work.

They sound somewhat superhuman! I don’t claim to be all of those things I just listed. I do have my strengths. I do certainly aspire to improve. And an important part of that is recognising where I need to focus my development and seeing that through.

While each of the above skills are covered in the different competencies of the NDIS Commission’s framework, the level at which a practitioner needs to meet these standards is not set high. While I can understand that the market of practitioners needs to develop and grow in Australia, at the same time there is an incredible imperative for change.

The imperative is people who need the support. Who need a quality service at a level higher than that set in the NDIS Commission’s framework. In order to achieve change in that person’s life, the rubber has to hit the road at each point of the service.

A practitioner may be particularly skilled in analysis, but struggle to communicate their vision to others. Another practitioner may have the capacity to connect exceptionally well with support staff, but not lift their gaze above the information before them. Another person may be strong across many areas, but fail to see that the person’s quality of life has become worse.

Do we really imagine that one practitioner has all these skills? With the bar at ‘core’ competency set (somewhat) low in the NDIS Commission framework, can we take the risk with the outcome being no or poor change?

We may need to start thinking more creatively across the framework, and across the field of behaviour support. To identify levels of competency in skill sets, as well as base skills. To identify pathways towards core competency set at a higher standard, while still giving practitioners the opportunity to use their skills and develop further.

This might include building different skills sets into registration requirements. Perhaps identifying different categories of behaviour support practitioners (behaviour analyst, behaviour trainer, behaviour data clinician). Possibly create new fields of support in the NDIS price guide (‘behaviour assistants’).

These are just some late night, cup of tea musings. What drives me, however, is the knowledge of what is required to see that person out in the community, laughing, having fun.

If what it takes is that we need to expect more, and design our systems to ensure that a high standard can be met across multiple skill sets (including by different practitioners), then that’s what we need to do.