APM Communities - NDIS plan - Giving Praise, Feedback and Complaints

Tom: Hi, my name is Tom. I've been getting support services for a while now, and I've certainly had my share of ups and downs. Over time, I've developed the confidence to have open conversations with my support workers and the companies they work for. I now feel like I'm in the driver's seat, I know my destination, and I can make the choices that help me get to where I want to go. As much as I like my support workers, I keep having to tell myself that they are here to do a job and that they are not my best friends. It took a while for me to realize that I'm a purchaser of a service that I can stop or change if my needs change. So, now days I speak up about what I like, don't like, and would like, in the services I receive. I've been asked to go through some of my own personal experiences with you and how small changes have helped me take control.

One of the services I receive is a ride to and from my appointments. My driver, Jimmy, is chatty and happy to share his opinions. At first, I was a bit stand-offish, letting Jimmy do all the talking. But after a while, I found myself looking forward to the ride. Then one day, another driver turned up. The silence in the car was deafening. It made me realize how much I value Jimmy. So, when he returned to work, I decided I should thank him. I explained to Jimmy how much I look forward to our ride and that the conversations brightened my day. Being this specific about what I value was a good first step. I also called his supervisor to let her know how happy I was. I was surprised by Jimmy's reaction, he reminded me that people can be quick to criticize and that he often feels like he's taken for granted. Jimmy now knows how much I value and appreciate his service. And since I've told my friends about my experience, they too enjoy his great service.

Thinking back, there was one situation where I needed to give my support worker Carol, some negative feedback. I have to admit, this was really for me. Carol kept changing the day and time she was coming over, and it was often at the last minute. She'd say, "Is it okay if I come Thursday this week instead of Wednesday?" I do like her and I realize she probably didn't know how much this annoyed me. She always had a reason, and it was generally because someone else wanted to change their time, which meant that I was affected. I knew she was trying to make everyone happy. But it wasn't working for me. This went on for some time, and I was becoming more and more frustrated with the service. At the time, I was worried if I spoke up, I might lose my supports, which I rely on so much. My Local Area Coordinator encouraged me to give Carol some feedback. So, the next time Carol rescheduled, I knew I had to talk to her about it.

I imagine the conversation going along the lines of, "You always change my times, putting the needs of others before mine, and you don't care that this makes me late for other programs." Hearing myself, I knew saying it that way was making it personal and it wasn't going to get me anywhere. So, before she arrived, I took the time to regain my cool. I wanted a solution that was going to work for both of us. I began by making sure we were alone and acknowledging how much her service helps me. Then I focused on the problem, explaining how last-minute changes to the schedule disrupted my day, and that it had happened three times a week for the last two weeks. I mentioned that I felt this needed to be addressed, and I asked Carol for an explanation. I really wanted to understand the situation from her perspective. Maybe there was something I could do to help.

Turns out, she was disappointed that I didn't say anything earlier, and upset because my needs were not being met. She thanked me for my honesty. We discussed my schedule and together we were able to find a way forward. So, the lesson here is to speak up when you are passionate about something and when you've experienced something that's not okay. There is one more situation I wanted to share with you. It's one that escalated to such an extent that I needed to make a complaint to the provider. Thinking back, the problem started with me waiting for my worker to arrive, and then, when she didn't turn up, I rang the provider, only to find out that she was off sick! When I mentioned I'd appreciate a phone call to let me know, I was fobbed off with an excuse about how busy the provider was. I didn't want to be perceived as a trouble-maker, so I let it go.

Not long after that, my service provider started to send different workers around all the time. I don't know about you, but I don't like having strangers in my house. And, with all the different people, servicing inconsistency was creeping in. They were arriving 10 to 15 minutes late, but the invoices were always billed for the full hour. I felt like I was being taken advantage of. I knew unless I addressed the issue, it wouldn't improve. But where to start? I accessed the complaint procedure on the service provider's website. This explains how to make the complaint. So I put the facts in writing, explaining how the situation impacted me. The manager met with me to discuss the issues and my expectations. Working together, the billing issues were resolved. I now have two what people with a rotating roster, which is a great solution for me. And, they committed to calling me if the shift can't be covered.

Importantly, the complaint was viewed as an opportunity to build our relationship and improve the quality of service provided. Some complaints are more serious, or you may not feel comfortable raising the complaint with your provider. In these circumstances, there are other ways to lodge a complaint, like the Australian Human Rights Commission, the National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline, and the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission. And don't forget, you can speak with your Local Area Coordinator about any issues or concerns you may have with your service. They'll help you find a solution that you are comfortable with. By using open and constructive communication, you'll shift from being a passive participant, putting up with inadequate services, to a purchaser who exercise as your rights to receive the service you need to achieve your goals.