Name: Phil Laidlaw
Role at SCA: Founder
How long have you been with SCA?
Julie Patterson and I started SCA in early 2016. We have been working together for about ten years now and are both very passionate about fairness for people with disability, and very keen to make sure the opportunities brought by the NDIS are realised. Quality Support Coordination can have such an important role to play in this. We saw Support Coordinators around the country struggling to understand what the role really entailed and thought we could have a really positive impact by providing support and resources that lead to good practice.
How did your journey bring you to SCA?
In terms of my background.. I am an Occuptational Therapist by trade and started my career in the late 90s in Queensland at Basil Stafford Centre – one of the last big institutions in Queensland. I arrived just after a major inquiry had recommended the centre be closed due to systematic abuse and neglect. I worked there for about four years supporting people to move out and re-start their lives in the community. That experience had a deep effect on my understanding about the way that opportunities, roles and connections have such a profound impact on our identities and how we all realise our potential.
Later on I worked for a few years as a Supports Facilitator, helping people to community and mainstream supports, source emergency funding, choose and connect to providers and then get the most out of their services. So I picked up some deep insights into how difficult and unfair the old funding system was!
It’s a real privilege to be invited into people’s lives and homes as a worker and to see how incredibly diverse people’s needs, interests, lives and circumstances are. It’s so important that the funding and support systems are flexible, and that service delivery design is never one size fits all.
After that I worked in reform and system design, and went on to do a lot of consultation and training around the NDIS – both doing contracts with the NDIA itself and with service providers gearing up for the changes.
What has been a highlight for you at SCA?
I do love facilitating training and seeing the confidence levels in the room go up. It’s usually quite tangible and that is always a highlight. As a worker, I’ve lived through system changes and new jobs and rules always create a lot of uncertainty. It’s always a highlight to help people put some of the uncertainty to the side and re-engage with the mission, creativity and possibilities of the work!
A less instant highlight but just as deep is when we hear from organisations that our tools have really helped them establish consistent, strengths based practice. We worked really hard on the tools and have refined them consistently so that they make sense and translate across diverse contexts. So it’s great to hear that they really make a difference.
Above all, through doing this work we have met a lot of really inspiring people around the country and made some lasting relationships.
What is your role at Support Coordination Academy?
As co-founders, Julie and I work together to understand way the sector is changing and what it means for providers, workers and participants. From there we ask ourselves what could we do that would be most useful? This really drives the different priorities of SCA. From that stage there is a lot of planning and design work to do.
We are thankful every day to have our awesome Operations Manager Miranda on board and we work really closely with her and the rest of our team to develop ideas, deliver training and support and cover off on the needs of our existing customers and to make sure we are offering something relevant and valuable to newer ones.
What’s one of the most memorable places you have traveled with SCA and why?
I love getting out on the road and have been through all the states and territories over the last few years. It’s been great getting out to regional centres like Sale, Albury, Wagga Wagga, and Rockhampton, But I have to say, Cairns in winter is pretty hard to top.
My shortest trip for training was one of my most memorable.. I facilitated a session on a boat on the Brisbane River at the invitation of a consortium of support coordinators. It was a great day, and I only had about a ten minute walk home!
As teams get more confident with support coordination we are increasingly doing virtual support and problem solving. So a bit less travel but a lot more reach – and it’s a nice way to feel connected to everyone and offer maximum value and impact.
Any exciting things coming up that Support Coordinators should look out for?
We are working really hard to build and contribute to support coordination communities around the country. Our mission is gradually changing from getting Support Coordinators to the starting line to supporting the deeper elements of SC practice. This is really exciting because it’s these deeper skills, ideas and frameworks that will will really make a difference in participants lives.
We also have a Health Check which is a good way for Support Coordination providers to get a quick, accurate and most importantly independent snapshot of how they are tracking in terms of staff knowledge, quality, efficiency, presentation to market and compliance. It’s a really powerful way to get fresh eyes on your business and identify changes you might need to make.
We will also be launching some e-learning in the new year which we see as a really cost effective way to bring new starters on, or target specific elements of the NDIS world.