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Hiring workers, ensuring quality

We were recently invited by the team at In Charge to contribute to a discussion around ensuring the quality of support workers when you hire directly. Click through here to read the original article from their guest contributor Ellen Fraser-Barbour, which highlights the need for safeguards and support for people with a disability looking to engage their supports more easily.

Thanks to In Charge for involving us in this important discussion – if you would like to read the full response from Mable founder, Peter Scutt, you can do so here:

In Charge does a great job challenging the myths around self-management, outlining the options available for participants to engage staff or services. The good news is that when you self-manage, you have choice about the right path for you.

At Mable, our job is to work with participants, workers and others to make self-management simple so that participants can realise the benefits of the NDIS. We do this by facilitating a direct connection between participants and a diverse pool of independent workers – providing greater choice, control and flexibility for both participants and their support workers. But it’s not only about flexibility; our model is centred on the importance of building a direct relationship between participants and their support team – whether the individuals in that team are independent contractors or directly employed by the participant. This direct relationship is not only about removing overheads – although that is one of the key benefits – but also about allowing both parties to tailor specific arrangements that work for them.

The NDIS recognises that everyone has individual goals, needs, preferences, abilities and interests. Mable is a place where you can build your community of diverse paid supports to meet this individuality. Some of the supports you will need you will find on the platform. Others you might bring to the platform from your network or community. It is this ability to customise and build your team that our clients find most empowering about using our platform.

The reduction in service overheads by hiring direct can be shared between consumers and workers, meaning consumers can pay less while at the same time workers can earn more. The significant savings for the consumer can result in more hours of support from the same funding, and the opportunity to engage additional supports specific to your goals.

This brings me to Ellen’s important points around safeguarding. As she quite rightly points out, in this wonderful new world of freedom and flexibility, who ensures measures are in place to protect those in the community?

Mable’s platform deals with this in several powerful ways:

We have core standards and requirements for workers using our platform that are industry norms. This includes, at a minimum, police checks, working with children checks if relevant, reference checks and certain qualification checks etc. Workers on our platform are also covered by comprehensive insurances that we arrange on their behalf.

Secondly, ‘peer2peer’ or ‘person2person’ marketplaces like Mable are community regulated. Users of the platform can transparently rate and review workers, who must in turn earn and maintain the trust of the community to remain effective on the platform. This important layer of accountability ensures that people who do the wrong thing can’t function in the marketplace, while also allowing great work to be celebrated and shared.

Clients have reported that this transparency goes a long way to building the essential trust that Ellen refers to, particularly in the context of a system in which quality has historically been regulated by compliance with standards and mandatory training. As our clients, have commented, compliance and training alone do not always translate into a quality outcome. When it comes to quality, each consumer is different – as Ellen mentioned, what is important to one person might not be to the next – for many consumers, the attitudes and motivations of a support worker may be just as, if not more valuable to a client than someone’s experience and qualifications.

My next point brings me to another common myth that must be debunked – the belief that independent contractors offer lower quality services than someone who is employed. The Mable model is attracting a new motivated workforce who are seeking the fulfilment, flexibility, reward and responsibility of running their own small business. Workers on the platform get to work for people who choose and value them – and they choose to work for – and they can typically earn more by being engaged directly. Those who are self-employed must take responsibility for their work, invest in building their skills and knowledge and continually delight their clients to ensure they can grow a successful business.

However, Mable is more than just a technology platform or market place. At Mable, we work closely with our community to build a culture of responsibility and promote a code of conduct amongst workers, connecting them virtually and through real world meet-ups, and collaborating with RTOs and alternative learning organisations to provide them with great ongoing development opportunities, often at discounted rates. A worker’s profile on Mable is their personal brand. It represents who they are, their interests, what they stand for, what they offer, and their accumulated experience, qualifications and feedback from clients. We encourage workers to work in teams with their clients and back each other up, and several workers on our platform offer a ‘lead support worker’ service to help clients to build and then coordinate their network of supports through the platform.

Lastly, to address Ellen’s question around the safe disclosure of issues; a crucial consideration. It is our belief that it can often be easier for consumers to navigate complaints when they have a direct relationship with the workers they choose. There are no complex complaints processes to follow or layers of management to navigate – clients can communicate with the worker on the platform, or simply choose to terminate the engagement with their worker, or they can choose to rate or review their experience. If they’re not comfortable doing so directly, the Mable customer care team is on hand to support them. Consumers, workers and the Mable team all have the same obligations when it comes to reportable incidents as guided by the Ombudsman and other relevant legislations. This approach also supports customers using the platform to build capacity in engaging in a marketplace as true consumers. Ultimately, it is the client who is in control, which is what the NDIS is all about.

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