There’s never been a better time to become an independent Support Worker.
It’s been predicted that there will be a 15% increase in job growth for Support Workers in Australia over the next 5 years. And aside from being in hot demand, becoming a disability Support Worker offers a meaningful, challenging career that’s different every day.
Top all this off with the freedom to be self-employed and you are onto a winning situation. Meaningful, flexible work—what more could we ask for?
In this article, we’ll discuss what it takes to become an independent Support Worker and to whom this line of work is best suited. We’ll also cover the advantages and disadvantages of being self-employed or subscribing to a regular, employed gig.
What Exactly Is An Independent Support Worker?
A Support Worker is a person who offers care and support to people living with a disability. The care offered may be physical, such as bathing or getting to the car, or emotional, such as talking through the complexities of making friends. Disabilities can be physical, intellectual or psychosocial in nature, each requiring different types of support skills.
Doing this job independently means you find your own work and have the freedom and flexibility to craft your own hours and your own income, and pick the clients you work with.
What Makes A Good Support Worker?
Support Workers come in all shapes and sizes, but many of them share the following attributes:
- Emotional resilience
- A kind and sympathetic nature
- Patience and understanding in tough situations
- Interest in getting to know people from all walks of life
- A friendly disposition and genuine interest in the well-being of others
Sound like a description of you? Perhaps a career as a disability Support Worker would bring you the satisfaction of rain in a drought.
Traditionally Employed vs Self-Employed Support Work
Support Workers can choose to be employed directly by an organisation or they can work independently as self-employed sole contractors. Both options come with a list of benefits and disadvantages. The right decision will probably boil down to your personality type. Being a self-employed Support Worker is a great match for someone that likes the flexibility and freedom and would enjoy the power of crafting their own client list, income and schedule.
Advantages And Disadvantages Of Being A Self-Employed Support Worker
|✅ Advantages Of Independent Support Work||❌ Disadvantages Of Independent Support Work|
|Flexibility to work with people that feel like a good match to your skills and personality||You will need to actively seek out your own work. Using an online platform like Kynd can help you find consistent work.|
|The chance to meet with people you are caring for prior to commencing a contract|
You will need to arrange and manage your own tax and super. The good news is, that’s not as hard as you may think.
|Autonomy to decide what services you do and don’t offer|
|The ability to set your own rates with the opportunity to earn more|
|Full control of your work hours|
|The opportunity to be your own boss, deciding when you have holidays, which days you work, how much super you pay yourself and more.|
Advantages And Disadvantages Of Being A Traditionally Employed Support Worker
|✅ Advantages Of Traditionally Employed Support Work||❌ Disadvantages Of Traditionally Employed Support Work|
|There is no need to seek out work yourself||Little freedom to choose who you care for|
|Potential for annual leave and sick pay||Set rates of pay that usually don’t have flexibility|
|Automated tax or super payments||Fixed contracts|
|Rigid work hours|
|May not have the freedom to choose what services you do and don’t offer|
Do I Need Specific Qualifications?
The qualifications and requirements of becoming an independent Support Worker can depend upon who you are working with.
For example, some clients might seek out an independent Support Worker with a Working with Children Check (WWCC), whereas others might like a Diploma Of Counselling.
In most circumstances, you will be required to have a Police Certificate and First Aid Certificate at a minimum. Additional qualifications are typically optional but can help secure more specialised work.
Some of the Support Worker qualifications that could help you stand out from the crowd in an independent marketplace include:
- A Certificate III in Individual Support
- A Certificate IV in Disability
- A Bachelor of Education
- A Bachelor of Nursing
- A Diploma Of Counselling
- Working with Children Check (WWCC)
What Type Of Services Should I Offer?
There are so many ways you can help people living with a disability as an independent Support Worker. The services will largely depend on the type of disability at hand.
For example, someone living with an intellectual disability may have very different support requirements than someone in a wheelchair.
As an independent Support Worker, you can have the flexibility to choose what services you do and don't offer.
Example - When using Kynd you may choose not to offer exercise and fitness assistance, or you might choose to focus only on social assistance and meal preparation.
Some of the services you may offer as an independent Support Worker include:
- Personal care, such as help with getting dressed or taking a shower
- Help in the home, such as cleaning up, doing a load of washing or pruning the garden
- Social assistance, such as going to special community events or help making friends
- Exercise and fitness, such as taking a walk or participating in a Yoga class
- Health and wellness goals, such as swimming at the beach or reassessing dietary habits
- Meal preparation, such as grocery shopping or assisted feeding
- Therapy assistant, such as help with speech or partaking in physio programs
- Mentor and life skills such as help with studies or setting goals
- Travel and transport, such as assistance getting around from A to B
How Do I Set My Hourly Rate?
Choosing your hourly rate as an independent Support Worker can be a little bit daunting. You’re likely to start wondering what is actually fair, what you are worth and what your rates need to cover. Before long you might find yourself in a cloud of confusion, punching away at a calculator without any sense of certainty whatsoever.
The best place to start for some guidance is the NDIS Pricing Arrangements and Price Limits, which will at least give you some maximums so you know the top tier of Support Worker rates.
From here, you can start considering your special skills, qualifications and offering.
For example, if you have a Certificate IV in Disability and you’re willing to offer all the services under the sun, then you can probably keep your rates towards the high end.
If you’re coming to the party with limited experience, no qualifications and there are only a handful of services you feel confident you can offer, a lower hourly rate is probably more suitable.
Tip - If you’re using Kynd, you can chat with members directly and set a price you both feel comfortable on. You may find different circumstances require a different fee.
Do I Need Insurance?
You bet you do. Being an independent Support Worker is a serious gig in which you become responsible for someone else’s well being. You are likely to face challenging decisions, unavoidable risks and unexpected complications. So insurance is a must.
Disability Support Worker insurance is part of the Kynd package, bundling up both Public Liability insurance and Personal Indemnity insurance.
Even if you’re the most thorough, cautious person you may find yourself needing to make a claim. Best not take the risk.
The Importance Of Being Organised
As an independent Support Worker you will need to get yourself a good diary and a strong frame of mind. Before long you may find you have a busy schedule of work and meetings to keep on top of.
With time you are likely to build up a structure of regular clients and find your weeks have a predictable rhythm if that’s something you seek.
You will also need to keep good records of your spending, earnings and travels in preparation for tax time and paying super. But don’t fret, managing your tax and super is surprisingly simple. And given the benefits of working independently, well worth any trouble.
Where Do I Find Work?
Although most careers still inspire traditional methods for finding work—such as using seek or relying on word of mouth—Support Workers are fortunate to have many avenues available on their work hunt.
Using an online platform like Kynd is an easy way to access an abundance of work opportunities with a few taps and swipes.
Kynd gives you the tool kit to find and manage NDIS clients with ease. Learn more about becoming an independent Support Worker on Kynd here.