What are your main responsibilities as a Key Worker?
Educating and empowering the parent or carer of a child with a disability or developmental delay. I believe the best way to do this is by first understanding where the parents are in their journey. Each family is different; some may still coming to terms with a new diagnosis, while others may have more acceptance and be focused on therapy and education.
Key Workers need to be flexible in the support they provide to suit each family’s individual needs. For example, navigating the complexity of the NDIS can be particularly difficult for culturally and linguistically diverse families, so we work with them to make sure they understand. This could mean organising a translator. We work wherever is best for the child and the family, which could include home visits, kinder or school visits, or sometimes even meeting in a local park if it is what works for the family.
Who can be a Key Worker and what makes a successful Key Worker?
Key Workers come from a range of professional backgrounds. They may be occupational therapists, speech pathologists, teachers, physiotherapists or social workers.
I believe, first and foremost, Key Workers must be caring and empathetic and have a willingness to learn. Families need to be heard and validated as the process of getting support for your child (assessments, diagnoses and navigating the NDIS) can be extremely draining and can take a huge emotional toll on all involved.
A successful Key Worker will build confidence and empower the family. They will also be a good team player, respecting other professions and collaborating when needed, as well as being open-minded when it comes to learning new information.
What do you like the most about being a Key Worker?
I love being a Key Worker! I like how my role differs between families, which means I am constantly learning about other disciplines and areas of therapy interventions. The best part of being a Key Worker is seeing parents and carers empowered and beginning to advocate for themselves and their children.
How would you explain the Key Worker model?
We are the single point of contact for a family, meaning they won’t have to deal with multiple therapists or allied health professionals, which can often cause confusion and anxiety. Bringing some knowledge of all areas, the Key Worker can then consult with other professions to provide further information, education and skills as required.
CanChild have a great definition of the Key Worker Model, describing it as ‘a method of service delivery involving a person who works in a guide role with families. This person acts as a single point of contact for a family, helping the family to coordinate their care, not only within the healthcare system, but also across systems (education, social services, financial resources, recreation, transportation, etc.). The main concept of the Key Worker’s role is to empower parents by providing them with support, resources and information tailored to meet their individual needs.’
What is something you would like families to know about Key Workers?
We are here for you. Our aim is to work with you wherever you’re at and, because this is different for everyone, all it takes is openness and we can support you on your journey.
Maddy Tobias is a Key Worker for Gateways Support Services working across western Melbourne.
To find out more about Key Workers contact your local Gateways Support Services’ office.