Contractor workforce model helping providers and participants

This Q&A is from a group interview with CEO Deanne Hartwig, Manager Quality, Risk and Safety Gill Mahoney and Registered Provider Jo Jeffrey.

Many traditional disability providers prefer to employ their staff but West Coast Homecare is making a contractor model work for them.

West Coast Homecare provides services to people with disability and aged people in their own homes. It has had significant growth since the start of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and uses an innovative contractor workforce model to manage its workforce successfully.

This Q&A is from a group interview with CEO Deanne Hartwig, Manager Quality, Risk and Safety Gill Mahoney and Registered Provider Jo Jeffrey.

Tell us about your contractor workforce model?

We facilitate the engagement of independent contractors as registered providers with the goal of building micro-businesses across small rural communities.

We encourage these individuals to develop as small business operators, employ at least one other person and build capacity for economic growth. We want them to be able to deliver local services successfully so people can remain supported in their own communities.

Under this model, contractors can focus on what they do best. The IT we make available allows contractors to use a mobile app to access work, manage their bookings, care plans, notes and submit invoices in real time and on the go.

We ensure relevant information is always accessible, as some of it can be hard to find. We are also developing e-management for business profiles, registration and business and compliance requirements.

Our online sector information, training and development portal and our Community of Practice ‘Chat Space’ are being developed to further strengthen practice standards and quality and safeguarding framework requirements.

What are the benefits of the contractor model that you follow?

We can engage contractors for the hours they want to work. We can also offer flexibility for participants. This means if the contractor or participant wants to change the service hours, they can negotiate that between themselves. We have around 74 contractors and a very flat support structure of 11 staff.

About 50% of our business growth is through word-of-mouth referrals, which demonstrates that participants are satisfied with the services. This is essential to an effective model. Even though we don’t advertise for contractors, we receive applications every week. We have been receiving lots of applications from men, which is great because many of our male participants want male carers.

What challenges have you faced?

Being in a remote area, access to qualified and skilled workforce and training is possibly the biggest challenge. Also, the extensive NDIS compliance process can be difficult for small organisations and teams.

What advice would you give to organisations considering a contractor workforce model?

Get good software that works for you, your contractors and your participants. Also, if your Board is committed to managing risk and quality—as ours is—do values-based pre-engagement screening of potential contractors and make sure they and participants are well-matched. We use such an approach through an expression of interest process. Participants are able to choose a support worker they feel best fits their needs.

Jo Jeffrey has worked as contractor for West Coast Home Care for three years, she tells us why she enjoys it:

I do some part-time work tutoring and I can fit this job in around my other commitments and be flexible to support my clients. I can take on as much or as little work as I want and choose the type of work I like to do. If I don’t like something there are always other contractors happy to meet with participants who need those services.

This model means I have regular participants and they have a consistent support worker, so we can build a relationship and get a much deeper understanding of what participants need. They feel confident seeing a familiar face every day.

If you’re interested in working as a contractor, first find a host employer that meets your needs, especially the flexibility you want.

Support resources

Check out the West Coast Homecare website.