NO MORE CHOCOLATE CAKE

I’m writing to inform you of changes to the pricing structure within NDIS and the implications for families and Interchange Outer East (IOE). They will mean significant changes to how we price and invoice all groups and, how we operate, price and invoice recreation services. 

These changes are challenging; first to comprehend them and secondly, the affect they will have on the essence and culture of IOE. Whilst we have always operated within the guidelines of pricing or funding amounts; we have always worked collectively to ensure as many families as possible were able to access the support and services needed. It was important that we treated all families and individuals equally with dignity and respect. We shared the resources we had and squeezed them as hard as possible to maximise opportunities for people involved in our services. If we needed to do the extra (meetings, spending time on the phone, catch ups) to ensure it worked for all, that was what we did. It was based on developing relationships and a sense of partnership. 

Times have changed and whilst the positives of NDIS can be objectively defined, the reality of enabling economists to design the scheme is having an effect. Now the NDIS is rolled out, phase 2 begins: Reducing the NDIS spend, independent assessments, actuarial costings, and the ultimate indignity – turning people into economic units. Now, we as an agency are encouraged to think of families and people as widgets and the more widgets you process the more income you receive. The more efficiently you can deal with the widgets, the greater your margin. You can make money from the widgets in the NDIS which is the why there are many for-profit companies and sole ABN traders working the system – money! 

The changes: 

From 1 July 2021 the NDIS will be removing group based prices from their price guide. Whilst they are making this change under the guise of improved transparency it seems more likely that this step is being undertaken because they: 

  • have no idea of what goes into group based pricing; 
  • don’t like groups; and 
  • wish to transfer the responsibility for pricing from their remit to families and providers. 

With no pricing structure for groups the NDIS will continue to set the 1:1 price for support costs. This price includes the face-to-face support and the administrative functions including booking and rostering of staff, training and education, payroll processes, supervision, payment claims, etc. 

For group based support the NDIS require organisations to divide the number of participants in the group by the number of staff, e.g. three participants, one staff = 1:1 support cost divided by three).

In addition to the support cost they have introduced three additional pricing structures to be implemented to cover the costs of providing group based services. 

1. Non-face to face charges 

These charges are costs incurred by organisation in the running of group based supports. They may include activity planning and booking, activity set up and pack up, development and maintenance of support information as well as medication, team meetings to support an individual’s participation and outcomes, purchasing of tickets, emergency management plans, etc. These charges will change in accordance with the level of work involved in setting up the service. For example a group that goes swimming at the same pool on the same day and time each week will have less non face-to-face charges in comparison to a community access program that attends a different venue each week. 

2. Capital Charge 

To cover the cost associated with the provision of a venue for the activity. For example, the cost of a campsite for a weekend, hire of a hall to provide an activity, rent on a building used as a base for activities, etc. 

3. Program of Support 

Provides a series of activities within a set period (maximum 12 weeks) and provides a cost for each activity. This assumes people sign up for all the activities offered within the program of support. It removes the cancellation component of the service enabling the group to continue irrespective of people being absent from some of the activities. For example, if we offer a 10 week swimming program as a program of support you commit to all 10 weeks of the program. If you cannot attend one week, you will still be charged as if you attended. This brings them into line with how most community run groups operate; pay by the term. 

At this stage we are unsure about how the use of STA for 24 hour + services will be affected by these changes. Given the STA price incorporates a capital charge and possibly some non face-to-face charges (the NDIS do not disclose this) we will have to wait for further details. However STA bookings can be incorporated into a program of support and that will affect our recreation and House Intensive services in particular. 

What does this mean? 

  1. Day services and House Intensives will become programs of support 
  2. Invoices will be different. Broken into: 
    1. Support costs 
    2. Non face-to-face costs 
    3. Capital costs (if applicable) 
  3. Recreation services will need to be totally redesigned to move towards permanent groups as a program of support rather than an activity-by-activity application process (except school holiday programs). 
  4. If we need to do the extra bits (care plan meetings, team meetings, letters, reports, etc.) to make the service work – we now need to charge to ensure we remain viable. 

No More Chocolate Cake? 

Whilst it relates to the need to charge for the extra bits, we always had the capacity and ability to waive fees and costs because it was important for us to support families first. 

  • Can’t afford the camp fee for your three children? 
  • Can you bake instead? 

Chocolate cake economics worked well for me – at one camp we ended up with nine chocolate cakes. Whilst my blood sugars thank the NDIS I hope we can get back to a service system that is less based on cash and more based on providing people with the support they need. 

And more chocolate cake! 

Regards, 

Fred Brumhead, CEO
Interchange Outer East 

Fred and his dog Gordon

2021 – FRED’S MESSAGE

Welcome to the new year. We can but hope that 2021 brings with it more opportunities and choices than the previous year.

2020 wasn’t all bad – my dog loved it! Gordon’s year consisted of a morning walk, breakfast, sleep, mid-day walk, sleep, dinner, evening run, sleep … repeat. There was a lot of pats, lots of meeting the neighbourhood dogs and lots of exploring new places.

My other 2020 highlights included the ranting Italian mayors yelling at their citizens to be safe, the random acts of kindness of people helping out – like the man who set up a grocery store at home so mother (who has dementia) could continue her usual routine. Then there was the person who went into a toy store in Brisbane and paid off all the lay-by debts ($16,000) in time for Christmas. The applause of health care workers at the end of their shifts in Spain; the singing in the streets in Italy; the distanced street dancing in England and the driveway ANZAC remembrance in Victoria.

2020 was a year where we discovered Zoom as a tool of connection. We had a 90th birthday and Christmas that zoomed family in Hong Kong and Queensland to include them in the celebration. Netflix did well; many discovered Schitt’s Creek as the best redemptive ‘hero’s journey’ tale ever told. We saw some hope for the future; South Australia was totally powered by solar energy for 24 hours. Then, a few days later 24 hours totally powered by wind turbines!

Adapt and Overcome

At IOE we witnessed the great work of our support workers continuing throughout the restrictions – dressed in their PPE space suits, their commitment and willingness to support families eased the challenges for many. We had our frequent flyers who flew to Orlando only to have the pandemic announced the day they left. They had a one day holiday then another flight back. Our group based programs ceased and the capacity to morph the service to provide connection with peers on line was a great achievement. We brought ‘rec-in-a-box’ packs, live music, Dungeons and Dragons and more into family homes. We witnessed leadership. Through coordinators supporting workers and families to navigate the challenges of COVID-19, to team leaders ensuring regular communication and connection with all team members and teams coming up with new ideas and ways to support people and families.

The Year Ahead

So to 2021 and whilst the world news to date hasn’t been great, we can but hope that we continue to achieve and enjoy whatever the year brings. There is hope that corrupt, racist, populist right wing governments have had their day; that there are more leaders that take responsibility rather than blame others; and that the essence of humanity (kindness, fairness and justice) continues to rise above the selfish, blame based culture that has been so much part of the mainstream discourse.

At IOE we are looking to start the year with a return to some group based services. Our camps and recreation groups are back, we are planning for activities – adult day service, Family Camps, sibling support, carer support groups, etc. all to return, albeit under the guidelines of COVID Normal. We may have to wait a little longer for all services to return but the anticipation will bring greater satisfaction!

2021 will bring what it brings. We will adjust, adapt and continue to focus on what we do … sort of exciting really!

Cheers,

Fred.

RULES FOR LIFE; PANDEMIC EDITION

I was told it was about time for another CEO’s blog and given a suggested topic:
What I’ve learnt living and leading an organisation through a global pandemic
Blimey, thanks Faye! OK, here goes. I have some rules which I stand by whenever something difficult comes up; and a global pandemic rates right up there as difficult!
  1. Find someone to blame
  2. Find someone else to follow it up
  3. Ignore it
However, a global pandemic, creates some specific challenges to this approach. First, there is no-one to blame (in spite of ‘stupid‘ blaming everybody). Secondly, we literally all have to address this and finally, it’s very hard to ignore!
So with great reluctance I have sort of had to do stuff and yes, I have learned some things:
  1. There is a real problem having your pantry and fridge within a few steps of your workplace;
  2. Zooming with children can make you motion sick;
  3. Our dog has developed an over attachment disorder;
  4. Without driving to work my podcast library is out of control;
  5. People have learned to appreciate the art of walking; and
  6. This room needs a paint!
Beyond that, living with and leading an organisation through a global pandemic is really the same approach people should have to living and leading an organisation without a global pandemic. So here are my Rules for Life; Pandemic Edition:
  • Surround yourself with good people.
  • Find people who are smarter than you and work with them.
  • Understand what may happen, what the issues are, and what is most important.
  • Appreciate that people will respond in many different ways.
  • Act in good faith.
Whatever actions are decided upon ensure that they meet the following three criteria – be kind to all people, protect those that are vulnerable and be fair. Ultimately if you follow this approach you will get most things right and those that you stuff up – own it, apologise, fix what you can and move on.
Strange and significant events have occurred and will occur again. The strength of an organisation like Interchange Outer East is always going to be the collective team of people who work together to support families and each other through any disruption. Leadership is the process of allowing that to happen.

Cheers,
Fred.

THE NEW NORMAL

Almost three weeks of the new normal and this working from home gig has its benefits. No commute. If I forget my lunch (most days), I just walk into the kitchen. When seeking a distraction I just play with the dog. There are no children in my house so it’s all quite peaceful really. I can hear the muted tones of Monash University online in the background (my niece is staying with us – our dog attends many of the lectures!) and with Jules spending her days in the garden (online playgroups are not happening) it means I have a very peaceful and serene workplace.

I compare this peace with some of the sounds I hear and see when talking and zooming with co-workers. WWE bouts live in the lounge room, wall decorating behind mum during a Zoom session, unrelenting screaming and giggling in the background, co-workers being shot with Nerf guns whilst trying to be attentive, staff being used as climbing frames now that playgrounds are off limits, and I love the …’will you guys just be quiet, can’t you see I’m on the phone!’ or the ‘go annoy mum she’s trying to work too!‘ rants in the middle of conversations.

It has been a busy few weeks and I feel for all our families, volunteers and staff dealing with the additional challenges. I have been really proud of the way staff have adapted and accepted that we need to do things differently and that what they are doing now isn’t necessarily what they signed up for. Given the situation the response from staff has been brilliant and families have been able to continue to access the support they need. We made a commitment to all that we would get through this challenge together without leaving anybody behind and we are working hard to make that happen.

To all our support workers, I want to thank you for all you have done for families. Coordinators, plan managers and all office based staff – juggling work and home life whilst ensuring families are able to access support, have been brilliant. In the background have been our finance and admin people that have ensured that IOE can keep working and ensuring people get paid.

There is other work happening that we hope will be rolled out in the near future. Online social group opportunities and other online options are being developed. It might be nice to have a virtual overseas trip, a road trip or a camp, to connect up with friends or other carers whilst doing a yoga or exercise class. The options are endless and we hope to be bringing them to you soon.

Easter is nigh and I wish everybody all the best at this time. Just watch out for the Easter Bunny, I’m not sure how that works with social distancing, visiting all those homes! So be sure to arm your children with alcohol spray to clean any eggs that may land in your vicinity.

Cheers,

Fred

2020 AND BEYOND ,,,

Alexander Pope: “to err is human, to forgive divine …”   I have been pondering how we are traveling along the road of good intention as poetically described by Mr Pope in the 17th century. Sometimes I think we live in a world that demands accuracy and we are becoming less tolerant of people making mistakes. Yet at other times we accept people choosing not to err but to downright lie and not seek forgiveness but perpetrate the myth…and getting away with it, and still being supported!

We live in a technological age that can check for accuracy. Now while sport is a game, there is this focus on ensuring that human error is eliminated. VAR, DRS, Goal review systems and other technologies are introduced to ensure that truth prevails in sport. This is technology trying to turn art into science … colour by numbers rather than accepting the imagination and interpretation of the person doing the drawing. I yearn for the much loved dodgy decisions made by people in sport. It may affect a moment in time but it all works out in the wash. “Analogue” decision makers (aka people) can be creative, have a bit of fun, and even do a little good. I remember an umpire giving a free kick to a kid in a football game for absolutely no reason except that he hadn’t had a kick and his opponent was too good.

At the same time we demand accuracy in sporting decisions, we accept and support leaders who tell lies, perpetuate myths, claim fake news and even attack young people who have the temerity to say … hey its getting a bit wild in the climate area – why don’t you do something? Are we too focused on achieving divinity that we just accept our leaders talking tripe and forgive them? Is world leadership and diplomacy not as important as Carlton being given a goal when it hit the post? Do we hold a goal umpire more accountable than the so called leader of the free world? Where is the technology holding elected bullies to account?

As much as some would like a technological solution (I don’t) for the worlds “errs” it will always be imperfect. Humans will make errors. Interchange aims to offer a human service that gets it right most of the time, however if we were to aim to totally eliminate errors, it would only serve to eliminate service, creativity, flexibility and humanity from the agency. I want Interchange to give a dodgy free kick here and there. Moving into 2020 we will make mistakes, we will own our “errs” and continue to improve.

My only hope is that our world leaders will own their “errs”

I wish all a great holiday period and a happy new year.

Cheers

Fred

30 YEARS AGO …

We dug into the IOE archives and came up with our CEO Fred Brumhead’s first ever report for the 1989 Annual General Meeting. IOE was a very different service back then. Interchange had been built around sharing the care of children with disabilities and in 1989 the Volunteer Host program was the sole program area. Already Fred’s vision of  growing services to meet families’ changing needs, is evident in this first report. As is the importance he places on supporting families.  30 years on the change in scope of services provided by IOE is immense but the values and vision remain unchanged.

Interchange Outer East Annual General Meeting 21 September 1989 – Coordinator’s Report

The Interchange program has undergone many changes over the past twelve months. The Program numbers have ranged from 45 matches to 25 and seem to be settling at about 35 matches. There are 115 registered families involved in the Interchange program, a drop of 8 from last year. Yet while everything seems to be dropping (except for the waiting list) I feel strongly that the program is in a sound position to gain and develop to meet the needs of families and children with special needs.

From 1 October 1989 the funding for the Interchange program will be transferred to the Home and Community Care Program (HACC). The outcomes of this change are still being negotiated, however it is anticipated that the changes will be positive and supportive of the program.

In the 4 months I have been with Interchange I have come to appreciate the benefits and frustrations of such a program. The fun part is meeting the families and, although this has meant overdosing on caffeine and biscuits, it has been most rewarding. When I began this position, all I could see were names floating on a sea of paper. Now, having met most of the families I can appreciate why the program can be of such benefit to both Host and Natural families.

The major priority for Interchange is to consolidate. To get the program into a position where the matches are running well, and suitable structures of support and communication between families and myself are clear. Other matters requiring attention are: the recruiting of new host families, the recruiting of new Committee members, seeking supplementary funding for the program and the development of new programs to meet new and changing needs of families.

The support I have received since beginning this job has been fantastic. From Margaret Curtis in the office to Hanna (first child I matched), everyone has been encouraging and helpful.

So to the Committee, Margaret C, Cheryl (OIDS), Sandra (KSS) and all the families, Thank You
Fred

RESPECT – CALL YOURSELF WHAT YOU WANT

I once worked for the Mentally Retarded Citizens Welfare Association and I can clearly remember when Scope was the Spastic Society. There were ‘wogs’ and ‘chinks’ at my school. At that time I thought these titles and words were wrong. They were disrespectful and enabled generalisation and assumptions about all who fell under those banners. At university it was hammered into students that ‘person first and description second’ was the only polite way to go. Terminology was changed to ensure that words which had been appropriated as abuse were no longer used. ‘A person with an intellectual disability’ or ‘a person with Cerebral Palsy’  were considered the correct terminologies.

So it has been somewhat challenging to see the development and revisiting of how we should refer to people within the community of the neurodiverse. The terminologies ‘autistics’ and ‘autistic people’ have become more common in language now, particularly within the community of people with autism. They argue that the term ‘person with autism’ likens the autism to a handbag that can be picked up and put down as required, rather than an acknowledgement that autism is a description of neurodiversity. It’s not bad nor good, it just is.

The issue is when words are imbued with other meanings. When words become culturally appropriated as terms of abuse, the use of such terms in polite society is enough to cause the ‘pearls to get a good clutching’. Retarded, spastic, wog, chink are (or were) terms used to put people down. The only reversal of that has been the appropriation and redefinition of the term ‘wog’ which has been reclaimed by people of southern European descent and worn as a badge of honour and distinction.

Perhaps ‘autistic’ is yet to gather abusive status.  I do know of one young lady who was suspended from school for delivering a right hook to some kid that called her a ‘stupid autistic’ (was the punch delivered for the ‘stupid’ part?).  Suspension? I think she should have got a medal … and a suspension!

Perhaps the people with autism are keen to develop the superpower notion of neurodiversity. Whatever it is, I think the important thing is RESPECT. Call yourself what you will, but that is your choice alone to make.

For a non-wog or spick, intellectually diverse, movement diverse, neurodiverse person I think I will call you by your name. You can call yourself what you want but I can only respond with your name (if I can remember it) or collectively as a group of people with superpowers/Xmen (or should that be Xpeople).

Food for thought

Cheers
Fred

WHAT’S NEXT – A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE

Sitting writing a Christmas or end-of-year piece of ‘wise’ thoughts it’s natural to reflect on the year that has just about passed. Unfortunately doing this at the end of the year does a disservice to everything that happened in the first 11 months. I figure it’s the same cognitive function that enables people to have more than one child. As time goes by it all seems fine. Perhaps it’s a function of age and I literally cannot remember what happened.

Reaching back into the, albeit murky, sands of time, it turns out lots of stuff has happened both the good and not so good. From an Interchange point of view, the year provided us all with the joys of NDIS, but also lots of new creative and fun adventures. From my perspective the inaugural carers retreat, the family camps, Sport 4 Fun, Boys 2 Men and the ASD leadership program have been high points of the year. It has also been a year when I have developed a new appreciation of working in partnership with other organisations that share interests and are focused on doing things that support people well. Different Journeys, The Misfit Project, Achieve2B, Carers Hub and Spot On Travel are a few of the organisations that I have worked with across the year.

So what is next? For Interchange it’s a constant process of working to improve the support we offer families, continue to create more and varied opportunities for people, and to revere the benefit of ‘niceness’ to people.  For myself, whilst I don’t make new year type predictions, I do like to think about what I want to do …

  • Be with the people I want
  • Improve, challenge, push myself
  • Learn about stuff
  • Invite Adventure
  • Keep my mouth shut – listen

It is the season when that spooky elf travels around the house and we prepare for a couple of weeks of gatherings of the clans. Whatever this time of year brings, I wish you all the happiness and joy that you  deserve. Be kind to yourselves and enjoy.

Fred