What Makes a Good SIL Organisation Great? 

With a new year on the horizon, it’s time to take a moment to reflect, refresh and look ahead at what a great Supported Independent Living organisation looks like to inspire our work and focus as we move into the new year. We’ve plenty to reflect on, given our experiences over the past five years, and we’d love to share what we learned.

We always aim high in our organisation, so we asked ourselves: what makes a good SIL great? We whittled down the answers and two significant elements emerged as critical for making the leap from good to great.

  • A Huge Heart
  • Competency

These elements sparked some further thoughts to explore:

  • How do you find the heart of an organisation exactly?
  • What does competency in SIL organisations (including management, care, people, health, goals and property) look like?

Hearts and Competencies are Key to Finding a Long Term Happy, Healthy Home

Private enterprises, Not–for–Profits, Social Enterprises…there are many organisations out there in SIL Land. But who makes the decisions? Do those people actually have the relevant understanding and experience or qualifications for such decision-making? What are their goals?

It is important to understand the heart of the business and how it is directed and run, as this will set the culture of management that flows through the organisation and determine the priorities of the business. However, finding a big heart in a business does not always mean it operates and works well. Competency is equally important for positive, long-term outcomes, especially where a person’s home, safety and health need to be in good hands.

Most people we have worked with over the years when choosing a provider focus on the house – is it in the right location? Is there availability? What does the house look like? And they choose a SIL provider based on their house stock availability. We agree a house is important. However, what most people don’t know is that finding the right house is actually the easy part! Properties always become available, like anything, it just takes a little time to coordinate to match the wish list! The tricky part is in making a house a healthy, happy, and functioning home.

On the other hand, some people already have a house, woo hoo! As SIL is flexible and comes in many forms, including SDA, drop-in care, community access and working alongside independent teams, that’s one big item on the to-do list done!

In both scenarios, confirming the house and care is only the start of the SIL journey. The success of the SIL comes down to how it is managed and maintained, as that’s where the magic happens.

Day-to-Day House Management

 

A good SIL will assist a person in selecting a house that works for them (if accommodation is required!) and choosing how they would like to manage their home and expenses. Care and management can be set up in multiple ways. Two popular approaches include the property and household living costs being managed completely by the SIL (a set-and-forget approach), and a self-managed approach for things like rental, bills and household living expenses. The method chosen should always come down to Participant Choice and be facilitated flexibly to accommodate.

Managing the Team: A Supportive Professional Culture

 

For everyone’s safety and wellbeing, Support Workers are regulated under the NDIS guidelines and the SCHADS award. They should be compliant and trained before they become part of a Support Team, but (most importantly) they need a good supportive culture from their organisation to be able to do a good job. This way, great Supports can adapt quickly to a professional level of care that is consistent and continually developed for individuals. Under SIL, this effective team management results in higher quality management, which flows through to a higher quality of care and support for the Participants.

Great Supports are great team players with Participants, colleagues and managers and have awesome intuition, communication and domestic skills, like cooking and general cleaning. In addition, they need to have, at the very least, a general understanding of clinical health and regulatory guidelines, as well as experience with support plans for individuals and a keen respect for health and safety. These characteristics are key to having a reliable and competent team.

Alongside specific requests for individual characteristics, great Support Teams have varying and complementary talents to ensure dependable and strong teams. Such teams will balance skills and training not only when and where shifts need to be covered but also where the crew motivates and supports each other to continually strive to assist Participants in achieving their goals and living their best lives every day.

A Recipe for Success: Practicing Great Leadership and Culture

 

Support Workers work remotely and often on solo shifts in homes, so a trusting culture with excellent communication needs to be consistently led by example and promoted throughout the organisation.

Communication channels should be prioritised for 24/7 access, and House Managers and Health and Clinical Managers must be an important and recognised part of the team.

Working with Participants and teams, Leaders train and visit on-site to check in and implement capacity-building initiatives and programs. Alongside this, they also ensure households and grounds are clean and tidy, environments are engaging, Support Teams are professionally motivated and relevant administration, such as care notes, transport logs, shopping and entertainment, are appropriately maintained.

Bringing the Ingredients Together

 

A team that fosters a respectful culture that practices responsibility and accountability will become a team that trusts each other and grows together. In our experience, this may be the single most important factor in a successful SIL model that supports Participants in their homes, and it is a combination of a big heart with competency. In such a constructive environment, Home and Health Management takes on a holistic approach through teams and community, where everyone is on the same page and growing together.

With a well-facilitated team working around the clock alongside allied health practitioners, Clinical and House Managers, and informal and independent Supports and stakeholders, real and relevant goals can be achieved. The teams’ strengths develop together, and feedback is utilised as an essential resource to achieve this, and the Participants benefit greatly as these competencies grow.

In successful SIL, we have seen Restrictive Practices minimised and, in some cases, completely removed. In other homes where health initiatives and plans have been fully implemented, we’ve seen disengaged people re-engage in their interests and goals again. In some restless, chaotic and unorganised environments we have worked with, we’ve seen complete transformations into clean, settled, and peaceful homes. In all instances, we have learned that as no two individuals are the same and outcomes, needs and wants always differ, each individual needs their own goals for what constitutes a happy, healthy home.

Jac’s Place: Our Future Focus

As we reflect on past success stories for Participants and their Supports and communities, we’ve come to realise a house with a heart makes a home. It’s essential for not only the Support Workers and communities to have a big heart but for SIL organisations to lead and nurture those hearts.

We also know this isn’t all there is to it! In the SIL environment, managing people, properties, health, and lifestyles alongside culture, leadership, and day-to-day management are all equally important. Achieving long-term outcomes for Participants, teams, and communities starts with such management, as without good culture and leadership, SIL direction is diluted, and care can become inconsistent and fractured.

Through rewarding excellence and celebrating the milestones whilst continually reflecting and supporting improvement for everyone each day, we have found that this is where the magic really lives, and where Jac’s Place as a social enterprise chooses to focus in the years ahead.