The new National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is an opportunity for people with a disability to improve their lives, and a challenge to service providers, whose success will be measured on how well they support their disabled clients.
The quality of the service delivered by providers comes down to the skill of frontline staff – which is why the University of New England (UNE) has developed two new courses to help people working in the disability services sector develop their skills. Course coordinator Dr Mary McMillan tells us about about UNE’s Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma in Disability Management, which are being launched in 2017, to prepare graduates for the roll-out of the NDIS and the demand for new, client-driven services and support.
Why has UNE introduced these courses?
The NDIS shakes up the world of disability service provision, and everyone who works in that environment is experiencing change. One of the outcomes of focus group discussions at UNE was that the implementation of the NDIS has created a real demand for employees with specialist education and training in disability. We have responded to this increasing need with the introduction of these courses for 2017. The aim of these courses is to provide essential skills in understanding the scientific basis of disability, while also focusing on organisational management and transformation.
Who are the new courses they aimed at?
These courses are aimed at anyone who has an interest in, or is already working in, areas of service provision, such as disability support, human services, rehabilitation, or other health services. People already working in the industry have the opportunity to up-skill, and gain a higher level qualification to advance their career. One of the themes that can through strongly in focus group discussion was that people were entering the field with a TAFE certificate in disability, but employers were looking for higher level qualifications. People who are wanting to enter these fields can improve their chances for employment by studying for a qualification. These courses may also be appealing to anyone with an interest in disability, such as parents or carers.
Are there any special qualifications needed to enrol in the courses?
There are a number of different entry pathways for these courses. Individuals who already hold a Bachelor’s degree are eligible for entry, and those who have a Diploma or Advanced Diploma, and some work experience in service provision, are also eligible to enrol.
What if I haven’t done any study for a long time or at all since school?
One of the things that we value highly is the background and prior experiences of each individual. People who have been working for a period in the field of service provision, but who may not have any formal qualifications, can still gain entry into these programs. Prior qualifications are not necessary for enrolment.
What knowledge will students gain from the courses?
These courses are unique in that they have a dual focus in understanding both the scientific basis of disability, and business management. We’ve designed these courses so students can choose how they mix and match their learning in these fields, depending on their needs and interests. For example, one person may choose to focus on the neurological basis of disability, in order to be more effective as a frontline carer. Another person might only want one unit of neuroscience, but then focus their study in business management so they can help their organisation service those needs in the most efficient, cost-effective way. Students can also choose to do a unit or two from each of these areas before deciding to specialise in one particular area. We have also built in a work-based unit of study so students can actively apply their learning within a disability-oriented work environment.
One of the fundamental focuses of these courses is that disability services need to be client-based. Students will gain an understanding for the underlying causes of disability, but also an appreciation that every individual is different, and therefore management strategies and treatments need to be tailored to the individual. At the same time, studies in business management will strengthen understanding of finance and business, putting students in a stronger position for promotion, or for running their own business under the NDIS.
How long does it take to complete the courses?
The Graduate Certificate can be completed in one or two years of part-time study, while the Graduate Diploma can be completed in two to four years of part-time study.
Do students have to attend the campus to do the courses?
We want to make study as accessible and flexible as possible. We have designed these courses so that they can be completed online, without ever setting foot on campus. Students can study in their own time, wherever they live, while they manage other work and family commitments.
UNE has packaged our research and expertise into courses that help frontline disability staff navigate changes to service provision under the NDIS, and to help their clients benefit. The Graduate Certificate and Diploma in Disability Management are enrolling now. For more information about these courses visit une.edu.au/disabilitymanagement or call 1800 818 865.
Thanks Dr McMillan.