Open and honest communication between service providers and service users and their families is essential to creating a relationship that promotes the best possible outcomes and experiences. So what questions should you ask yourself when you and your family are choosing a service provider?

  1. When the relationship with the service provider is working well, what will it look and feel like?
  2. What would be some of the signs that the relationship is not working well?

Exploring these ideas further, families may also want to consider questions such as:

  1. How involved do you want to be with the service provider, and does the provider know your wishes?

‘My sister wanted to be treated as an adult in her home without my involvement. The service provider agreed to a communication strategy that meant I could be kept informed, but allowed my sister her independence.’ Sister of an adult in a group home.

  1. How frequently do you want to receive communication, and about what issues?

‘I was worried that I was being overcharged. It turned out that the rates had changed, and this had not been communicated. My service provider now sends me full financial statements and notes explaining rate changes.’ Adult using a disability service.

  1. What is the service provider’s policy and approach to working with families, and does it fit with your expectations?

‘My daughter didn’t feel safe in her home because of another resident. We worked with the service provider to identify somewhere else for my daughter to live where she had friends nearby and was closer to her day service.’ Parent of an adult living in a group home.

  1. Does the service provider invite family members to assist in developing, implementing and reviewing information, policies and procedures developed by the organisation?

‘When we develop documentation, we always consult the audience to ensure it truly is easy to read and contains all the appropriate information.’ Service Provider.

  1. Do you think you will feel welcome and included in the provision of support and assistance for your family member?

‘As his family, we want to be recognised as one of the key pillars supporting our son’s life.’ Parent of an adult living in a group home.

  1. What opportunities exist to be involved in the organisation more generally?

‘My son worked with his service provider to resolve an issue he had with transport. Afterwards, they offered him a regular column in their newsletter so that he could champion the voice of other people in the service.’ Parent of an adult using a day service.

  1. What is the service provider’s approach to person centred planning and will you have the opportunity to be involved in the development of a plan for your family member?

‘The service provider didn’t understand my daughter’s support needs when we first joined the service. They should have sought more information to develop an appropriate support plan for her.’ Parent of an adult using a day service.

  1. Do you think you would feel comfortable raising and discussing any issues or differences in views that may arise between you and the service provider?

‘When I tried to share my knowledge and understanding of my son and what I felt was important for him, I often felt dismissed.’ Parent of an adult living in a group home.

These are just a few of the many questions you would be considering when trying to decide on a service provider for yourself or a family member.

Families, friends and other natural supports play an important part in people’s lives and should work with service providers to support wellbeing and happiness for people with a disability.

This article was written by the Disability Services Commissioner (DSC), an independent voice promoting rights and resolving complaints about Victorian disability services. For more information about the DSC including making a complaint or accessing resources, visit www.odsc.vic.gov.auCase studies are made up of de-identified issues people have brought to us. More detailed advice on service providers working with families can be found in our ‘Occasional Paper No.2: Learning from complaints’.

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