Our family recently joined Hireup, an online platform for finding and hiring support workers. BJ’s NDIS plan has given him greater freedom to access the community to pursue his interests, but for him to do that, he needs an enthusiastic support worker by his side. We’re not prepared to settle when it comes to the people supporting BJ. We want him to be surrounded by people who are engaged and keen to see him reach his potential. Many of our friends, and readers, use Hireup support workers and they all report they love the freedom and savings it offers, so we thought we’d give it a go. It’s early days but we have one lovely occupational therapy student who impressed us on day one by coming prepared with ideas for their day out. She’d obviously taken on board what we’d said about BJ’s interests and the smiles on his face in the photos of the day, told us he’d had a good time.
If you’re unfamiliar with Hireup, I’ll quickly explain how it works. Basically, Hireup gives people living with a disability and support workers the ability to find each other based on location, appropriate skills and common interests. The platform removes the agency middle-man by connecting people living with a disability and support workers directly, allowing them to take control of their own supports in a way that has previously never been an option in Australia.
Although we originally looked at Hireup for local support I can see the benefits of being able to connect with a support worker when we travel. We love travelling as a family but as BJ gets older we recognise we need to evolve in how we travel. As a family we enjoy many of the same things but sometimes it would be nice to explore individual interests or for Hubby and I to linger over a lovely special dinner (BJ isn’t into lengthy meals). When children are young, they need to follow their parent’s travel itinerary but as they grow they are afforded some independence by separating from their family, even for short periods. BJ is 22 and loves his independence when he gets it. Every time he heads off with a support worker he has a huge smile plastered across his face. We can therefore imagine holidays in the future where we hire a support worker to help BJ pursue his interests while we do an activity with AJ which he may not enjoy. As BJ needs care and assistance 24/7 we also recognise hiring a support worker when on a trip may give Hubby and I a little time out. There is no lounging by the pool or reading a book on the balcony of a hotel because BJ thinks holidays are an opportunity to be on-the-go non-stop.
Families can also look at taking a favourite support worker with them when they travel. One Hireup support worker recently accompanied a user on a cruise for eight days. The rate, responsibilities and expectations were negotiated between the worker and the family in advance. Having a support worker who is familiar with the needs and routine of the traveller allows the family confidence in the process.
Hireup shared the story of a service user who was travelling to Melbourne. They used a local support worker to take them to the airport in Sydney, and had another support worker meet them when they arrived at Melbourne airport. This reduced the cost overall, because there was no need to pay travel and time costs for a worker for the duration of the flight, or for accommodation for the support worker.
Another user had a conference in South Australia, and after travelling from the Northern Territory with her son, found an SA-based worker to support him for the day.
Hireup also has a job board, where a description of the job is posted and support workers can see it and respond. One Hireup user from the Hunter Valley couldn’t find a regular support worker to accompany her to a concert in Sydney, so she posted an ad on the job board and found a local Sydney worker to go with her.
Now, if you’re like us and concerned about who you entrust your loved one to, Hireup undertakes all the necessary checks for support workers, e.g. working with children, police check, first-aid/CPR and professional reference checks. You can message the worker and ask questions, and if hiring someone locally you can meet up in advance and make sure both the worker and user are happy with the match and want to proceed.
Hireup offers people flexibility in either assisting with their travel or making travel possible. As more support workers become available in more locations, it’s worth checking to see if there are workers available in the destination you’re travelling to. When we next travel we’ll definitely be trying it and I’ll let you know how we go.
You can learn more about Hireup by checking their website here.