When navigating the Australian health care system, older persons or persons with a disability may feel daunted and confused. Thankfully, Victoria has a unique Access & Support Service Program to help people with diverse needs navigate the range of aged care, disability, and broader health care services. The Program employs around 80 Access & Support (A&S) workers across the state.
The A&S worker is a bridge between the person/caregiver and the service provider. They apply a culturally responsive, holistic and consumer-directed care approach. Where people are not confident or able to access services directly, the A&S worker may be the primary contact for initial assessment and care planning. Workers build rapport with the client and their caregiver to understand their needs, promote choice and control and assist to navigate the service system. Clients are encouraged to develop confidence and self-advocacy skills.
The A&S worker is well connected to local services and supports, developing effective links and establishing trust with communities and individuals, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) and gender diverse communities.
Case example by Athina Sergianis, A&S worker, MiCare
Like many CALD clients, without the continued in-language assistance of their A&S worker, John and Maria would have struggled to access the aged care and support system.
In their early 80s, John and his wife, Maria, found themselves becoming increasingly frail. With their children unable to help, the couple needed external support.
John heard from his friends of assistance available for maintaining the garden, accessing physiotherapy, and support with other health services. His friends urged him to contact an Access and Support (A&S) worker at MiCare who could provide advice and support, and was fluent in John’s first language, Greek.
The A&S worker visited the couple, discussed issues the couple faced and services they required. The A&S worker also explained the various roles and structures of My Aged Care (MAC), Regional Assessment Services (RAS), and Aged Care Assessment Services (ACAS).
John remembered that someone had visited them about a year earlier to conduct a memory test. Since it was evident that John had been previously assessed, it was necessary to clarify the situation with MAC.
With John’s consent, the A&S worker contacted MAC. They learnt that a Home Care Package (HCP) had been allocated to John six months ago. This surprised the couple, as they could not recall receiving any correspondence about the Home Care Package. The A&S worker advocated on John’s behalf and his place in the queue was reinstated.
A letter arrived within a month. John called the A&S worker, who assisted the couple to identify an appropriate service provider.
Key focus groups
The Access & Support Service Program has a key focus on special needs groups, under the Aged Care Act 1997 (Commonwealth):
- People from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
- People from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds
- People who live in rural and remote areas
- People who are financially or socially disadvantaged
- People who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless
- People who are lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex (LGBTI)
- People who are care leavers
- Parents separated from children by forced adoption or removal.
Clients with specific needs such as cultural safety, faith and spirituality, low literacy, sight or hearing impairment, dealing with past trauma, risk of abuse or neglect, mental health issues or dementia, can also be assisted to access support.
How to find an Access & Support Worker
Access & Support workers are located in a number of funded organisations, including multicultural and ethno-specific agencies, Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs), homelessness services, community health services, and local councils. Anyone can make a referral for the A&S service. The statewide directory can be accessed HERE.
For further information contact:
Gabriele Rukas, Sector Development–Policy and Practice, Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria.
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org