Communities are the lifeblood of Australia, and there is plenty of research proving that community connections are good for us. This article defines community engagement, explains the NDIS community participation program and outlines how you can use your NDIS funding to become involved in your local community.
What is community participation?
Put simply, community participation means interacting with and sharing experiences with others. Community participation (or social participation) services are typically part of the capacity budling support category within the NDIS funding framework.
Being involved in the community has personal benefits such as increased social support and improved wellbeing. Some examples of social participation include:
visits to family and friends
meeting others at a cafe for a coffee
attending a concert or going to the movies
playing a team sport or joining a league
attending classes or lectures
making crafts or doing creative activities
Why is community participation important?
Getting out and about, maintaining relationships and being involved in the community is important for all of us. Research shows that we are healthier and happier when we have an active social life.
There are benefits to increasing your levels of social participation, such as:
making new friends with shared interests
increasing your confidence to interact with others
building skills that might help you find a job
Beginning social and community participation
To become more connected and involved in your community, it helps to think about what kinds of hobbies you have and what activities you like doing. Start by making a list of the different friends and groups you are already connected with. Then, think about what your goals are for social and community participation. Make a list of what you would like to change or achieve with regard to your current situation.
NDIS Community Connections
The NDIS offers a service called Community Connections, which is designed to help people find out about local opportunities. You do not need to be registered with the NDIS or have completed NDIS application forms to be able to access Community Connections support.
Community Connections advisors are local area network coordinators who work for the NDIS. They have extensive local knowledge, are aware of what’s happening in the community, and are connected with community leaders, local businesses and social groups. Community Connections advisors will meet with you to discuss your interests and hobbies, and give you assistance to connect with local groups and clubs.
Your local council might also be able to connect you with local organisations and residents groups.
Volunteering as community engagement
Volunteering is a great way to become more involved in the local community, as it allows you to contribute your time and skills to causes that matter to you.
Volunteers can carry out meaningful work for a community organisation or charity. There are many benefits to be found in volunteering, and volunteers can:
learn skills that can help them get a job
increase their confidence in speaking to others
contribute their unique skills to help others
build relationships with other volunteers and community members
Volunteer opportunities can include:
cooking for or chatting with older people at a club
setting up displays and handling resources in a library
participate in fundraising for a local school
welcoming visitors to a community centre
helping out in an op-shop
lending a hand at a community events
planting and watering at a community garden
helping young people with art activities
To learn more about local volunteer opportunities, speak to your plan manager, local government office or visit the NSW Government’s Volunteer website.
Understanding community engagement
Community engagement is a term used to describe the ways in which people become involved with community organisations and businesses. Sometimes, an NDIS provider will conduct a survey and ask for feedback about their services and programs. When an organisation uses the feedback they receive to make changes, they are engaging well with the community they serve.
Community engagement often leads to collaborative efforts that address local issues and drive positive change on a broader scale. The NDIS Community Participation webpage has plenty of information about how the scheme engages and ways in which consumer voices and values are incorporated into the program.
Citizens Advisory groups
Collaboration within the disability sector is a vital part of community engagement. Some community organisations and government departments set up citizens advisory groups or panels, so that there is a group of people they can contact for advice. Advisory group members get a chance to share their knowledge and experience and can raise and respond to issues or concerns raised by other service users.
Joining an advisory panel is a great way for you to:
have your say
participate in networking
demonstrate the importance of community involvement
meet other community members
contribute your ideas
stay informed about what’s happening in the sector
meet relevant stakeholders and lead positive change
have a direct impact on service delivery
address challenges and find effective solutions to problems
Participating in an advisory group can be very rewarding. Even small contributions can make a significant difference, so involvement can have a positive impact on one’s life and the lives of others.
When to seek guidance on social and community participation
If you are an NDIS participant and are looking to add social and community activities to your NDIS plan, then speak to your plan manager or local area coordinator. You can organise a NDIS plan review and request that you receive additional resources to help you try new things.
There may be certain times when your needs with regard to your social life will change. An example might be when you:
finish school or training
move house or get new housemates
are looking for a job or want to change jobs
notice a change in your health or fitness, or have been to hospital
begin a new relationship or end a relationship
have different care requirements
want to try out new hobbies or have new activities
At times like these, you may need a little extra support and help to feel confident participating in the community.
Nursed Care for community participation
Welcome to Nursed Care, an accredited NDIS service provider business based in Paramatta that provides social and community services in many different areas around Sydney. We support our many clients with disability to lead fulfilling lives full of interest, engagement and fun.
We support NDIS, My Aged Care and private clients to get out and about in society. This includes transport to and from social support activities, support to join groups and referral to community opportunities. We have NDIS participants from many different backgrounds.
Social and community activities are often of particular use to people with:
who are on the autism spectrum
live with intellectual or psychosocial disability
If you are seeking to engage with your community more, get to more events or create a busy social schedule, then let Nursed Care help. We can work with you to ensure your NDIS funding enables you to build community bonds and make new friends. Contact us to learn more.
If you’re looking to get involved in social and community activities, there are a few practical steps you can take. First, identify your interests and passions, as this will help you find activities you truly enjoy. You can attend local meetings, participate in online forums, or research what events are offered at your local hall or community centre, to connect with like-minded individuals,
To become an approved NDIS provider, an agency must demonstrate they have adequate guidelines, policies and procedures in place to provide quality, safe services to NDIS participants. Accredited providers must also charge within the NDIS pricing arrangements and charges schedule. With unregistered providers, there is a risk you might be overcharged.
The term social capital is used to describe the value we place on creating meaningful social bonds. Social capital is created when individuals and communities recognise the importance of connection and collaboration, and people are empowered to make a difference and create a connected and cohesive society.
Support workers who have qualifications and experience deserve fair pay for providing quality services to an NDIS participant. Companies that are too cheap may not be paying their staff fairly or have all of the correct documents and statements of compliance.