Growing up alongside a sibling with disability meant my family’s story was not unique. Like so many others, we relied on the support of disability service providers and their home care and support workers. New faces in our home was a routine occurrence. But despite this being the story of many families in Australia, we still found ourselves isolated and overwhelming frustrated at times. We were caught up in a system that traded autonomy for disempowerment in the name of support for people with disability. We were forced to rely on a third-party agency to schedule and send support workers to our home and we had little control over who they would be. Sometimes we got lucky and the workers were a great fit but often we didn’t and my brother had no choice but to rely on someone that wasn’t right for him.
When my sister and I started to understand this disempowerment with more clarity as we were finishing school and starting to take on new opportunities, we knew we had to do something to fix it. It didn’t make sense that as our worlds were opening up with social, study and work opportunities, our brother’s was closing down. Without the right kind of support, we knew he wouldn’t have the opportunity to grow, learn or engage with the world in the ways we were able to.
In a world where technology was making life easier and more seamless in so many ways, where apps and online platforms were making communities more connected and where the internet was making products and services cheaper and more accessible, we knew we had to find a way for people with disability and their families to engage more effective and cost-efficient support.
That’s what lead us to build Hireup, an online platform for people with disability to find, hire and manage support workers who fit their needs and share their interests. People with disability and their families sign up by creating a profile to tell us who they are and tell our community about the support they need. Users can then search and connect with support workers in their local area and take charge of their own supports.
Hireup has been operating for just over two years now and we’ve been overwhelmed with the positive response it has received from the disability sector with over 6,000 support workers and 4,000 people with disability and their families choosing to use Hireup.
One of my favourite Hireup stories (and there are many) is of a family in Canberra. Mel, the mum of two boys on the Autism spectrum and with complex medical needs, told me that Hireup has brought her family together. When Mel and her family transitioned onto the National Disability Insurance Scheme, they took the opportunity to try new services like Hireup. The family had experienced years of inconsistent and poorly coordinated support, paying a premium for services they were locked into and that didn’t necessarily suit their needs. At one point Mel counted that they had had 55 different support workers come through their home in five years. That’s a huge amount of inconsistency and uncertainty for young boys with complex developmental needs.
Since using Hireup though, Mel has been able to build a team of support workers that she is able to manage for herself. Her and her family now choose who comes into their home, they choose the level of training and qualifications they have and they choose what support looks like to them. Mel has employed a swimming teacher for the elder of her two boys, who was anxious around water, and a therapy assistant to teach the younger one circus skills they call “fun occupational therapy”. The family has been able to arrange support that matches what their boys need and Mel and her husband no longer have to fill in the gaps as pseudo-therapy assistants when there wasn’t enough to go around. According to Mel, Hireup has meant they can just be “mum and dad” again.
When you think about it, it’s obvious and not particularly revolutionary. But for Mel and her family, it’s everything. Mel knows what is best for her family in the same way that my family knew what was best for us. We knew what support looked like for my brother and yet we had no way to make it happen. I’m incredibly proud that we’re turning that around for thousands of people and families across Australia; to be giving them the opportunity to find support that’s right for them.
The power of finding common ground, a Hireup video
Hireup on Channel 7 The Morning … Westpac Businesses of Tomorrow