Support Coordination vs Case Management: Understanding the Nuances

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Do you know the difference between Support Coordination and Case Management? In this blog, Andrew Walters, General Manager, Connect4U Australia, unpacks the nuances between the two.

Andrew - General Manager - Connect4U Australia

Two terms that often come up in my conversations about support for individuals with a disability are “Support Coordination” and “Case Management”. While these terms may sound interchangeable, in the NDIS world they represent distinct services. Let’s look at some of the nuances that can help explain the differences.


What is Support Coordination?


Support Coordination is a service specifically defined and funded under the NDIS. Support Coordination is a “stated support” in a participant’s NDIS plan. Support coordination funding cannot be used for any other purpose, eg, for support workers, therapies or equipment items.


Support Coordinators assist participants to understand and implement their NDIS plans. They act as a bridge between participants and the services they need, helping to find and connect with providers that best fit the participant’s goals and needs.


A Support Coordinator assists participants to:


  • Connect to services: This includes supporting and monitoring existing service arrangements that are working well, making referrals to new NDIS service providers where required. It also includes facilitating referrals to mainstream services such as housing, health or education where supports are best met by those sectors.


  • Build capacity: This includes helping participants to understand their goals and maximise the funding in their existing plan. It is also about supporting participants to increase their ability to manage their supports and budgets in the future.


  • Review support needs: Support Coordinators help to evaluate how a participant’s current plan is working and what might need to change in the next plan. This can involve gathering and writing evidential reports for different review mechanisms and negotiating with the NDIS on behalf on participants.


What is Case Management?


Case management is a bit different. It has a broader scope and isn’t exclusive to the NDIS. Case Managers might work across different sectors including health, mental health, aged care, child protection, as well as in the disability area. Their role is to provide a holistic approach to a person’s care, which may encompass multiple areas of their life, not just their disability needs.


The duties of a Case Manager might include assessment, planning, linking, monitoring and advocating on behalf of clients to ensure they get the best care and support in their lives.


Key Differences


There are three main differences between these roles:

  • Scope: Support Coordination is specific to navigating the NDIS, while Case Management is broader and can encompass various sectors.


  • Role Definition: Support Coordination is strictly defined under the NDIS with a clear set of roles and responsibilities, whereas how Case Management is delivered might differ depending on the sector and an individual’s needs.


  • Funding: Support Coordination is funded under the NDIS for participants who have it included in their plan. Case Management might be funded through various sources depending on the situation.


The Support Coordinator and Case Manager roles can exist side-by-side

 A person may have a Support Coordinator, a Case Manager, or both!


Lois’s story

Lois is a 35 year old person who identifies as non-binary and reports having autism, and a number of mental health challenges including anxiety and anorexia. Lois has an NDIS plan which includes support coordination. Lois’ Support Coordinator has arranged a number of services including support workers, a cleaner, psychology sessions and an occupational therapy assessment. Lois also has access to a Mental Health Social Worker who provides holistic case management assistance including linking Lois with the hospital’s psychiatrist, and working with Lois to address other things going on in their life including obtaining sustainable housing and employment, and access to medical treatment for anorexia. Lois’ Support Coordinator and Mental Health Social Worker are clear on the scope of their respective roles and with Lois’ consent, keep in contact with each other to ensure Lois receives the maximum benefit from both services.

Name changed for privacy.


As you can see from Lois’ story, understanding the nuances between the Support Coordinator and Case Manager roles, helps to select the right support systems for individuals based on their unique needs.

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