Australian Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology Association showcase best AT practices at Sydney expo. This includes a wide range of online resources and practice supports. “Having a community of practice (CoP) is particularly important in the face of major policy change, about how assistive technology is being provided,” ARATA president, Dr Natasha Layton told F2L. “This is now occurring with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and Aged Care reforms.

“Layton said ARATA and Occupational Therapy Australia (OTA) applaud the principles of the NDIS, but recognise there are a number of challenges as the NDIS rolls out. “Both have broad memberships across Australia and we hear of practitioners experiencing long waiting periods and difficulty accessing AT supports if these are not identified in a plan, and inconsistent communication and notification during the AT provision process.

“Different approaches are evident across launch sites, states and territories. Many of these issues will be managed when the scheme moves to full rollout and replaces the current complexity of managing an overlay of state and territory equipment funding processes and widely different quality and safeguard frameworks,” she said.

Another challenge is the changing face of workplaces. With the loss of block-funded services, there are now fewer large employers which mean fewer opportunities for student placement and jobs for new graduates, jobs which have traditionally provided the necessary supervision and mentorship to skill practitioners up in this complex field.

“International standards suggest that structured practice support, such as credentialing of skilled practice in complex areas, and the provision of standardised training, is an essential ingredient to ensure consumers have access to appropriately skilled and qualified practitioners to deliver AT. This may also include the skilling of the expert AT user.

“Continuing professional development courses and training has been offered ad hoc in Australia over the years and we would argue there is a case for a more systematic supports to be offered. Arguably, the NDIS and the Department of Social Services have roles to play in strengthening the sector to assure quality practice.”

Layton said joining a CoP can link members locally and nationally as a professional association is the way to make an individual experience translate into systemic action.

At the upcoming ATSA workshop there will be a chance to learn more about current ARATA resources such as the website, email lists, position statements, membership base and strategic goals, she said.

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