The SDA HOUSING Podcast

Episode 53 - FIRST2CARE: Dream, Plan, Live

August 09, 2022 NDIS PROPERTY AUSTRALIA Episode 53
The SDA HOUSING Podcast
Episode 53 - FIRST2CARE: Dream, Plan, Live
Show Notes Transcript

EPISODE:
We had the pleasure of visiting the First2Care office in Brisbane, where we spoke to Sam and Mark about plan management and the importance of having participant interests at the forefront of any business in the NDIS sector.

"First2Care Plan Management is here to help you dream, plan and live your life with confidence. We are truly independent Plan Managers, which means we only provide Plan Management services, making you our only focus. We help NDIS participants, like you, by tailoring our Plan Management services to suit your needs, giving you more choice and control over your life and your NDIS plan."

To learn more about First2Care, visit their website below:
https://www.first2care.com.au/

If you'd like to contribute to Mark's powerchair football team mentioned in the podcast, please visit their website:
https://qpfa.org.au/

--

www.sdahousingpodcast.com.au

GOALS:
It is our goal to see Participants with high-needs disabilities being appropriately housed in accommodation that is right for them. Purpose built homes promote opportunities for social and economic participation, enhance self-determination, and create conditions for Participants to lead vibrant, safe, and independent lives.

www.robustdesign.com.au

www.highphysicalsupport.com.au

www.improvedliveability.com.au

www.participants.com.au

www.fullyaccessible.com.au

www.sil-homes.com.au/

CONTACT:
Please feel free to call us on 1300254397 to talk to one of our friendly staff, otherwise, just pop on over to our website to find out more info on www.ndispropertyaustralia.com.au

For any podcast related queries or suggestions, please contact our podcast manager via eryn@participants.com.au

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DISCLAIMER:
Information contained in this podcast is general in nature only. It does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. You need to consider your financial situation and needs before making any decisions based on this information and should seek independent and professional advice for your personal circumstances.

Intro/Outro:

Welcome to the SDA housing podcast brought to you by NDIS Property Australia. Before starting this episode, we need to provide a general disclaimer. information contained in this podcast is general in nature only. It does not take into account the objectives, financial situation, or needs of any particular person. You need to consider your financial situation and needs before making any decisions based on the information in this podcast, and you should consider seeking independent and professional advice for your personal circumstances. All right, let's begin.

Minh Le:

Hello, everybody. My name is Minh and I'm here with Eryn, my co host for today from NDIS Property Australia here in Brisbane. And you're listening to the SD A housing podcast, a show that explains highlights, guides and brings awareness about all things SDA in this ever changing NDIS world. Today's presentation or podcast episode is about First2Care. An NDIS plan manager here in Spring Hill, Brisbane. And Eryn has worked hard to bring us to the table together to talk about what First2Care is all about. So Eryn, you want to introduce our two guest speakers, please?

Eryn Kosian:

Yeah, so today we're joined by Sam and Mark, and they work here at First2Care. Do want to just introduce yourself and your roles for us please?

Sam Woodman:

Yeah, sure. My name is Sam, I am the client liaison manager. So I basically run the front facing team of First2Care. So any outbound communications that are direct to, to our clients come from my team. So I'll make sure that all the expectations of clients are met through my my staff.

Eryn Kosian:

Sweet. Mark?

Mark Warren:

My name is Mark, and I am part of the business development team. And I connect with lovely providers like yourself.

Eryn Kosian:

All right, we might as well just jump straight into who are First2Care? What do you do? Whoever wants to answer that one, go ahead.

Sam Woodman:

Yes, so we're purely independent plan managers. So in case your listeners don't know, plan managers are the financial administrators for NDIS participants. So basically in a nutshell where the the bill payers, so to speak. So our core business is processing those invoices they come through. But First2Care is purely independent, meaning that we only do plan management we don't like to mix anything else. So no support coordination or daily support or anything like that. We just think there's, I don't know, there's too much mixture and too many cooks spoil the broth kind of thing. So we we aim to make sure that clients are at the head of our our mind, and we're purely independent. Mark you've got anything else you wanted to add on who First2Care is?

Mark Warren:

I think we're a client centred company first and foremost. I think Sam said it pretty well.

Eryn Kosian:

Yeah, perfect. Um, when abouts did First2Care start?

Sam Woodman:

So it started back in 2014. So some some we got some IT minds and some accountant minds got together and they organised a software to be developed for First2Care that was to assist participants within their NDIS journey. And we've slowly kind of grown from there. So I started early 2020, when we were quite a quite a small plan management company and we had a good group of people at that time. And but luckily, we're all very like minded and very client focused. And from there, in that kind of early 2020 stage we were able to, to kind of grow into the company that we are now.

Eryn Kosian:

Perfect.

Minh Le:

Can I ask you a question about your growth? So without disclosing how many participants you have-

Sam Woodman:

Yeah. Of course-

Minh Le:

How hard was it to go from infancy back then to the inflow of inquiries and participants now that are more more frequent for you guys?

Sam Woodman:

Yeah obviously, with any any small business growing, there's always always growing pains but like, like I said, we've always had a strong, like minded team behind us who's able to handle those growing pains. I know that whenever the NDIS do a change in pricing arrangement and stuff like that always throws a spanner in the works. But we've we've been able to make do and and come out stronger with all those those grow, growing pains and stuff like that.

Eryn Kosian:

Um, you mentioned something about you UniDap involvement when we were chatting. What is that? UniDap is a, the company who developed the the software for First2Care. Okay, yeah.

Sam Woodman:

It is separate from First2Care. They're the ones who developed the software.

Eryn Kosian:

Okay awesome. Yeah. So what is meant by the term independent plan manager?

Minh Le:

And what's the opposite of independent plan manager?

Sam Woodman:

Yeah, um, so so like I said before, there's there's some some providers out there that are a one stop shop, so they got they've got plan management, support coordination, daily support all wrapped into one. And to answer your question before Minh, I think our growth through that stage of infancy to the size we are now was purely, we're able to focus on plan management, we're not getting bogged down in the other pricing changes and support work or support coordination, we're able to give our participants what they need in their plan management scape, if you agree Mark?

Mark Warren:

Very much so mate.

Sam Woodman:

Awesome.

Minh Le:

So, for those other companies that do everything, which includes plan management, what could be a perceived negative or disadvantage of that kind of business? And having having claimed it as one of the services and not their core business?

Sam Woodman:

Yeah, um, I would say the, the thing that jumps out is the risk of – not saying this is ever done – but the risk of tailoring tailoring supports based on the funding provided, instead of the funding needed. Like if you have that visibility on what's available, you might have a provider that's going to target, okay, there's 100 grand here, I'm gonna do a sales grant of 100 grand when the participant might only need 80 grand worth of support, and they've got that support to use on other things. So that's, that's why we keep the thing separate. So we're an integral part of a participant's support team, like we work very closely with support coordinators and other providers. But we think yeah, that that independence is only beneficial for the participant.

Minh Le:

Yeah. So I guess I take from that what you said there is by being an independent plan manager, you're not incentivized in any way to tap that bit of money, because you need to provide the payments or the bills. And that's it.

Sam Woodman:

We've got no horse in the race when it comes to the support coordination, the daily support, anything like that were purely numbers and figures we're impartial to anything, and our main goal is ensuring that the participant is getting the best service they can when it comes to the financial administration.

Minh Le:

Yes.

Unknown:

So I'm going to attempt to do math 2014, 2022. So eight years, eight years, you've been around? What did you what were always in this role that you're in now? Or were you different when you first started?

Eryn Kosian:

Yeah tell us Mark.

Sam Woodman:

Yeah, no, I was, I was definitely different when I first started. I was part of the customer support team when I first started. And so that's where I was able to kind of hone my skills within understanding, it's always good having your finger on the pulse, doing the day to day interactions with clients and stuff like that. As we grew, more staff came on, I did the training and the onboarding, and stuff like that to the point where I am now. But I know Mark has been around at First2Care a lot longer than I am. So he's got his story, which is a bit different than mine.

Mark Warren:

Yeah, so I started in back in mid 2017. And back then there was a really small team. And with COVID, back in 2020, I left, worked from home for about nine months. And then I come back and we grow exponentially so when I came back into the office it was a much larger team.

Eryn Kosian:

Yep.

Mark Warren:

But back then it was a very small team. I think we've still kept that small mentality of providing the service to our clients. That hasn't changed, even to whatever size we may grow.

Eryn Kosian:

Yeah, I think the most important thing is keeping whoever you're servicing at the centre, like a lot of I've found a lot of places probably don't do that as much. And they think, Oh, look, look, the size of us were so big, like, we're fine doing what we want to do. But I think it's so important to keep actually, what's the most important part at the centre is who you're helping. It's kind of cliche that, that we've got the kind of the comment, we always say that we're called First2Care. And that's first and foremost, we want to be the first to care. Yeah. And we only got to where we are now because of being very client focused business. And we're going to continue to do that, in whatever growth or or development we go forward. Yeah, awesome.

Minh Le:

Speaking of what you both talked about staff and growth. I mean, I remember at our last networking event, Peter, the C. CEO?

Sam Woodman:

Yeah, the managing director.

Minh Le:

He said, the goal of the company was to have 15 or 16% segment of the team as being participants themselves.

Eryn Kosian:

Yes. So we've got a strong goal in giving back to the community that's we've been able to find that growth and including as many people with disabilities in our workforce is a big, big goal of ours. And we kind of got that 15% goal from the we the 15 movement, we're on a kind of push to strive to do best in that area, because in some industries, it's appalling, that level of disability employment, so we really want to champion and make sure that we're giving as many people opportunities within within our sector as we can.

Minh Le:

How many staff are here now by the way?

Eryn Kosian:

So we've got around 40 staff at First2Care. Yeah.

Minh Le:

15% would be about five or six. Yeah, correct.

Eryn Kosian:

Yeah. Awesome. So you've obviously grown over the Wonderful. Wonderful. past eight years. What is about the size that you are now?

Sam Woodman:

So so like I was saying before, we've gone from a relatively small company to a mid sized plan manager that you'd feel in the market. So we've been able to kind of cement ourselves as a reliable company within within the sector.

Minh Le:

I think a better question would be the next, moving forward to the new financial year. What's the estimated growth you want to have in terms of bringing on board more participants and clients and growth as a business? Business goals? Yeah.

Sam Woodman:

Yeah, I'm, again, I'm not the best kind of frontface. Like the person I'm very focused on making sure our clients are getting the best that we can. But I know that our our main goals are always trying to make sure that we're striving to include our, our client base as much as possible. They're there front of front and centre of mind. And if we grow organically, just continue what we're doing. That's that's going to be a bonus.

Eryn Kosian:

Are you just Queensland at the moment?

Sam Woodman:

So we are mostly kind of connected within that Southeast Queensland, we've got a big presence in Central Queensland. That's, that's going to happen we're based in in Queensland, but we've got clients all over Australia, we've got clients in New South Wales, all the states, and we're we're because it's such a non face to face role, we're able to give the same best possible service regardless of what state you're in.

Eryn Kosian:

Yeah.

Sam Woodman:

So it's nationwide.

Minh Le:

That's good.

Eryn Kosian:

Yeah, awesome. Um, so you brought up the networking event just before Minh, and that's where we met you guys, obviously. And I met Mark. That was, what? About a month and a half ago, two months ago?

Minh Le:

Yes.

Eryn Kosian:

Ish. How often are you doing those events? And what's the goal of them?

Mark Warren:

Um, so ones we personally put on, we're only just starting those. But our aim is to do about three or four, one every three or four months. Apologies, we're not that... party goers.

Eryn Kosian:

Not like you, Minh.

Mark Warren:

But we regularly try to get to as many events as we can.

Minh Le:

Yes.

Mark Warren:

The goal for us is to try to connect to providers like yourself, like I said before, and just broaden our horizon.

Minh Le:

Yes.

Mark Warren:

Make sure you know, and getting that feedback, like, it's important for us to get feedback from our fellow providers. To know that we're still doing a good job. We love hearing from providers saying that we know you guys, our accounting team love you, because you pay so quickly.

Minh Le:

Can I ask you a very generic question about how this

Sam Woodman:

Yeah, this is my my bread and butter. Often, when I , the NDIS system works with Plan Management. So from what we tell people what I do, that's one of the first things I kind understand, participants can have, be agent, agency managed, of explained, they look at me and go, wow, okay. So agency plan managed and self managed. Why? Why does a participant want managed is quite limited within what is available to a to be self managed? Versus plan managed versus agency managed participant and you have to go through registered providers, versus...What's the pros and cons of the other two to what you guys do?

Minh Le:

And what do you mean by pricing limits? they've got to be on the list, they got to be all of that

Sam Woodman:

So there's a thing called the pricing arrangements. within encompassing the NDIS space. There's, there's price caps, and it can be a bit of a nightmare, when you want that Its the NDIS pricing arrangements, which the NDIS put flexibility in that choice and control with providers. Self management is a little bit more hands on for the participant, so they're doing the submitting and sending invoices to the NDIS directly. So depending on the lifestyle, or the amount of into place that a provider can't charge more than a misconception commitment that the NDIS participant or their nominee wants to take on, you'd be being the financial administrator yourself. So keeping on track of the budgets, submitting things yourself, the only positive to that is there are no pricing limits to the support you can provide. But again, there's all that extra risk of being in control. that people normally have is that it's the price they should be charging, but it's the maximum so any provider and participant can come into negotiations about what they how much they're going to be charging, but the pricing arrangements is just there to make sure no one's getting priced like price gouged or anything like that. So the two categories that are limited by the pricing arrangements, I suppose are the NDIA and the plan managed. However, it's not necessarily I suppose, hindered, it's in benefit of the participant because you're not going to be getting a psychology appointment for $400 an hour. It's set to a certain amount.

Minh Le:

Yes.

Sam Woodman:

And I suppose the the benefit of Plan Management is you've got the flexibility of being able to go to any provider you want don't have to be registered. You don't have to do any of the submitting yourself. We do that for you. And you get monthly budget reports from us you get check ins, if you're overspending, you're getting our our portal that we have, you can log in and check to see how you're tracking. So obviously, it sounds a bit biassed coming from plan manager. But that's that's the basics of all three. And from my point of view, it sounds like for the majority of people plan management is the simplest.

Eryn Kosian:

Did you want to add something Mark?

Mark Warren:

Yeah, I think Sam said it really well there. I think plan management really is like the freedom of someone who is self managed. But without the accounting back issues that you have to do with that.

Eryn Kosian:

Yeah. Yeah. So it's more... Sorry, Minh did you want to go?

Minh Le:

So you, you said before about how one example of a participant saying, "Oh, wow, you paid so fast." Is there a difference in speed or payment processing between what you guys do to a self managed, or agency managed? Is there a difference there?

Sam Woodman:

So I am not specifically sure about the payment times of the self managing, obviously, or agency managed outside of what is my bread and butter. But I would imagine, we're down to 24 hour payment times. So I would be surprised considering if – it's, it's a government scheme – things are going to be that quick, within the two other options. So I can't confirm. But I'm only going off what I know.

Eryn Kosian:

Yeah, so, I guess another sort of follow on from that is what makes First2Care different from other plan management businesses?

Mark Warren:

Um, I think our CLO stuff, our client liaison officers, so we provide a one on one guidance from a team that Sam manages, which I am a part of, as well. So we do the oversight of budget, as plan managers normally do, but we take extra care to let our clients know, if they're over or under spending. So yeah, client liaison officers. I think that sets us apart from many other providers. Also, the time that we we pay invoices, in. From from invoice received into our system, its you know, just as easy as 24 hours really. Sam?

Sam Woodman:

Yeah, then I think you hit a nail on the head, I think what's good about the group of people we have is where we don't like to see people as numbers and I'm afraid that some of the larger companies or other companies might just see participants as numbers where we strive to make sure that the person you're calling is going to have some idea of who you are we're gonna know some information. If they know your dog's name, they're gonna they're people you come to to know at First2Care. It's not just a different person every time. And like Mark said, we strive to pay our invoices quickly, because at the end of the day, the last thing a participant wants is having their providers chasing them, I haven't been been paid yet, can you follow up with your provider, it's just something that they don't need. It's as simple as the participants, providers getting paid quickly, the providers aren't chasing up the participant, they can focus on living their life, they don't need to follow follow up on providers payments, or anything like that. So that's what we strive to do to make as less hassle hassle as possible when it comes to paying invoices and making sure everything's smooth.

Minh Le:

Speaking of which you say so if speed of payment is the only benchmark you're trying to deliver as a service. Under what reasons would a participant be unhappy with their plan manager other than the payment timeframe?

Sam Woodman:

I honestly a lot of love the feedback is the payment times and and that that whole I feel like a number not a person.

Eryn Kosian:

Yeah.

Sam Woodman:

Because the amount of times people give us a call. And we I think how we looked at the system, three seconds is the longest like wait time, because we've got a team of customer support that are always there ready to answer the phone. And we're there to answer the questions that the participants had. So I think that the the main two things that kind of get in the way of a good plan manager is, I suppose slow to payments, and long wait times trying to get an answer out of someone. That's a really big thing.

Eryn Kosian:

Yeah.

Mark Warren:

I think once you get to a certain size, and hopefully that'll never happen to us, you lose that element of customer service. Yeah,

Sam Woodman:

Yeah. And I think that we've we've really, we've put that into our level of growth when we're having growing pains like easily, there's always a fork in the road to go one way or the other way and we've definitely gone the way of what's made us who we are, is making sure that that isn't who we ever become, we want to make sure that when people answer the phone, it's not going to be a different person. If you call 20 times it's going to be the same people, you're gonna get to know them, and stuff like that. And we've grown with that in mind to make sure that we're keeping things on track to whatever size we get to.

Eryn Kosian:

Yeah, you touched a little bit on goals in terms of growing the size of the business in the next financial year or so have you got any other goals in terms of just business in general?

Sam Woodman:

So like, like I said, there the the employment, giving more opportunities to people with disabilities is a big goal. We also do a lot of, I suppose community activities as well, which we're really really proud of I know Mark's got some some good experiences with his his community activities within within First2Care.

Mark Warren:

Yeah, so foster care of our way and things various supportive of my sporting group, here's a little

plug:

Queensland Powerchair Football Association. So we are for people with complex disabilities who will use mobility devices, electric wheelchairs for their daily uses. Anyone can play as long as you use a wheelchair or an electric wheelchair. Um, so anyway, I digress. First2Care have helped recently sponsor a couple of teams to head down to Sydney. And so we did that back in late April, early May. But since I've been a part of the company, they've been helping us out immensely with different sponsorship opportunities.

Minh Le:

It's really great to see employment and employers and businesses support the NDIS community in any way, shape, or form any shape or form. And we encourage people who are listening who may be in business or maybe in position to help out to contribute to the community in any way, shape, or form with the NDIS or participants in need, I guess. Yeah. It could be they could be there just to be there as a sponsor for a sporting event, as a sponsor to a business that needs help. But yeah, we encourage you all to, to look into your local areas, your communities to help out with the NDIS community if we can, yeah.

Eryn Kosian:

Or even Mark does your football team have a website or something?

Mark Warren:

So yeah, you can go to qpfa.org.au

Minh Le:

Q-P-F-A

Mark Warren:

Yep

Eryn Kosian:

I'll put it in the description

Mark Warren:

Look us up on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. All those good stuff.

Sam Woodman:

I, because we went I think we paired with five other companies to support Mark's team and every time I, Mark and I talk about his team, I always try and josh him and say we need to do up some emails and send em out to Nike, Adidas we need some sport companies to come. So hopefully, in the future, we'll be trying to get some big sponsors that can sponsor Mark's team. I think that'd be that'd be really, really good so Nike if you're listening.

Mark Warren:

I think like you said, Minh, it's not enough to be seen in the community should actively be doing something –

Eryn Kosian:

Yeah –

Mark Warren:

If you're in this space.

Eryn Kosian:

Absolutely. Picnic in the park, what's that?

Sam Woodman:

So it's an initiative we did last year, it kind of goes back to trying to give back to the community. We put on an event down at the Roma Street Parklands where we invited our participants to come down just have a day at the park we put on some some foods and drinks and games, just to kind of, I suppose connect. Because like I said, plan management isn't a face to face sport, you don't need to ever see your plan manager, however we thought at the opportunity will be good to kind of put on a little activity if anyone, I think it was on a Saturday or Sunday, if you had some time to come down to the park and just have an excuse to come into the city and kind of see what the park lands had to offer. And it was really, really successful, being able to kind of just sit back and get to know some of our clients and nominees and support coordinators that came so that that's an activity that I know that we're very, very passionate of doing to kind of do as much as we can to kind of bring everyone together. And that's like those those network events, we met with yourself. We want to try and involve as many different people as possible because the more the stronger we are as as companies, whether it be with providers like yourself or with our participants, the stronger the relationships going to be throughout the whole of the participant's journey within the NDIS. And that's something we're really, really also passionate about.

Eryn Kosian:

Yeah, awesome. I think that's about all of my questions. Do you have anything you want to add Minh?

Minh Le:

I do. What's your favourite character on Obi Wan Kenobi?

Eryn Kosian:

Awh this is a topical question.

Mark Warren:

I can't remember that show.

All:

*Overlapping voices*

Eryn Kosian:

We've had in depth conversations.

Sam Woodman:

Yeah, I'm trying to think through a bunch of characters because there was no real standouts in that show. To be honest.

Eryn Kosian:

The correct answer is Darth Vader.

Sam Woodman:

Yeah, but even then he went off canon and he wasn't as strong as he should have been.

Mark Warren:

Did you seen that shotty CGI work?

Eryn Kosian:

OHHH the ageing?

Mark Warren:

Yeah.

Eryn Kosian:

Oh, so bad, horrible.

Sam Woodman:

I mean, Mark, and I always chat about popular culture and stuff like that. So if you're ever in the tea room, you'll just hear us go back and forth. A lunch before we were just quoting Arrested Development to each other. So

Mark Warren:

What did you say? There's always money...

Sam Woodman:

There's always money in the banana stand.

Minh Le:

Well, folks, thank you so much for coming on for our episode. We really appreciate your time and your and for you guys to show how committed you guys are as a business and as a team, as team members in the organisation. In the in the plan management world, we strive to expose our listeners more to as many players in the NDIS market, as to give them a better understanding as to what it's all about. And if you know of any other businesses who who are in the NDIS space, please let us know we'd love to interview them as well. But any final words of advice that you both would have for participants who are currently self managed plan managed or agency managed; any advice for them, if they are listening as to what they should expect from a plan manager and what they should strive to achieve as a as a participant or a customer of a service like yours?

Sam Woodman:

Yeah, I think the main thing is you deserve to be treated as a person, not a number. If you send in an email, or try and call, you should have someone pick up or answer as quickly as possible. Choice and control is the most important thing of the scheme. And no, no plan manager has the ability to impact your choice and control. So remember that and I suppose find a find a good plan manager that you fit with who have a great interactive portal, like ours, plug. But we know that when it comes to the support coordination realm as well, that's an integral tool to be able to help out participants in their plans. I think that's the three pieces of advice I've got.

Mark Warren:

Um, I think Sam stole my thunder a bit, I think participants and providers need to remember choice and control. This is the participant's journey. And I think as a participant myself, it's hard to exert that control sometimes, because there's so many roadblocks that continue to pop up like the price arrangement max. Providers will try and max, especially in that capacity building section. So I think as long as those barriers exist, participants have got to, participants should exert their control and just really, if a provider, you know, pushing you for something you do not agree with or you think is not in your best interest, really seek support or some kind of help, whether that be support coordinator or LAC or just a trusted friend or advisor. And just make sure that you know, remember you're always at the centre of your journey. One of our motto is Dream, Plan, Live. And that's how you should approach this journey that you're on.

Minh Le:

Mark, Eryn, Sam, thank you so much.

Sam Woodman:

Thanks guys, appreciate it.

Mark Warren:

Thank you for coming in.

Minh Le:

Bye bye, cheers.

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