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Hireup: Better support for people with disabilities

HerCanberra Team

For a regular mum (if there is such a thing) with two school-aged kids, a morning might go along the lines of the following.

Wake-up; shower; dress; make breakfast; pack school lunches; check the kids look okay and send them off to school.

But for one Canberra Mum and her two boys, it’s an entirely different story.

For Melinda, mother of Dominic (8) and Sebastian (9), who are both on the autism spectrum and have rare genetic conditions, her mornings look a little different.

Support workers arrive at her house early in the morning to help the boys get ready for school. This includes assistance with everything from showering, brushing their teeth and packing their bags, to making breakfast and lunch, getting dressed and staying on task. Dom has a tracheostomy which requires a little extra work, and then they head to school.

Mel then spends her days doing the family’s ‘admin’- paying bills, ordering medical stock, arranging travel and accommodation for the multiple surgeries that occur throughout the year and generally keeping their busy household running. When the afternoon comes around she plays taxi, taking the boys to their art therapy, speech therapy and physio sessions.

Things are crazy in Mel’s household, but without the help of support workers, it would be almost impossible for Mel to stay on top of everything. Although, it wasn’t always this way.

Organising support workers used to be a cumbersome task for Mel. In the last five years, Dominic alone has had 55 different support workers. That’s 55 DIFFERENT names to remember and 55 different people that have to be trained in his relevant tracheostomy care, which can take months.


Mel with her family.

“At the time, we were constantly training new people,” says Mel.

“Dom’s condition requires people to be responsible for his airway. It took them a while to gain the confidence to know they could take care of him – up to a couple of months. So we would spend the time training them, then they would end up leaving. Not because of us, but because they weren’t happy with the agency they were with. When they left the agency, we wouldn’t see them again.

“Naturally, the boys got attached to the workers, so when they disappeared it was really hard explaining to the boys that it wasn’t their fault. It was an extremely frustrating time.”

Mel’s saving grace came this year when she was introduced to Hireup, an online platform that connects people with disabilities and their families directly with support workers.

Like Uber and Airbnb, Hireup cuts out the middle-man and gives people the tools to find, hire and manage their own support workers at a significantly lower cost. For Mel, this means she can deal directly with the people who support her family, giving them the choice of who they want to work with.

“Hireup has given us the power instead of an agency. We have built a team of just six regular support workers and each has a particular connection with the family.”

Of the 55 support workers over the last five years, one has maintained a relationship with the family – Jamie. When Mel heard about Hireup, she convinced Jaime to join. This has since enabled Jamie to become the family’s lead worker and shift co-ordinator.

“We feel really supported through the entire process,” says Mel.


“Hireup allows us to build and foster relationships with our support workers because it enables us to directly communicate with them.”

Mel also says that this direct communication has allowed for more social opportunities for the boys.

“One of our support workers has kids of their own, close in age to my boys. Because they are trained in providing Dom’s overnight care, the boys have been able to have sleepovers at their house,” says Mel.

“Traditional agencies would never have allowed this as there are too many liabilities involved, but through Hireup, there is no one telling us we can’t anymore.”

Hireup costs around $5-7 less per hour to run than the current NDIS standard weekly rate, and up to $20 less per hour than traditional agencies. Almost 3,000 people have already signed up, with over 620 in the ACT alone.

“We couldn’t be happier with how things are going,” says Mel.

Hireup is hosting a community event in Canberra on 4 August 2016. Contact Hireup at to find out more.

Photography by Andrew Finch


Her Canberra

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