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6.9 Psychosocial rehabilitation and further education
Recognising how further education and psychosocial rehabilitation can help a client to achieve their overall rehabilitation goals can be challenging. It is easy to see the link between further education and achieving a vocational rehabilitation outcome. For example, doing a Certificate IV in Accounting is a logical activity to progress towards the goal of getting a job as a bookkeeper. However, when it comes to psychosocial rehabilitation goals, the link between the client’s goals and education can be less clear.
If a client’s psychosocial rehabilitation goal is to find an activity to meaningfully occupy them while they are recovering from a physical injury, doing a short course like, for example, art, craft, music or cooking is a reasonable way to reach that goal, and it meets the criteria of being cost-effective and time-limited.
In complex cases where, for example, the client’s previous ADF role involved high levels of responsibility, they are recovering from grief and trauma, and are struggling to re-establish their identity and self-worth, achieving a psychosocial goal related to further education may be a first step towards long-term recovery. This may, or may not, include a return to work.
Undertaking a challenging education course, such as a diploma or even a tertiary degree, may be important for building the client’s self-esteem and would meet the broad aims of DVA’s psychosocial rehabilitation approach, to maximise the client’s quality of life and their ability to function independently (see section 6.2 of this library). In this situation, even though the client does not have a specific vocational goal, starting on the path to commencing tertiary study, should not be an overt goal in the critical early stages of their recovery.
However, in practical terms, it is not intended that a full tertiary education course would be provided through a psychosocial rehabilitation plan. This means that expectation management is very important when discussing tertiary education options. This is particularly important where a client has been given medical clearance to study, but not to return to employment, and the client's treating health professional states that tertiary study will assist recovery.
It is important to acknowledge that tertiary education can be very stressful, as well as being satisfying and meaningful. For this reason, it could be appropriate for a person to undertake a tertiary preparation course while participating in a psychosocial rehabilitation plan, to provide an opportunity for them to test their resilience, develop confidence and develop social connections with others with similar interests. Similarly, a TAFE course of a shorter duration may be a more appropriate option to commencing a degree level course.
If a client successfully completes the tertiary preparation course, or a short term TAFE course, and wishes to continue with their studies, then the next step in the process is to organise a case conference between the DVA Rehabilitation Coordinator, the rehabilitation provider and the client's treating health practitioner. The aim of the case conference is to discuss the person's capacity to return to employment and the likelihood of achieving this, if they were provided with an opportunity to progress to a tertiary education course. Before a tertiary course is supported, a comprehensive vocational rehabilitation assessment must also be conducted, to ensure that the particular course of study is appropriate for the client and is likely to lead to a suitable and sustainable employment outcome.
It is essential that all stakeholders understand that a transition to a return to work plan will be required, to enable the person to continue to be supported to undertake their studies. In some cases, additional flexibility may be required where unusual circumstances exist. For example, the first year of study may be funded through a psychosocial rehabilitation plan, and then if good progress is made, the client will be transitioned to a return to work plan, with the support of their treating health practitioner. If this approach is used it is essential that the client understands that they will be expected to commit to working towards return to work goals, and actively participate in vocational rehabilitation activities, including for example, work experience, work trials, and/or job seeking.
In the long run, this type of investment may in fact be a cost-effective approach, particularly with pro-active management from a skilled rehabilitation provider, who can make a judgement about the appropriate time to begin to explicitly discuss a return to work, and transition to a return to work program as the person’s skills and confidence grow.
In all circumstances, making a decision about the reasonableness of further education courses to meet the psychosocial goals of individual clients, means carefully weighing up all of the 10 criteria listed in section 6.6, paying particular attention to criterion 10 – ‘any other relevant matters’. DVA Rehabilitation Coordinators must also utilise the tertiary education policy guidelines to guide their decision making and approval process.
Study and non-accepted conditions
DVA will not approve funding for tertiary study to address the impact of non-accepted conditions (that is, conditions which DVA does not recognise as being related to the client's ADF service). However, a short course, such as for example, a short TAFE course, adult education or health self-management course could be considered as a psychosocial activity under a whole-of-person rehabilitation plan to help the person to manage the impact of non-accepted conditions. For more information about psychosocial activities to address non-accepted conditions please refer to section 6.3 of this library.