top of page

Australian Community Industry Alliance: The role of community support services in embracing recovery

Within the complex tapestry of healthcare services, one thread stands out for its profound impact on individuals’ lives — supports delivered by community care workers.

Within the community, these services serve as lifelines for individuals navigating the complexities of disability, injury, or chronic illness. However, beyond assistance with daily tasks, there exists a significant opportunity — the opportunity to embrace a recovery-based focus that transforms lives and fosters resilience.

Whether it’s recovering from an illness or injury, or managing a chronic condition, the journey towards wellness requires comprehensive support systems. In recent years, this has been a predominant focus in healthcare settings.

However, the community care support worker will often have many more hours of contact with an individual than their health care team. These services play a pivotal role in facilitating recovery and empowering individuals to regain independence and improve their quality of life.

Understanding attendant care services

Community care services encompass a range of supports provided to individuals who require assistance with activities of daily living due to physical or cognitive impairments, often acquired through traumatic injury. These services are typically delivered in a community setting, allowing individuals to remain in their homes while receiving the necessary support to maintain their independence.

However, the significance of the community care support worker extends far beyond the tangible tasks they perform; it lies in their potential to empower individuals on their journey towards increased capacity and potential recovery, depending upon the individuals’ personal circumstances.

Shifting the approach

Traditionally, paid support roles have been framed around the concept of maintenance, focusing on meeting the basic needs of individuals without necessarily emphasising growth or improvement. However, the paradigm is shifting towards a recovery-based approach, where community care services are tailored to support individuals in achieving their personal goals, enhancing their functional abilities, and fostering self-determination.

At the heart of a recovery-based approach lies the recognition of individuals as active participants in their own life journey, and if appropriate to their circumstances, rehabilitation.

Unlike traditional models that may prescribe standardised interventions, a recovery-focused approach acknowledges the uniqueness of each individual’s experience and tailors support accordingly. Whether it’s regaining mobility, rebuilding social connections, or pursuing personal goals, the journey towards recovery is deeply personal, guided by the individual’s aspirations, strengths, and values.

Community care providers play a crucial role in empowering individuals to set and pursue meaningful goals. By fostering a collaborative relationship based on trust and mutual respect, support workers can facilitate the development of skills and strategies that enable individuals to overcome challenges and navigate the complexities of daily life with confidence.

Recovery takes a team

Recovery is a concept that is much broader than physical rehabilitation; it encompasses the holistic wellbeing of individuals, addressing their emotional, social, and psychological needs.

The community care worker, who has regular contact with the person on their recovery journey, is best placed to identify the person’s needs and additional resources that may be required at different stages of their recovery journey.

This may involve a team-based approach that can address emotional support, facilitate access to community resources, or assist individuals in developing coping mechanisms to manage stress and anxiety effectively.

It is important that health care professionals recognise the important role of the community care support worker and service team, and provide open lines of communication, engagement, and a two-way exchange of information to ensure the best possible outcomes for the person to build capacity and where appropriate, aid recovery.

Autonomy, independence, and dignity of risk

Central to the philosophy of a recovery-based approach is the belief in the inherent dignity and autonomy of every individual. Attendant care services guided by this principle prioritise the preservation of independence and respect the individual’s right to make choices that align with their values and preferences.

By fostering an environment of empowerment and autonomy, caregivers not only enhance the individual’s sense of self-worth but also promote their ability to live a meaningful and fulfilling life on their own terms.

Dignity of risk is an important concept when supporting someone to build capacity.

At its core, the dignity of risk acknowledges that individuals, regardless of their circumstances or abilities, should have the freedom to make decisions about their own lives, even if those decisions involve some level of risk.

Embracing the dignity of risk means recognising that shielding individuals from all potential harm or failure ultimately robs them of the opportunity to grow, learn, and experience life to its fullest. It involves shifting the focus from a purely risk-averse approach to one that prioritises the individual’s right to self-determination and personal agency.

In practical terms, this may manifest in various ways within community support services. It could mean supporting individuals in pursuing their goals, even if those goals involve venturing into unfamiliar territory or facing obstacles along the way. It might involve providing the necessary resources, information, and guidance to help individuals make informed choices while still respecting their autonomy.

Moreover, embracing the dignity of risk requires a shift in mindset, both within support and healthcare service providers, and the broader community. It involves moving away from a mentality of overprotection and paternalism towards one of empowerment and trust.

Instead of viewing individuals solely through the lens of their limitations or vulnerabilities, the dignity of risk is about recognising and nurturing their strengths, aspirations, and potential for growth.

Challenges and opportunities

While the adoption of a recovery-based approach in community care services brings forth numerous benefits, it also presents challenges that need to be addressed. These may include resource limitations, workforce training needs, and ensuring cultural competency to meet the diverse needs of individuals.

However, with concerted efforts from policymakers, healthcare professionals, and caregivers, these challenges can be overcome, paving the way for a more inclusive and person-centred approach to community care.


In the complex landscape of health and community care, the journey towards increased capacity and potential recovery is not merely about overcoming physical limitations; it’s about reclaiming one’s sense of agency, purpose, and dignity.

Community care services play a pivotal role in supporting individuals on this journey, offering not just assistance with daily tasks but a pathway towards empowerment, independence, and holistic wellbeing.

By embracing a recovery-based focus, support workers have the opportunity to make a profound and positive impact on the lives of those they serve, transforming challenges into opportunities for growth, resilience, and hope.

About ACIA

The Australian Community Industry Alliance (ACIA) is the peak body for the Community Care sector. ACIA’s purpose is to ensure people requiring community support are empowered through access to high quality services that meet their diverse needs and aspirations. Through the maintenance of the JASANZ endorsed Australian Community Industry Standards (ACIS), and support and training for the providers of services, ACIA strives to support high quality service delivery and a thriving community care sector.

By Debbie Eisenhauer-Rodney, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Community Industry Alliance (ACIA)

02 92647197


bottom of page