The NDIS One Year On
15 July 2014 at 10:56 am
As a national conference marking the first trial year of the NDIS is set to take place in August, the CEO of NFP service organisation St Laurence Community Services, Toby o’Connor, reflects on the challenges to providers and consumers after 12 months of the trial in Geelong’s Barwon region.
It’s now one year since the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) trial began in the Barwon region. The Scheme exists because of a committed, public campaign by people with disability, their families and friends and disability charitable organisations. Many of these charities were established by parents well before governments provided any funding to partially pay the real costs of delivering support. In Geelong, that campaign was led by Karingal.
The NDIS is the biggest national social policy project since Medicare was introduced back in the 1970s.
A central theory underpinning the Scheme is that people with disability will be empowered to act as discerning consumers. An independent government Agency has been set up to administer the Scheme. The Agency assesses the type and level of support an eligible person will require so they can participate more fully in the local community.
There is an extensive list of supports the Agency will fund. The money goes to the consumer who is responsible for finding a registered provider who can deliver the particular support they need.
If a provider cannot deliver the service a consumer wants, when they want it, where they want it and at a price considered as good value, the customer can ‘shop around’ for another provider that will meet their demands. While this “free market” approach is completely new to many NGOs, I believe such accountability to the customer will drive innovative solutions and deliver cost efficient and effective intervention services.
There is no doubt the Scheme is throwing out challenges to providers not used to operating in a competitive environment. At the same time it is bringing many new opportunities for Geelong. There will be new jobs but these will rely on new ways to offer old services and increased flexible work practices. The location of the national headquarters in Geelong supplementing the TAC and the impending relocation of Workcover, means Geelong has a real chance to be a centre of excellence for habilitation and rehabilitation.
Has the Scheme changed the lives of people with disability in the Barwon region? St Laurence is a provider of a range of support services to NDIS consumers. From where I sit, I can see real evidence that consumers have a fuller range of services that are tailored to meet their needs. Importantly, they now have real choice about where they choose to purchase their services from.
From a consumer’s perspective the process brings welcomed transparency to the transaction.
The Victorian Government sponsored a project run by the Committee for Geelong which helps educate people with disability about what it means to be a consumer in this new environment. Such an initiative reflects the commitment of both levels of government to make the trial as successful as possible before it is rolled out across Australia later in 2019.
It is imperative consumers act as customers in this environment because costs must be kept to a reasonable level as Australia’s ageing population places pressure on revenue collection and increased expenditure due to the rising cost of medical care.
Some of the challenges governments need to address as part of this roll out will be discussed at a national conference being sponsored by St Laurence in Geelong on August 11 and 12.
What a great opportunity for Geelong to be at the centre of this national conversation about such an important change to Australian public policy.
Footnote: A two-day National Conference will examine the first year of NDIS implementation – the evidence, the impacts, the challenges and the opportunities – August 11 and 12 at Costa Hall, Deakin University, Waterfront, Geelong.
About the Author: Toby o’Connor has been the CEO of St Laurence Community Services since 2009, and has spent much of his career working in the Not for Profit sector. St Laurence is a community-based, independent organisation founded to assist communities in south and western Victoria.