NDIS - Not Just Bells and Whistles
Tuesday, 7th July 2015 at 12:06 pm
Not since the introduction of Medicare, one of Australia’s largest social reform, have we seen such large-scale impact on this country’s social sector, writes Celia Hodson from the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) Australia on the introduction of the NDIS.
Much like those 10 years between 1974 and 1984 where Medibank, Medibank Mark II, and Medicare were in a state of constant change, we are now seeing the state of constant flux surrounding the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIS).
While it could be easy to suggest that this flux is detrimental to the sector, the creation of opportunities for people living with a disability and for service providers alike, is a positive side-effect of a changing state.
Like I have said before, and will continue to say, innovation is the key to leveraging the NDIS for the greater good of society.
Innovation has already started
The contrast of innovation and disability service provision has never been as top of mind as it is now, and with the full roll out of the NDIS nearing, it’s refreshing to see that the NDIS is driving its own innovation with Australia’s first NDIS shopfront in Western Sydney.
The site which is set to focus on “early intervention support plans and funding for children under the age of 18”, according to ABC Online, will support 2,000 young people living with a disability before opening its doors to the wider disabled community.
This level of innovation is something that was expected from Australia’s burgeoning social enterprise community and it's refreshing to see the NDIS driving innovative solutions to the challenges the NDIS brings about.
The NDIS is a large social reform that requires education and support for the creation of personalised care plans. We simply can’t transform the sector without transforming the level of support we give people living with a disability, their families and their carers.
While this concept is rather traditional in a wider market, the implementation in the disability services sector shows a level of innovation that is catching.
Social Entrepreneurs are coming to the table
For the roll out of the NDIS to be successful from a service provision perspective, service providers must transform the way they operate.
Organisations who have traditionally focussed on submitting Government tenders now must focus on selling direct to the customer and leveraging opportunities to drive home their services and products. Looking at the customer and how to support them with a strong product offering is of utmost importance.
This level of innovation was particularly evident in SSE Australia’s first graduating cohort of NDIS Accelerator Program participants. Through the four month program, students accessed over 100 experts to drive home the need for innovation as they developed or redeveloped their ventures.
We only need to look to Angela Mariana, Founder, Everbility, who is developing products that enhance accessibility for a wide range of abilities including launching an assistive travel application, in conjunction with Transport for NSW with the main focus of assisting people with intellectual disabilities.
Another program participant, Sean Willenberg, Founder, Gig Buddies, has driven innovation through the provision of a free service that assists people with disabilities to enjoy evening events with the guidance of a volunteer “buddy”, so they can attend live music for example, without the restriction of a carer finishing work 9pm.
It’s not only about the bells and whistles
Recently we were fortunate to again rely on John Walsh, AM, Board Member of the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), to help us identify the importance of demonstrating innovation and value to the end consumer.
It was evident that innovation is not only about the bells and whistles, rather about practical innovation driving change.
“It will take some time for the NDIS market to evolve, so providers will have a transition period in which customers will not quickly change providers. In the longer term, however, organisations must prove their value to retain their customers and attract new ones – this value will be measured both in the innovation and attractiveness in the product, and also the ability of the organisation and workforce to engage with customers.
“From a business sustainability point of view, product also must be profitable or at least break even, and the business must have the capability to track its cash flows and profitability,” Walsh said.
While there are still opportunities to leverage and challenges to overcome it is refreshing to see that both sides of the fence are driving innovation. From the NDIS we are seeing initiatives such as the Western Sydney Shop Front and disability advocacy reviews, and from social ventures we are seeing a plethora of initiatives driving sector-wide change; this powerful combination is one that will truly transform the sector.
In October SSE Australia is running its second NDIS Accelerator Program that is will again provide access to and sessions with leading corporate, government and community networks from the Australian and the UK disability sectors.
About the Author: Celia Hodson is the Chief Executive Officer of the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) Australia and has a wealth of experience in supporting and advocating for social entrepreneurs, as a business person, entrepreneur and founder of one of the UK’s most successful social enterprise schools, The Eastern Enterprise Hub. Hodson’s previous UK based roles included Deputy Chief Executive at Social Enterprise UK, Chief Executive Officer at Cambridge Co-operative Development Agency and Chief Executive of regional development agency Choose Suffolk. She has also held numerous board positions with UK based Not for Profits and social enterprises.