Are We Ready for the NDIS Agenda?
17 April 2017 at 3:19 pm
Senior manager disability and mental health services at AnglicareSA Kate Rush asks if Australia is ready for the NDIS.
Rush is speaking at the upcoming Criterion conference on Financial Sustainability for the NDIS. Early bird ticket pricing ends 21 April.
Are we ready for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)? A question continually asked of the increasing number of disability providers and thousands of disability service customers, many of whom are already waist deep in the NDIS. But the success of the NDIS is dependent on this question consciously extending to the minds and pockets of all Australians. As a society, are we really ready for the NDIS?
Customers are working hard to understand the NDIS and prepare for “planning” (some would argue negotiation) meetings with the National Disability Insurance Agency. Then the 61,000 customers who have already received their plan and are trying to find ways to exercise “choice and control” around receipt of services. It’s a significant shift for customers, shown through the popularity of services like AnglicareSA’s free NDIS Customer Advocacy service which is designed to help customers navigate the new system.
Service providers are engaging in a whole new ball game too. In South Australia alone, the sector has seen an increase of providers from around 170 “pre-NDIS” to now close to 500. It’s a noisy marketplace and the noise isn’t just the external advertising and promotion, it’s also noisy within those agencies. Unit costing, cashflow rates, marketing, workforce development, restructures, customer management systems and consumer-driven services are all becoming the new staff discussion “norm”.
Nationally the noise is escalating around quality frameworks and the debate about “affordability”. Estimates suggest a shortfall of funding of anywhere between $3 billion to $5 billion and whilst the market analysis is sceptical, both sides of government appear committed to finding a budget to make the NDIS work ahead of full implementation from 2019/20.
Have we hidden the real agenda of the NDIS?
The noise of the NDIS is almost deafening. But amongst all this, have we hidden the real agenda of the NIDS? A recent coffee with a friend made me wonder.
“Sorry I’m late,” she said. “I dropped something behind the bed this morning and it took me 45 minutes to get it out.” I almost blushed as I recalled complaining about being two minutes late to my car because I had lost my keys again. My friend is a paraplegic and retrieving something from under the bed is no easy feat. The way she described the retrieval process made it sound like she had completed an Army-style obstacle course that morning.
“Do you think the NDIS will make life better for me? Or at least simpler?” she asked. I stared into the long black coffee in my hand, which suddenly felt like a philosophical “black hole” designed to stretch thoughts beyond the everyday. I really hoped Australia’s disability sector was listening to this. Her voice was a resemblance of the hundreds of customers we had recently consulted regarding the NDIS.
AnglicareSA’s customer research revealed very similar stories. Yes, there were typical concerns about understanding and ensuring the viability of the NDIS, but more important was the story of customers who wanted services to make a difference. The messages were about customers wanting to be included in society, wanting service providers to adapt to each of their individual preferences and needs, wanting a disability sector that was not just different, but much, much better. Their challenge to providers is for innovation and flexibility, their challenge to Australia is for inclusion and recognition.
Your financial analysis is not static
I have been asked to speak at the upcoming Criterion Conference on Financial Sustainability for the NDIS. AnglicareSA already has two years of providing NDIS services and we now have a good understanding of achieving service quality and financial viability in this space. One critical learning is that your financial analysis is not static. Not if you choose to listen to customers.
Each customer we work with wants something a little different, something that supports them as an individual. This means that financial analysis has to be as agile as our services aim to be. Otherwise we are not really listening. We are not really ready.
When introducing the increase to the Medicare Levy to support funding for the NDIS, then prime minister Julia Gillard noted the initiative “is a united embrace of national responsibility and a great act of mutual care…”. There was a vision of the agenda for the NDIS. One that reflected a society that wanted to listen and respond better to people with a disability and mental illness. It’s important we get the bottom line right, nationally and as service providers. But the real value and sustainability of this scheme will come from ensuring there remains great clarity and focus on the real agenda of the NDIS. That is up to all of us – Australia, are you ready?
Register for the Financial Sustainability for the NDIS conference soon to secure early bird rates!