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NDIS Fails to Provide 'Decent' Disability Jobs – Union Report

10 August 2017 at 2:46 pm
Lina Caneva
A new report commissioned by the unions representing Australia’s community sector workers has raised concerns about the ability of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to provide "decent jobs for disability support workers".

Lina Caneva | 10 August 2017 at 2:46 pm


NDIS Fails to Provide 'Decent' Disability Jobs – Union Report
10 August 2017 at 2:46 pm

A new report commissioned by the unions representing Australia’s community sector workers has raised concerns about the ability of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to provide “decent jobs for disability support workers”.

The report, Reasonable, Necessary and Valued, released by a University of New South Wales-led research team, found that the NDIS pricing system did not cover the full costs of disability support and would fail to provide high quality services.

Key findings of the report on NDIS pricing arrangements included:

  • disability support workers not allocated enough work time required to provide personalised, coordinated, responsive and safe services to people with disability;
  • the legal employment entitlements of disability support workers can’t be met;
  • casualisation was contributing to financial insecurity for workers;
  • pricing didn’t include training or further skills development of the disability support workforce;
  • disability support workers were accessing training in unpaid time;
  • unpredictable shifts leading to poor work-life balance;
  • physical injuries, exhaustion, stress and other negative psychological impacts from the combination of working conditions and work intensity.

The report found that the current NDIS pricing arrangements, set by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), failed to “recognise the time required to deliver quality services to NDIS participants… resulting in lower quality support and increased risks for participants”.

The authors identified that NDIS prices “incentivise cost cutting” and “are not fully enabling disability support workers to deliver services which are personalised, coordinated, responsive or safe; and quality is likely to diminish in the process of NDIS expansion”.

The report called for an “equitable restructuring of funding arrangements”.

“Fairer pricing arrangements would recognise that providers require access to resource levels which enable them to attract, train and retain high quality staff, and to employ staff in decent jobs that provide adequate hours and earnings, safe workplaces, job security, and a reasonable work-life balance,” the report said.

“While the NDIA will increase prices for 2017-18 in line with minimum wage and cost of living increases, these changes do not overcome underlying problems in the structure of prices, which are shifting the costs of provision onto workers and undermining quality.

“Although disability support workers’ commitment to NDIS participants means they frequently perform unpaid work to compensate for under-resourcing, the level of underpricing is such that the quality of supports is inevitably diminished.

“Pricing is undermining quality in a range of ways, including through the loss of co-ordinated team approaches to support, lack of time for communication among workers and supervisors, reduced oversight and safeguarding, and increased casualisation.”

Three unions representing frontline disability workers in Australia –  the Australian Services Union (ASU), the Health Services Union (HSU), and United Voice said the NDIS was “predicated on a system in which workers were both undervalued and forced to compensate for under-resourcing with unpaid overtime”.

National President of the Health Services Union Lloyd Williams said: “Chronic underfunding is creating real risks for the future viability of the NDIS. Hard-working frontline disability support workers on award-based minimum rates of pay are barely making ends meet. The current price settings are unsustainable for attracting and retaining a skilled workforce”.

Assistant National Secretary of the Australian Services Union Linda White said: “One in five new jobs created in Australia in the coming years will be NDIS jobs. How will we find workers to do these jobs when there are no career paths and inadequate funding for training?

“We need to attract and retain people for a career, so that people with disability get continuity of support and high quality support – that is at risk under the current NDIS pricing arrangements,” White said.

Assistant National Secretary of United Voice Helen Gibbons said: “This report confirms that inadequate pricing structures of the NDIS do not allow for employment conditions that will attract and retain the necessary NDIS workforce. More than that without quality jobs NDIS participants will not receive the quality supports they deserve.”

The report concluded that “a disability support system predicated on cost-shifting onto low-paid workers is unsustainable”.

“Under current conditions, it will be difficult to expand the disability services workforce, placing the supply of quality services at risk. Prices need to properly recognise and value frontline workers, and provide incentives for service providers to employ, support and retain a workforce capable of providing high quality services and supports.”

The new research will form part of the union submission to the Productivity Commission inquiry into the costs associated with the NDIS.

The inquiry is examining issues including: the sustainability of scheme costs; jurisdictional capacity (including the complementary disability services provided by the States and Territories); cost pressures (including wage pressures); changes in the agreed escalation parameters; whether efficiencies have been achieved within the scheme; whether there has been any impact on mainstream services; and examine the most appropriate levers to manage any potential cost overruns.

Recently 44 disability and mental health sector union delegates met in Sydney to discuss the evolution of work under the NDIS and their hopes and concerns for the future.

Coming out of the ASU NDIS Delegates Conference, delegates identified:

  • cuts to training;
  • lack of consultation;
  • work intensification;
  • low pay and lack of recognition for the valuable work undertaken;
  • problems with the planning process and the flow on effect to workers;
  • less supervision and support; and
  • mental health not properly understood or valued.

The delegates agreed to develop a working plan to address these issues across the sector and in their workplaces.

The commission will deliver its report to the federal government in October 2017.


Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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One comment

  • Rodney says:

    I totally agree with the above mention and I will be leaving the industry shortly for another career. One of the reason is NDIS will not fund the staff for the extra cost of staff having to do what they call a “Wake Over” instead of a sleep over. Staff will attend to client several times through the night and as a result will only get 2 to 4 hours sleep before their follow on shift. But in reality staff should be replace and sent home to get some rest. Usually a good sleep over you may just have to get up once during the night to attend to the client and so staff get roughly 7 hours sleep. The sleep over is a lot cheaper than the wake over and requires an extra staff member to be available. In reality the NDIS was created to save money , but was advertised as this great system where clients or persons with disabilities would have control of their funding and thus have a better life.

    I was witness to hearing some of the promoters telling persons with intellectual disabilities ” what would you do with all that money” The money being the package he would receive from the NDIS. Things like you could buy a car or go on a holiday and get the staff that you want to work with you. In my point of view it was deception to sell a product but as we know it was a product to cut cost


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