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Disability Service Providers Losing Confidence in NDIS

4 December 2017 at 5:08 pm
Luke Michael
Business confidence in the disability services sector has slumped due to problems with the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), according to a new report.

Luke Michael | 4 December 2017 at 5:08 pm


Disability Service Providers Losing Confidence in NDIS
4 December 2017 at 5:08 pm

Business confidence in the disability services sector has slumped due to problems with the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), according to a new report.

National Disability Services (NDS) released The State of the Disability Sector Report 2017 on Monday, which included a survey of 516 service providers.  

It found only 58 per cent of service providers were planning to expand services in the year ahead (compared to 68 per cent two years ago), while 57 per cent of providers predicted they would not be able to meet service demand in 2018.

This was due in part to the implementation problems with the first 18 months of transition to the NDIS.

“Most disability service providers support the direction of change, but they feel under immense pressure. The NDIS demands huge growth and change at the same time. As the Productivity Commission observed, this is ‘highly challenging’ for disability service providers,” the report said.

“Add to this the implementation problems of the NDIS. These have dogged the scheme since July 2016 when the NDIS moved to full-scheme transition. NDIS systems faltered as the intake of participants dramatically increased. After three years of trial, the NDIS had brought in 30,000 people, 15 months later the number had increased to 113,000.  

“The pressure to process people quickly led to short-cuts – phone planning instead of face-to-face planning, for example. Many new planners lacked the skills and experience required. The quality of participant plans fell.”

Many service providers expressed concern about their financial sustainability, with issues relating to unrealistic pricing, costly red tape, workforce shortages and uncertainty around policy.

Only 40 per cent of disability service providers rated their financial condition as “strong” or “very strong”, compared to 53 per cent last year.

The report noted that the National Disability Insurance Agency’s (NDIA) decision to require a quotation for every participant living in Supported Independent Living (SIL) had added to the transition hurdles.

“[This decision] has been burdensome for disability service providers. The process requires unnecessary duplication of information already held by the agency and is based on a limited understanding of how shared supported living arrangements work in practice,” the report said.

“The time to agree a quote can extend into months and some disability service providers have been without payment for extended periods of time. A better system for determining SIL funding must be found.

“NDS continues to argue that disability service providers willing to accept benchmark prices should not have to submit a quotation and a new quotation should not be required for every plan review.”

NDS chief executive Dr Ken Baker, told Pro Bono News that despite the uncertainty, service providers were still committed to the NDIS.

“The service providers haven’t lost their faith in the NDIS, they’re just very unsure if they can operate successfully in the scheme,” Baker said.

“The service sector doesn’t appear to be moving fast enough to meet demand as it comes into the system and I think there’s a range of factors at play there. Clearly, organisations feel that their financial position is not strong enough.

“They are very worried about the NDIS pricing. They’re having difficulties recruiting workers, and they feel that the policy environment in which they’re moving is very uncertain.”

Baker said the extreme pressure placed on NDIS providers was due in part to the government’s focus on the quantity of participants rather than the quality of service.

“Governments have focused on getting a lot of people into the scheme and probably not sufficiently on ensuring that the services are there for people to get,” he said.

“The systems we know, have had a lot of teething problems, and that’s created additional stress and frustration for providers as well.”

Baker said to improve the NDIS “a range of measures” was needed, but he was confident the NDIA was willing to improve the systems in place.

“There does need to be more streamlined and efficient systems, so that working within the NDIS is easier than at present and has less red tape. I know the NDIA knows and recognises that,” he said.

“I think that we’re looking very closely at the outcomes of the independent pricing review, which is underway at present. We hope that out of that comes more realistic pricing of supports. That would be a very important signal for the sector.

“And we probably need more investment across Australia in assisting organisations to make the very large adjustment required from the old system to the new one.”

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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