NDIS: Get Big, Get Niche or Get Out
Tuesday, 30th January 2018 at 8:23 am
Ahead of their upcoming Delivering Quality in the NDIS Conference, Criterion ask: Where are we now when it comes to the NDIS?
Back in 2013 at the very first pre-NDIS conference, “Get Big, Get Niche or Get Out” was the unofficial slogan of the day. Though not much was known, there was a tacit acknowledgement that organisations would need to radically transform in order to survive.
With the National Disability Service publishing their fabulously insightful State of the Disability Sector report in December 2017, it seems an interesting time to look back and examine to what extent these predictors of market survival have come true.
With the benefits of economies of scale, reach and learnings, this predicted trend was always a likely scenario. The consolidation or merger approach to growth has indeed proven a popular choice with around 38 per cent “discussing or undertaking a merger” in 2018 – a steady, but moderate growth of 7 per cent from the year prior.
A feature of which last year was multiple examples of large organisations being absorbed by ever larger providers. A timely example of course being the present merger between: the House with No Steps, The Tipping Foundation (TTF) and Victorian Person Centred Services Inc (VISTA) slated for March 2018.
Interestingly the concept of individual organisation expansion has slowed over time, in response to the well-documented NDIS market challenges. Just under 58 per cent of organisations forecast an expansion of offered services this year, which is noticeably down on the first two years post roll-out.
This is an interesting point.The NDIS has given rise to specific organisations, filling a gap previously inconceivable under block funding models and making a real success out of the new order. Uniquely niche concepts such as Hireup or MySupports have begun to scratch the surface of what the NDIS could and should be.
A number of smaller/ medium sized for-profit organisations have shown an ability to specialise and turn a profit within the current framework. Providers such as FocusACT have demonstrated the viability of the scheme: given clear organisational focus, high quality service and a solid grasp on the financials are a prime example of striking that sweet spot.
Sadly this too has been evident, with many providers being overwhelmed by the challenges ranging from: technical issues with the portal, bloated IR structures, an inability to attract and retain staff or structural deficiencies.
Actual statistics on the total number of providers in the market is difficult to ascertain, but looking at the profitability trends paint an increasingly polarising picture with the number of providers reporting either a loss OR a profit increasing (break even fell proportionately).
So where does this leave us?
As with any good topic, that answer is murky. It depends, would be the disappointingly bland conclusion. While there have indeed been trends towards the three potential pathways, there are also a substantial number of organisations operating similarly to their traditional methods, and performing relatively soundly.
Perhaps it still is a question of time. In human terms the NDIS is only just leaving its infancy and starting to experience the first steps and stumbles of childhood. One would expect that “voting with their feet” will increasingly differentiate the strong from the weak performers, but the data as yet in not quite as black and white as initially feared.
To learn more about this topic, attend our Delivering Quality in the NDIS Conference held on the 27 and 28 February 2018.