NDIS Urged to Implement Portable Training System for Workers
17 April 2018 at 8:31 am
A leading economist has called for a portable training system for disability support workers, as he warned the market-oriented delivery system built into the National Disability Insurance Scheme could promote an unstable “gig economy mentality”.
Dr Jim Stanford is an economist and director of the Centre for Future Work, which released a report on Friday examining a “staff crisis” in NDIS services.
The report, co-authored by Stanford and Dr Rose Ryan, said a portable training entitlement system for disability support workers under the NDIS would help the scheme to deliver high-quality, individualised services to people with disabilities.
Under this system, disability support workers receive credit for one hour of paid training for every 50 hours worked in NDIS-funded service delivery.
Stanford told Pro Bono News that under the NDIS, providers were struggling to attract and retain enough skilled workers to deliver quality services, and that unstable work was leading to huge staff turnover.
He said their proposed scheme would address these issues, and offer workers the opportunity to accumulate enough training to develop more specialised qualifications in disability services.
“I think the insecurity of work under the NDIS and the lack of training for disability support workers have reinforced each other,” Stanford said.
“Under our training proposal, each worker would accumulate credits for training, even if they are working for multiple employers at once, and that would allow them to undertake a certain amount of training each year to build up their skills and qualifications.
“And I think it would also stabilise the working practices under the NDIS, so you get higher quality services in the end.”
Stanford warned that the current approach to the NDIS was promoting a dangerous “gig economy mentality” that would not benefit disability workers or clients.
“There’s a danger that the market-oriented delivery system that’s built into the NDIS right now could promote a kind of gig economy mentality towards the provision of disability services, where people are just hired for an hour here or an hour there to do a job without any kind of security and scheduling,” he said.
“And we think that would be a disservice to the people with disabilities who are supposed to be serviced by the NDIS.”
Stanford said unstable work was contributing to a lack of career development and training.
“Because if you don’t have any confidence that you’re going to have regular hours of work or any confidence you can work your way up the classifications into a decent career, you won’t undertake the investments in your own training that are required for you to do the best job as a disability support worker,” he said.
“Likewise, the fact that disability support is seen as an unskilled job, quite wrongly – the skills involved are actually very demanding but it’s seen as an unskilled job that anyone can do – contributes to providers trying to hire people on a short-term, unstable basis rather than developing a permanent high-skilled workforce.”
While the NDIS is expected to spur massive job-creation in coming years, Stanford said evidence was mounting that the quality of many jobs was poor, making this portable training proposal vital.
“There’s a huge opportunity with the rollout of the NDIS, for the creation of thousands and thousands of new jobs in this field. In fact the expectation is the workforce needs to double, adding 70,000 full-time equivalent jobs just to meet the new demand under the NDIS,” he said.
“But those workers can’t come out of thin air. We need the industry to be providing urgent attention to recruitment retention and training of a new workforce.
“And only with a comprehensive well-funded training program will that be possible.”
Stanford estimated the cost of this proposal, including immediate upfront training for new recruits and ongoing portable training entitlements for people working in the field, to be around $190 million a year.
“That’s a significant amount of money but it’s a tiny fraction of the overall cost of the NDIS, which is expected to be about $22 billion a year,” Stanford said.
“So we’re proposing that less than 1 cent on each dollar of NDIS funding be allocated towards an ongoing training system that should be funded similar to the NDIS as a whole – as a jointly funded initiative of the Commonwealth and state government.
“And in order to protect the funds flowing to NDIS participants, we think that training money should be delivered through a different revenue stream from the other NDIS services.”
The report concluded that a change in the culture of the disability industry was needed, in order to recognise training as an investment, rather than just a cost.
“The training and skills development structure that has been described here is feasible, pragmatic, and affordable, and consistent with the founding vision that motivated the development and implementation of the NDIS,” the report said.
“By emphasising that a commitment to quality benefits all participants in the sector… a consensus can be built that investing a very small proportion of total costs… in ongoing training will help to achieve the full potential that the NDIS’s architects hoped for.”