Government pledges $850 million to help NDIS providers
Monday, 1st April 2019 at 4:02 pm
The federal government has bowed to significant pressure from disability providers by agreeing to major price increases for a range of National Disability Insurance Scheme services.
Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher on Saturday announced a raft of NDIS price increases, including an $11 an hour rise for therapy supports, and a price rise of up to 15.4 per cent for attendant care providers.
These changes will see the NDIS market boosted by $850 million, with this money taken from an estimated $2.5 billion pool of unspent NDIS funds.
Graeme Innes, from the National Disability Insurance Agency’s Pricing Reference Group, said the pricing changes were discussed by the group over a number of meetings and were supported by a strong body of evidence.
“We endorse the changes because we are satisfied that the increases are reflective of the adjustment that is needed to address sector concerns and ensure participants continue to be supported in achieving their goals,” Innes said.
The price increases follow a concerted campaign from National Disability Services urging the government to prioritise the NDIS and divert funds towards providers in next week’s budget or risk the scheme’s failure.
NDS has long argued the biggest challenge for the sector was unrealistic pricing limits – which set the maximum prices that providers can charge NDIS participants for specific supports.
The group welcomed the significant price increases as a “long overdue” reform. But acting CEO David Moody said he was disappointed the full increase was not necessarily ongoing.
“We are waiting to see the detail, and we have not been given enough to make a call about what this means. For most of our members it will ease the pressure, but there is still more to be done,” Moody said.
“Together with our members we will be continuing to pursue urgent improvements to the way the NDIS is administered and an effective national workforce strategy to support the sector in delivering the scheme.”
From July, support price limits in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria will rise from $179 to $210 an hour for psychology services and from $179 to $190 an hour for physiotherapy services.
In the remaining states and territories, support price limits will increase from $179 to $230 an hour for psychology services and from $179 to $220 an hour for physiotherapy services.
Attendant care providers will also be eligible for a temporary transformation payment to help them cover the costs of entering the NDIS.
Importantly for people with disability, funding in participant plans will also be automatically adjusted to reflect these price increases.
Over the weekend Labor attacked the government’s announcement, labelling it a huge admission that the Coalition had pushed many providers to the brink of closure.
Shadow social services minister Linda Burney and shadow finance minister Jim Chalmers said in a joint statement the government had put the NDIS in jeopardy by failing to take action sooner.
“It should never have got to this. The government has lost control of the NDIS and does not have a fair and reasonable process for setting prices. A sustainable NDIS means sustainable pricing,” they said.
“Otherwise people with disability will be left stranded without services, and the NDIA will continue to make erratic decisions on price.”
They also slammed the government over speculation it will use unspent NDIS funds to boost the budget bottom line.
“The government should have been delivering the NDIS properly all along, not using it to prop up their budget,” they said.
Disability groups last week demanded any excess NDIS funds should be used to fix the scheme’s implementation problems rather than to fill a hole in the budget.