News | 13 January 2015

7 issues we can’t afford to let slip

2015 is going to be a big year for the roll out of the NDIS. There are a number of important decisions that the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and the governments will need to make before the full roll out commences. The State of the Sector report that was released by NDS lists their seven top issues that need to be addressed this year. Here are the issues that National Disability Services (NDS) wants action on.  

1. Pricing has to be set right

The government has set its rates however many providers are concerned that those rates are not high enough. The concern is, if prices go too low, not enough carers could be attracted to the industry.

2. Plans need to be flexible

Some of the early plans for people using the NDIS were too prescriptive. In other words, people were told what they needed by people who didn’t have a complete understanding of their needs or their situation.

and NDIS planners should be expert listeners

The NDIS was not designed as a one-size fits all scheme. Never has been, and never should be. A clear lesson from the trials is that the planning process should be outsourced to the non-government service sector.  People’s plans have to be handled by people who get to know them professionally and personally.

3. People must be paid the same way as any other business

The not-for-profit organisations that provide much of the care within the disability sector are accustomed to being paid block payments in advance – usually as a quarterly advance from state governments. This is changing, and the transition period is proving a little tricky for some.

But they need time to adjust

Individualised payments in arrears are coming into place. Not-for-profit organisations need time to adjust to this.

4. The people who use the NDIS should decide how it works

The fancy term being thrown about on this issue is “co-design”. This means, quite simply, that you can’t build a system like this without speaking to the people who use it and taking their advice where possible.

Luckily, that’s starting to happen

The NDIA is the group that runs the NDIS. But the NDIA can’t afford to sit back and make policy from a chair in Canberra. It has to speak to people doing the actual work, and it has been. Effective engagement between the sector and the NDIA is essential for the creation of a robust, efficient and sustainable NDIS.

5. Give workers flexibility too

You’ve already read above, and in countless other places, how NDIS plans have to be flexible. But conditions for workers need to be flexible too. For example, if somebody needs a carer for just an hour or so to take them to the hairdresser, there has to be provisions for that carer to be paid for more than just an hour. That’s just one example but illustrates the need for flexibility.

And make this happen by working with the Fair Work Commission

The Fair Work Commission is the national tribunal whose role is to set award pay rates and conditions, and to help employers and employees work towards cooperative and productive workplace relations. It also helps workplaces to prevent disputes, as well as helping to resolve them when they do occur.

By working with the Commission and with unions, the NDIA can ensure fair conditions, flexibility and secure careers for staff, as well as meeting the needs of people with disability.

6. We need to keep pressure on politicians

The NDIS survived a tough 2014 Budget, but fiscal pressure is ongoing. A 0.5% addition to the Medicare levy, effective from July 2014, will not cover the scheme’s full cost.

Because this is too important not to do properly

The NDIS trial is fully funded, but the reality is that the NDIS must continue to be fully funded and sustainable into the future. Governments will in the future need to find more money, and this will require ongoing bipartisan support, just as the scheme had when it was first approved. That’s why it’s so important to share your positive NDIS stories through friends, social media and any other way you can.

7. We need to know who’s responsible for what

As the NDIS rolls out, several state and territory governments will withdraw completely or partially from disability service provision. This is going to create all sorts of challenges for the sector, but there will be opportunities too.

And it’s up to governments to make that clear

State governments can’t just wash their hands of disability care and say ‘right, it’s up to someone else now’. NDS is urging government to ensure policy clarity and appropriate funding for providers who take on services.