1. What is the NDIS?
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a recent national initiative with the aim of providing more effective support to people with a permanent and significant disability. The scheme, managed by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), is in the form of insurance, in which government will provide funding directly to the client instead of the service provider. Thus, it aims to provide a market-style system in which ‘users should be able to move from provider to provider, receiving the services they want, and how they want them’ (Gilchrist 2016).
In NSW, the NDIS began its first phase in the Hunter on 1 July 2013. In July 2015, it was expanded and covered children and young people in the Nepean Blue Mountain. Further areas were added to the NDIS coverage area in July 2016. From July 2017, it began its final stage of covering entire NSW. It is expected that by 1 July 2018, the NDIS will be operating state-wide. It is expected that by 30 June 2019, all eligible people will be phased into the scheme (NDIA 2015a; NDIA 2016).
According to the NDIA (2015b), the scheme is particularly governed by the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (Counsel 2014). There are also other relevant policy and legislative documents relevant to the NDIS, including
- The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
- The National Disability Strategy 2010-20 as endorsed by COAG on 13 February 2011
- The Carer Recognition Act 2010
- The Productivity Commission Report
- The NDIA Strategic Plan
- Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) Annex on the Integrated NDIS Performance Reporting Framework
- The National Disability Strategy 2010-2020
- National Standards for Disability Services.
As with any other grand, national plans, the NDIS rollout will expectedly encounter a range of challenges and difficulties, at least for the first few years. The rest of this document will focus on the challenges that people will disability have experienced and will probably continue to experience for a while. The considered challenges will pertain to both the supply and the demand side.
Probably the most significant challenge regarding the first few years of the NDIS rollout will be the availability and access to comprehensive and reliable information. This issue relates to clients, providers, and governmental agencies.
- Clients: Clients require access to information that eases their shift to the new scheme and informs them of their rights and services they can receive. They require information on how to access their funds and how they can spend it.
- Providers: Providers of services need to be informed on a wide range of issues. The lack of knowledge in these areas will potentially result in penalties, fines, and loss of clients. The issues (Rose 2017) include
- Health and safety
- Workplace injuries
- Award classification
- Cash flows
- New technologies
- Working with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse people
- Government Agencies: The relevant government agencies need to be fully informed of the mechanisms, procedures, and frequent issues with the new scheme. The importance of this factor was well pronounced in the IT meltdown in 2017. In this event, the NDIS ‘stopped processing thousands of applications from service providers, critical staff were untrained and properties were not ready when the scheme’s nationwide rollout began’. The investigation revealed lack of training and information in critical staff as well as lack of access to IT infrastructure (NDIA staff were unable to update their website).
2.2. Higher competition
While a significant increase in demand for services is expected (NDIA 2016), a major rise in the competition among providers is also quite likely. A tenet of the provision of the new scheme is that through the mechanism and the competition, clients will have more options and better services. However, the increased competition among providers may also have negative backlashes for clients.
- To be more competitive, providers need to cut costs. This may lead to degradation of services, particularly in remote areas.
- It is expected that providers will employ people on a more casual basis to reduce their costs and liabilities. As a result, employees will face precariousness in their professional life, will attempt to seek employment in several organisations, be more fatigued and thus, more prone to be a health and safety risk to themselves and clients.
- Provision of better, more comprehensive and accessible information: The necessity of gathering information, learning, and improving the system as it progresses is already recognised. It is reflected in NDIA’s mantra ‘Listen, Learn, Build and Deliver’ as well as in the Information Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) framework. The acquisition, process, and redistribution of information can be through various methods, including
- Online material
- Frequent public events
- Frequent meetings and information sharing among policymakers, stakeholders, providers and stakeholders
- Information sharing forums, such as Carers NDIS Forum (CarersAustralia 2018), in which providers, clients, and other stakeholders can share experiences, difficulties and solutions
- Provision of interpretation and translation procedures: The NSW MPS anticipates that South-Western Sydney will witness the largest growth in the participation. In terms of demographics, areas such as Western and South-Western Sydney are more culturally and linguistically diverse than areas such as the Hunter. Clients in the new areas will probably require more assistance in understanding and interpreting their rights and the services they can receive. Provision of interpretation and translation will, to some extent, address this issue.
- New technologies: A better and more efficient use of new technologies, particularly in IT, will benefit both clients and providers. Providers, as a result of heightened competitions, will expectedly require more administration and marketing. A better use of IT technologies will significantly free up resourced devoted to those tasks. Consequently, clients will expect to receive better services. Moreover, better use of IT technologies can offer clients more versatility and flexibility in searching, finding, and accessing services.
- Provision of training: The state-wide expansion of the NDIS is expected to result in the diversity of services required by the clients. This factors in conjunction with the supposed increase in the use of new technologies mean that stakeholders, including providers, clients, and government organisations, will require frequent training to keep up-to-date with changes.
- Employment of people with more versatile skill-sets: If the provision of training is not feasible or if it is proven ineffective, it is possible to employ people with more diverse skill-sets. For example, employees can provide translation and interpretation services as well as running IT tasks.
- Expansion of research: Providers need to rely more on research to harvest invaluable information about their clients, services, and expected future markets. The NDIS is supposed to increase the power of consumers in choosing better services as they desire. A provider with enough information is able to innovate and provide new services to clients. The result will be a win-win situation for both clients and providers.
CarersAustralia (2018), ‘What is the NDIS? (Carers NDIS Forum)’. viewed 29/03/2018. http://www.carersaustralia.com.au/ndis-and-carers/what-is-the-ndis/.
OPC (2014), National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013, Canberra. Available: https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2013A00020 [29/03/2018].
Gilchrist, D (2016), ‘Understanding the NDIS: the challenges disability service providers face in a market-based system’, The Conversation. Available: http://theconversation.com/understanding-the-ndis-the-challenges-disability-service-providers-face-in-a-market-based-system-57737
NDIA (2015a), NSW roll out – Provider Information Pack, The National Disability Insurance Agency. Available: https://www.ndis.gov.au/html/sites/default/files/documents/our-sites/NDIS-NSW-roll-out-Provider-pack.pdf.
NDIA (2015b), Outcomes Framework Pilot Study: Summary Report, The National Disability Insurance Agency. Available: https://www.ndis.gov.au/document/outcomes-framework-pilot.
NDIA (2016), Market Position Statement – New South Wales, The National Disability Insurance Agency. Available: https://www.ndis.gov.au/document/nsw-market-position-statement.
Rose, S (2017), ‘NDIS Workforce Challenges, Trends and Predictions’, Probono Australia. Available: https://probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2017/08/ndis-workforce-challenges-trends-predictions/