A couple of weeks ago, the Calxa team attended the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Essential Briefing in Brisbane. It was a great way of getting an update on the status of the NDIS rollout. The room was filled with people representing Not-for-Profit Organisations, Peak Bodies, Public Service, Government Agencies and Service Providers.

Although everyone has different interests in the NDIS rollout, there was a sentiment of unified purpose in acknowledging the current challenges and the need to move forward together in making the transition by July 2016.

The National Disability Scheme (NDS) has been collaborating with the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) highlighting some of the issues experienced by their members in the early adoption of the scheme. We thought we’d share some of the things we heard on the day.

Consistent Rules Needed

NDS CEO Ken Baker called for the NDIA to move on delivering consistent rules across Australia to enable and facilitate local adaptation, especially in remote areas. Currently only 47% of participants have their plans approved within 90 days, though that varies widely from state to state. He also noted that complex support delivery needs to be recognised.

Arresting the Loss of Social Capital

The biggest question is still around the loss of social capital. Who do we charge the community-building to? There is a consensus that Government will need to continue block funding in order to continue some of the valuable social benefits generated by the sector. With volunteers contributing heavily to disability services, some measures are needed to protect this precious asset.

Inadequate Pricing and Financial Sustainability

The problem of inadequate pricing was a key area of discussion. It was noted that there was a real risk of eroding quality and more importantly, the viability of services. An ability to negotiate in some cases would help with increasing scope. The question of pricing deregulation generated some disagreement amongst the audience. The Calxa team had numerous conversations on the day with participants on the importance of unit costing linking this directly to the health and wellbeing of the organisation and therefore overall sustainability.

Phillipa Angley from NDS focused in on pricing and financial sustainability in her key note. She advocates higher prices to account for community participation and complexities. In particular, reviewing pricing in areas such as shared accommodation, transport, remote services, mental health, and plan managements is paramount.

Alarming Workforce Casualisation

Individualised funding is driving and fuelling an alarming trend towards workforce casualisation. This is fuelled by uncertainty within the sector and inability to predict activity uptake by the individuals. It has been identified that NDIA’s set activity pricing needs to reflect a realistic labour content to maintain skills.

Arduous industrial standards are also hampering some of the responsiveness to service delivery which suggests the necessity of a review to the modern awards to meet a balanced workforce environment.

Arresting Fear of IT Investment

A survey amongst NDS members resulted in 90% ranking IT investment as a priority. Many feel they lack the resources and/or information to adequately operate in the new environment.

Economic Reality

All up the mood is optimistic and hopeful within Queensland. This was enforced by the Queensland Minister for Disability, Coralee O’Rourke who presented some key statistics. The state anticipates a $4billion injection into the local economy underpinned by the equivalent of some 40,000 full-time jobs during the progressive implementation period over 3 years. The Queensland Government has committed to an initial investment of over $1million. The race is now on to make the NDIS happen in this state.

To finish with some wise words from Ken Baker who said “Governments need to stop squabbling and politicising the NDIS. This (the NDIS) is something for the long term.” He did add, “We need to keep the pressure on government” as a collective and as individuals to iron out and ease some of the challenges identified.