The NDIS brought about a significant overhaul of disability services in Australia with a focus on ensuring people with disability get the support they need when they need it. Since its introduction in 2013, the NDIS has gone through some minor and major changes which aimed to increase transparency, accountability, and improve access to services. However, after ten years in action there is a call for a NDIS reboot to create a more streamlined approach and enhance the NDIS framework further.
Understanding the reboot
NDIS Minister Bill Shorten recently stated, 'To enable the NDIS to reach its potential, we need to – in essence – reboot.' And that is exactly what is set to happen… a full NDIS reboot.
Following his address to the National Press Club in April of this year, in which he announced details about the reboot, it’s clear the Australian Government have a massive, but necessary, task ahead if they hope to make the NDIS a “more responsive, supportive, sustainable market and workforce.”.
The 2023 NDIS reboot is set to unleash a series of reform measures aimed at improving the quality of services and support provided to people with disabilities, reducing bureaucratic red tape (yes please!), and making it easier for people to access the NDIS.
A panel of experts including Bruce Bonyhady and Lisa Paul conducted an independent review last October, to address the design, operations, and sustainability of the Scheme, which appears to have informed the direction the reboot is set to take.
There are six policy directions that have been addressed, which include:
#1 NDIS workforce
Focuses on improving the participant experience with the NDIA, through lifting staff caps, returning some call centre functions in-house, and building a balanced staff culture with the intent of reducing staff turnover. There is also a push for greater capability and specialisation needed to proactively intervene to fill service gaps in rural areas and with indigenous communities.
#2 Long term planning
Focuses on ensuring that better systems are in place for participants with disabilities to prevent participants from having to constantly prove their disability.
For example, asking a person with a missing limb to repeatedly prove their limb is still missing or a blind person needing to prove they are still blind, is unnecessary and a waste of resources and time.
Instead, the proposal is to have longer term plans that can be adapted to suit participants circumstances throughout their lives.
#3 Spiralling expenses
Minister Bill Shorten has commented in the past that the prices set by some providers are like a wedding tax – everything is two or three times the cost it should be. Currently there isn’t a system set in place for managing the spiralling of expenses. However, Minister Shorten mentioned potentially trialling “blended payments to improve incentives to achieve outcomes rather than be dependent on more supports.”
#4 Better outcomes from SIL
Supported Independent Living (SIL) was designed to allow people with higher needs to live in their home with assistance. However, the reality of SIL is that often families and couples are split up and it “drives people into institutional settings that are in some circumstances inappropriate and not in their best interests – in terms of safety, quality and outcomes.” The reform aims to address this and find better home and living decisions for participants.
#5 Eliminate unethical practices
Unsurprisingly, the push to tackle criminal practices, fraud and unethical behaviour has been addressed as a key focus point for the reboot. The recent crackdown against fraud which currently has 38 investigations underway, involving more than $300m in payments, indicates the Minister for the NDIS means business. The fraud taskforce will continue, in addition to more NDIA staff with the skills to ensure providers deliver outcomes and don’t over-charge.
#6 Increasing community and mainstream supports
Focuses on ensuring existing mainstream services and facilities, like health, education, and transport are more accessible and supportive for people with disability. As well as boosting investment in community-based programs like sports, recreation activities and education programs.
Following Minister Shorten’s speech to the National Press Club, PWDA President Nicole Lee said, “whatever changes are made to the NDIS, these must first and foremost come from a position of the principles of choice and control of people with disability which was one of the main intentions of the NDSI from the beginning.”
What would the reboot mean for providers?
The reboot is set to usher in a streamlined and simplified system that’s more accessible and responsive to the needs of participants. With the proposed investment boost in community and recreation activities, providers may see an increase in demand for disability support services. While a boost in demand is positive for providers, it may also lead to greater competition among providers working within the sector.
Although participants having longer plans isn’t necessarily new (this was introduced during the pandemic), a longer plan for providers does mean less interruptions to service delivery, less administrative time in renegotiating service agreements as new funding packages come in, and more predictability.
An important point that has been noted is around the growing scrutiny on overservicing and overcharging participants. The Australian Government and NDIA appear to be in alignment around this issue so it’s worth considering if, as a provider, you are charging people with disability more for your services. If you are, and the NDIA were to question the price, how would you respond?
Overall, the 2023 NDIS reboot could be both a challenge and an opportunity for providers, requiring them to invest heavily in their systems, processes, and staff to remain competitive in the market and deliver high-quality services to participants.
What would the reboot mean for participants?
These reforms offer the potential for significant improvements in services, access, and outcomes for people with disability. However, with any significant reform, there is always a risk of disruption, and the NDIA needs to ensure that there is a clear plan for rolling out these reforms.
If the focus remains on ensuring participants maintain choice and control, access to affordable supports and services, and a greater collaboration between the NDIS, disability service providers, and the general community, then the reboot as proposed could be a move in the right direction.
Will there be a drop in NDIS funding?
The aim of the NDIS is to provide individualised and flexible support to people with disability, and a reboot may be necessary to ensure that this objective is achieved. So, it doesn’t necessarily mean participants will receive less funding. Only the implementation of the reboot will be able to definitively answer that question.
However, any changes to funding must be based on thorough assessments, consultations, and an understanding of the participant's needs, goals, and aspirations. It’s crucial that participants are involved in the review process and provided with clear and concise information about any changes to their funding.
With any luck, the reboot could actually present more opportunities for participants to access new services, supports, and innovative technologies that can enhance their quality of life and independence.
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