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Robert De Luca
Robert De Luca

Parts of the implementation of this NDIS have been flawed. The official leading of the rollout of this NDIS saying he has heard the community concerns “quite loudly”.

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) recently announced a significant overhaul of the way it interacts with people with a disability and develops their support packages. The NDIA will move to end its much-criticised reliance on phone interviews to make complex decisions about a person’s unique support needs. Face-to-face planning will now become the standard.

Advocates have welcomed the change. But People with Disability Australia has warned it may not be feasible without an injection of staff and funding. “PWDA remains concerned about how these goals will be met without an increase in human resources or budget,” the organisation said.

The overhaul of the NDIS “pathway” has been made after months of consultations with more than 300 people with a disability, their carers and families, and providers.

The NDIA was told the scheme was “not meeting expected standards”.

NDIA chief executive Robert De Luca said the agency was moving quickly to address shortcomings. The consultation process had told him “quite loudly” what was working, and what wasn’t.

“What we’ve heard through the process is that the phone conversation hasn’t always been as engaging as it could have been in a face-to-face environment,” De Luca said. 

The agency has faced persistent criticism over its implementation of the NDIS, the biggest reform to the disability sector in decades. Participants and advocacy groups have repeatedly warned that inadequate and inconsistent decisions are being made on support packages.

Many of the problems have been linked to the pace of the rollout, lack of expertise and knowledge about disability within parts of the NDIA, and a lack of proper resourcing.

A public advocate’s office said that to meet the NDIS rollout deadlines, planners would need to develop support packages for 3600 people a week. But De Luca said many of the problems being experienced did not relate to the speed of the rollout.

NDIS records suggest 70 per cent of planning conversations were occurring over the phone, which critics say leaves planners with an inadequate idea of a person’s home environment and unique support needs.

Phone calls are also not an accessible means of communication for many participants. The changes announced recently would seek to address that problem, and ensure “all NDIS plan development” occurs face-to-face. That is designed to address concerns that the NDIS is faceless and rigid, and bounces participants between offices and staff with frequency.

Communications with participants will be changed to ensure information is clear and consistent, and available in accessible formats. The NDIS online portal and tools will also be improved, to reduce the costs for providers and simplify their use. The new system will be piloted, before being rolled out across the country. PWDA said it was pleased to see the focus on face-to-face planning and the creation of consistent points of contact.

The changes showed the NDIA had listened to concerns that people with disability have consistently raised, the advocacy group said. The NDIA also announced it would place a stronger focus on connecting people with supports in the health, education and transport systems.

PWDA welcomed that approach. “Tailored reponses for children with disability, participants with psychosocial disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants and other diverse groups should include all aspects of a support pathway, and be integrated with other systems, as the NDIS in isolation will not enable them to get the most out of available supports,” it said.

“Lack of clarification in funding responsibility is currently leaving people confused about which system their supports are funded under, and gaps are occurring.”

Owen James, Grampians Disability Advocacy

This story Big overhaul for NDIS pathway first appeared on The Wimmera Mail-Times.
The NDIS roll-out at CDS has been successful so far.
The NDIS roll-out at CDS has been successful so far.

NDIS stands for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and is operated by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).

At its core, the NDIS is a healthcare program created by the Australian Federal Government for the benefit of people who have a permanent disability, either from an injury or something the person was born with.

Its main purpose is to provide funding for the specific levels of support that an affected individual needs to be a part of society.

That means not just participating in social activities and being able to do more things for themselves with the right assistive technology, but also to the point of helping as many as possible to enter (or re-enter) the workforce.

Having been rolled out across the nation after a number of trial areas helped phase in the scheme, the NDIA anticipates that “the NDIS will provide about 460,000 Australians under the age of 65 with a permanent and significant disability with the reasonable and necessary supports they need to live an ordinary life.”

Not every disabled person is eligible, however. To become an NDIS participant a person must fulfill all of the following criteria:

  • Have a permanent disability that significantly affects their ability to take part in everyday activities
  • Be aged less than 65 when they first enter the NDIS
  • Be an Australian citizen or hold a permanent visa or a Protected Special Category visa, and
  • Live in Australia where the NDIS is available

David Bowen, the inaugural CEO of the NDIA, started on the project well before the rollout. He was a member of the Independent Panel advising the Productivity Commission in its inquiry into the feasibility of an NDIS.

In mid-March this year David announced that he was retiring. Rob De Luca is now the new CEO, playing a key role in the full rollout of the NDIS.

Mr De Luca was until recently the managing director of Bankwest.

“Mr De Luca deeply understands the importance of improving social and economic outcomes for participants in a way that delivers a quality participant experience,” social services minister Christian Porter said.

Mr Porter also paid tribute to retiring NDIS CEO David Bowen. “David’s dedication, professionalism and leadership of the NDIA have been critically important.”

The NDIS has had a semi-successful rollout, with some people benefiting exactly as intended. Meanwhile others have missed out, either entirely or partially.

There are many NDIS office locations in NSW – see https://www.ndis.gov.au/about-us/locations#nsw for your nearest office.

Phone 1800 800 110 or see the website www.ndis.gov.au/about-us/contact-us ​for more information about the NDIS.

CDS CEO Jeff Evans is excited about the new WesterNDIS initiative
CDS CEO Jeff Evans is excited about the new WesterNDIS initiative

WesterNDIS has launched today, bringing together the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) expertise of four trusted local not-for-profit businesses to support people across western NSW to get the most out of the NDIS.

The WesterNDIS portal is a collaboration between Birrang Enterprise Development Company, Currajong Disability Services, Marathon Health, and The Westhaven Association.

It will connect people with a disability, their carers and support people to a range of NDIS services across Western NSW.

People visiting the online portal will be able to access information about accommodation options, allied health therapies, support to access employment and social activities, options to learn new skills, and how support coordination can help them.

People can register to receive preplanning support and help to get their application together. They can also register where they are up to on their NDIS journey, their interests and the kinds of services they would like to hear about into the future.

Jeff Evans, CEO at Currajong Disability Services said that the collaboration stemmed from a desire to give people in Western NSW the choice and control over getting the best out of the scheme’s promises.

“Much has been made about the competition the NDIS will create between providers. In our view we are looking forward to building partnerships with other providers so we create the right conditions for the development of easy access to our services; to support people living with a disability in our more rural and remote communities.”

“We believe in the value of a collaborative approach, allowing people to see what services are available from a range of quality providers across the region, and for people with a disability to tell us what the services they are looking for, now and into the future.”

“We hope that our approach will support more people right across Western NSW to get the best out of the NDIS,” said Mr Evans.

Roadshows are planned across western NSW to introduce people the NDIS internet site (portal) and to explain how they can use it to find out what’s out there for them.

People with a disability, their carers or support workers can visit www.westerndis.com.au to register, email ask@westerndis.com.au for more information or find us on Facebook.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme commenced rollout in Western NSW on 1 July 2017.

Ross McCulloch of CDS
Ross McCulloch of CDS

Originally published at – https://probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2017/08/ndis-workforce-challenges-trends-predictions/

With the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) having reached its first anniversary in July it’s time to set out some predictions around workforce challenges and trends for the year ahead, writes workplace relations expert Skye Rose from law firm Moores.

The introduction of the NDIS in July 2016 presented significant challenges and opportunities for disability service providers.

The shift away from block government funding for standardised services to consumer-directed care has already prompted some organisations to make radical changes to service design, workforce planning and risk management practices.

Two recent reports highlight some of the growing pains experienced by the disability services sector.

In June 2017, a UNSW-led research team published Reasonable, Necessary and Valued: Pricing Disability Services for Quality Support and Decent Jobs, commissioned by unions representing Australia’s community sector workers. The union report indicates that the NDIS pricing model does not properly cover the costs of disability support and would fail to ensure the delivery of high quality services.

Then in July 2017, National Disability Services (NDS) published the first edition of the Australian Disability Workforce Report which paints a picture of a rapidly growing sector that is experimenting with flexible work arrangements and approaches to recruitment.

Drawing from recent data and developments in the disability services sector, this article sets out our prediction of workforce challenges and trends in the year ahead.

  1.            Highly casualised workforce

The pressure on service providers to be competitive, flexible and responsive has led to an increased demand for flexible working arrangements for the disability support workforce. The NDS report indicates that the sector has seen an increase in casual employment and, among allied health professionals, an increase in fixed-term employment (as opposed to permanent employment). Although workforce data on labour turnover suggests a period of relative stability, casual turnover rates have been much higher and less predictable than those for permanent workers.

The demand for flexibility has led to fragmented working hours and greater financial insecurity for casuals, many of whom have to undertake unpaid training which is not funded by the NDIS pricing arrangements. In reality, many workers juggle multiple jobs and are at greater risk of fatigue or failing to comply with minimum breaks between shifts. Whilst there are clear benefits to having an agile workforce that can respond to changes in demand, the trend towards a highly casualised workforce is not without its challenges.

  1.            Occupational health and safety challenges

Changing consumer demand for disability services in a residential setting has resulted in many services being delivered unsupervised at the client’s home. While freeing for the worker, it also carries new and unexpected occupational health and safety risks. For example, under occupational health and safety obligations, you owe duties around providing a safe working environment for both your workers, and also members of the public. This means that you need to ensure that the environments you are instructing your workers to attend are safe, and that you are taking all reasonable steps to maintain that environment. Fail to do so, and you could face fines of up to $3 million per contravention for the organisation, personal fines, and devastating reputational damage for the organisation.

Working out how best to deal with occupational health and safety risks in the context of the NDIS will depend on your service design, but a strong policy and training program will certainly help to ensure compliance. Some organisations are conducting site visits to identify and address occupational health and safety risks before work is commenced, while others are offering workers greater incentives to undertake OHS training. It will also be vital to ensure that your insurance policy covers your workers in all situations, and that you understand when you need to notify your insurer when an incident occurs. Otherwise, you may be left fitting the bill yourself.

  1.            Workplace injuries

Little do people know, but the health and social services industry ranks second in terms of the total number of WorkCover claims made in Victoria (behind only manufacturing). To put it in other words, this sector represents more WorkCover claims than the construction industry, the mining industry and the electricity, gas, water and waste services industry combined.

Due to the unsupervised nature of NDIS work combined with changes in work conditions and work intensity, we predict there will be an increase in the number of workplace injuries as the NDIS is rolled out. This means additional workers’ compensation claims, potential legal disputes, and a solid increase in your insurance premiums. In other words, a situation you really want to avoid.

Making sure that your training, policies, and occupational health and safety framework is compliant and meets best practice will go a long way to mitigate these risks, and will be time well spent. Providers should also seek advice when a worker is injured to respond to any claim, engage with the insurer and effectively manage any return to work process.

  1.            Award misclassification

Finding out which modern award (if any) will cover your employees can be a challenging task. In the context of disability support and allied health services, it can be particularly difficult. This is because of the often flexible nature of the work, the qualifications and training required for certain roles, and the numerous modern awards that have adjacent coverage. Some providers are unaware that their employees are covered by a modern award for one service, and a different modern award for another service based on the age of the person to whom the service is provided. From an administrative perspective this can be extremely difficult to manage, yet no more difficult than responding to an underpayment claim or legal dispute about an employee’s award classification.

Given the disruptive change brought about by the introduction of the NDIS, providers should carefully review their positions against the relevant modern awards to ensure that they are using the right one for all work performed. Otherwise, you could be facing large underpayment claims, fines of up to $54,000 per contravention, and personal fines of up to $10,800.

  1.            Risk of underpayments

The consumer driven market has led to demand for services on an irregular basis, at more unusual hours (ie not 9am to 5pm) and at different locations. Dealing with these changes from an employment law perspective will be important to avoid underpaying your employees. For example, if an employee is starting to work outside of the standard nine to five hours, you will need to consider whether they are entitled to additional remuneration under the applicable modern award or enterprise agreement (ie additional break entitlements, penalty rates or TOIL). Similarly, the relevant industrial instrument may set a minimum engagement period for a shift, usually no less than three hours.

You could also explore the possibility of using independent flexibility arrangements (IFA) to ensure that the working arrangements of the employee are best suited to the needs of the organisation and employee. Importantly however, an IFA can’t be used to reduce or remove an employee’s entitlements.

  1.            Increased competition

There is no denying that by placing additional buying power in the hands of the consumer (or their family), competition amongst NDIS providers is likely to intensify as the scheme continues to roll out. This means that providers need to think about what the client wants, how they want it delivered, and why they want it in the first place. Otherwise, it is likely that other providers in the space will move in, and fast.

Whilst the union report suggests that NDIS prices “incentivise cost cutting” for organisations to stay competitive, you should always make sure that you are paying your employees their minimum entitlements. It is also clear that price is not the only motivator for individuals, and that providing a quality service with human rights based approach will remain extremely important. This may mean keeping your employees at the organisation for longer, and providing them with additional incentives to build employee loyalty.

  1.            Mergers

NDIS providers will need to adapt to the changing funding environment and the new world of consumer-directed care in order to flourish and survive. Not all existing disability service providers will be well suited to fully service clients in the NDIS space, and to do so will need to consider merging with another entity.

When merging with another entity, there are numerous employment issues that will need to be carefully considered. For example, you may be confronted with adopting multiple enterprise agreements. This can create workplace friction, particularly when one agreement contains more generous employment entitlements than another. You will also need to ensure that the other side in the transaction does not owe any outstanding entitlements to its employees (or you have at least taken these into account in conducting due diligence), and that you comply with the continuous service provisions under the Fair Work Act 2009 for transferring employees (ie that the clock keeps ticking in relation to their accrued leave). Given the number of potential pitfalls, and the fines for doing it incorrectly, we recommend you seek advice from an employment lawyer before agreeing to merge with another entity.

  1.            Low cash flow

For providers that are reliant on individual funding arrangements, the last financial year has led to unpredictable and lumpy cash flow. Many providers are concerned that the rates that they are being paid under the NDIS will make their business unsustainable.

These fiscal concerns have prompted many organisations to review their enterprise agreements, and carry out financial assessments on the cost implications of maintaining existing terms and conditions (such as wages, leave entitlements and overtime provisions) against projected funding. Providers should carry out this comparison carefully and seek advice before attempting to terminate or renegotiate an enterprise agreement.

Cash flow problems do not provide an excuse for not paying employees their entitlements, so organisations need to engage in careful business planning. It will also require you to assess whether the organisation should take on workers on casual or permanent contracts.

  1.            Sharing employees with multiple providers

With an increase in the number of providers in the NDIS space (and the increased reliance on casual employees), it is inevitable that some of your workers will be engaged by multiple organisations at the same time. Given the potential for this arrangement to cause problems, such as breaching maximum engagement periods and risks of injury caused by fatigue, we recommend you address this issue in training and employment contracts, and properly investigate any concerns that your employees are attending work while fatigued.

  1.          Preventing employees from stealing clients

There will be times when an employee will depart the organisation and then seek to steal your clients. This risk arises because the employee presents as the face of the organisation and has gained the client’s trust during their engagement.

In terms of what you can do to respond to the risk, it is possible to place restraint of trade clauses in your employment contracts, however it can be a difficult thing to enforce against front line staff in the sector as it may be seen as “unreasonable”. It will therefore be important to put in well-drafted restraints and confidentiality clauses (particularly for more senior staff) to enable you to protect your clientele upon an employee’s departure. We recommend you seek legal advice when placing such a restraint in a contract.

About the author: Skye Rose is a principal in the corporate advisory team and leads the workplace relations practice at Moores. Skye has extensive experience in providing advice and representation on complex employment relations issues. Contact her on (03) 9843 0418 or by email to srose@moores.com.au

Mental health is a growing industry in the disability sector
Mental health is a growing industry in the disability sector

THE National Disability Insurance Scheme faces another area of unexpected demand after identifying a gap in its responsibilities to cover early intervention for certain mental health disabilities.

The discovery came when staff were trying to approve 2350 individual support plans for the $22 billion NDIS every week.

In a March meeting of the scheme’s mental health working group, National Disability Insurance Agency strategic adviser Eddie Bartnik disclosed the new gap between what the Productivity Commission modelled for the scheme and what the law, drafted by the Gillard government, eventually allowed.

“The Productivity Commission initial work did not expect to see early intervention for psycho­social disability, however the legislation made this a possibility,” he said in a communique released to the federal government’s joint standing committee on the NDIS inquiry.

The NDIS is expected to have a budget of about $1.8bn for people with permanent and severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, which prevent them from functioning at work or in the community, but the agency does not know how much the legislative loophole will cost in the short term.

It is possible, as with early intervention requirements for children with developmental delay, that the measure will save lives and money in the long term.

The agency has modelled about 64,000 people with psychosocial disability who will be eligible for the NDIS, although the federal Department of Health suspects this number will be closer to 90,000.

Mr Bartnik said the agency considered building a new “gateway” to the scheme for people with mental illness, but it was considered “too risky with large amounts of unmet need at the boundary of the scheme”.

By its own estimate, there are 230,000 people with severe mental illnesses receiving state or federally funded community support.

Health Minister Greg Hunt recognised the emerging gap ­between existing systems and the new NDIS in the federal budget, offering $80 million to states and territories to prop up services if they matched the commitment dollar-for-dollar.

The Australian understands the dollar-matching has allowed some state ministers, who are aware of local funding shortfalls, to lobby the issue with their own treasurers.

The NDIS rollout is running behind schedule and must sign up an extra 350,000 people by 2019-20.

Scott McNaughton, of the NDIA, told the mental health working group in March that the organisation had to approve 2350 plans each and every week during the three-year transition to full rollout and it was relying on controversial phone-planning meetings to meet the designated target.

In March, 70 per cent of all planning conversations were being conducted by phone, a ­practice that has since been wound back by the agency’s executive ­following a litany of complaints about poor results.

A spokeswoman for the NDIA said there was “no evidence that the numbers of people entering the NDIS for psychosocial disability is above expected”.

“The National Disability Insurance Agency continues to work to clarify the circumstances of children and young people entering the scheme under psycho­social disability,” she said.

NDIS planning is underway at CDS
NDIS planning is underway at CDS

1. If you, or someone you love, is born with a disability or acquires one later in life, you all no longer run the risk of falling through holes in Australia’s safety net based on what state or territory you live in.

 

2. People with a disability and their families and carers can participate in the social, economic, and cultural life of the nation with the support and programs they choose.

 

3. Families will be able to access support and services for assistance in meeting the needs of their family member with a disability – reducing physical, emotional and financial stress.

 

4. The NDIS is based on equality. You will be able to equally access existing services regardless of when and where your disability was acquired.

 

5. There will no longer be an expectation of unpaid care as the norm.

 

6. As a Medicare-type system, the NDIS will provide people with a disability and their families and carers with the regular care, support, therapy and equipment they need from a secure and consistent pool of funds for these services and support.

 

7. It focuses on early intervention and delivering supports which produce the best long term outcomes, maximising opportunities for independence, participation and productivity.

 

8. Each NDIS plan is individualised and person-centred. Support is based on the choices of the person with a disability and their family.

 

9. The NDIS is fiscally responsible. It is not welfare but an investment in individual capacity leading to more positive results for people with a disability, their families and carers.

 

10. We’ll all benefit from the NDIS because disability can affect anyone. It is a more inclusive, diverse community.

Jonty Ralph of CDS with Blake Huntley at the Jujube Fruit farm.
Jonty Ralph of CDS with Blake Huntley at the Jujube Fruit farm.

What is in the NDIS Act and what you need to know …

We’ve had lots of questions about the NDIS and we thought we will start giving everyone some basic info and trivia about the NDIS Act, principles and facts.

In addition to the objects of the NDIS Act there are also general principles which are to guide the actions of the NDIA when performing its functions. Below is a snapshot of some of those principles (4.4.2) –
 People with disability have the same right as other members of Australian society to realise their potential for physical, social, emotional and intellectual development (section 4 (1));

 People with disability should be supported to participate in and contribute to social and economic life to the extent of their ability (section 4 (2));

 People with disability and their families and carers should have certainty that people with disability will receive the care and support they need over their lifetime (section 4(3));

 People with disability should be supported to exercise choice, including in relation to taking reasonable risks, in the pursuit of their goals and planning and delivery of their supports (section 4 (4))

Jannette Lovett of CDS with former board member Kittie Dwyer
Jannette Lovett of CDS with former board member Kittie Dwyer

NDIS planning and implementation is in full swing at Currajong Disability Services (CDS) says CDS Service Delivery Manager Jodie Turner.

Since July, CDS has been working with local area LAC co-ordinators and NDIS LAC staff from Sydney to pre-plan for CDS participants.

“Planning meetings have been going since the end of July,” said Jodie Turner.

“The whole process has been carefully managed and extremely positive for all involved.

“August is already shaping up to be just as busy.”

These pre-planning meetings have been successful due to the information collected by Sarah Shambrook, who has been instrumental in the implementation of the NDIS within Currajong Disability Services.

In addition to this, the pre-planning booklet released by CDS in March has also been well-received and a valuable aide in assisting information gathering.

“Information that has been requested for the NDIS pre-planning meetings is in line with NDIA requests and participant goals,” said Jodie Turner.

“The plans also acknowledge current behaviour support plans, services currently utilised, relationships and supports and much more.

“The aim is to ensure our participants are able to exercise choice and control about matter that affect them and have a plan that they are happy with and gives them the best available support and opportunities to live their life as they choose,” said Turner.

“CDS will continue to strive to ensure we remain the leading disability NDIS services provider in the region now and in the future.”

 

Tyrone Nightingale of CDS likes to play tennis. Tennis is apart of the activities program for NDIS participants at CDS.
Tyrone Nightingale of CDS likes to play tennis. Tennis is apart of the activities program for NDIS participants at CDS.

Plan reviews are an important part of the NDIS. A plan review is an opportunity to check in on your progress and set new goals.

Your First Plan will generally be in place for 12 months.

We will then work with you to review your NDIS plan to see how you are progressing with your goals and make sure you’re getting the support you need.

Your future plans may be in place for a longer or shorter period of time depending on your needs, goals and your confidence to exercise choice and control over your supports.

As part of a plan review, we’ll discuss your achievements from your last plan, and ensure that your supports are continuing to help you achieve your goals and build skills to become more independent.

Find out about plan reviews and what you can do to prepare in the Reviewing my plan section.