The State of the Disability Sector Report for 2017 paints a picture of a sector under pressure.
The NDIS and new DES program are expanding competition and consumer choice. The shifting environment has increased uncertainty. Providers are finding it harder to recruit staff, the policy environment is in flux, and organisations lack the working capital to grow and change. The report also found that DES providers and Disability Enterprises need a boost in support.
Most of the findings in this year’s report are based on the 2017 Annual Market Survey, which saw 516 disability service providers share their experiences. The survey focuses on the 2016-17 financial year, and highlights the key concerns of the sector as well as what’s needed to ensure that disability service providers have the confidence and support to meet growing demand under the NDIS.
Disability service providers report their key concerns as low NDIS prices; the costs of change; and uncertainty about their financial sustainability. Two-thirds worry they won’t be able to provide services at NDIS prices. Growth in demand for services continues to outstrip supply.
The sector remains uncertain about the future of the NDIS, with 60 per cent of respondents reporting they are worried about their ability to adjust to changes resulting from the scheme. One in five organisations say they will stay in the disability sector but are not focused on growth, while one in 10 says they are considering getting out of the sector.
Opinions on government handling of the NDIS have become more negative in the past year. 74 per cent of respondents said the government is not anticipating or responding to the needs of organisations, and 67 per cent disagreed that the NDIA is working well with providers.
Planning is top of mind for many. Poor quality NDIS plans replaced the payment portal as the leading concern of disability service providers early in 2017. The acceleration of the Scheme from 30,000 participants in the three-year trial to more than 100,000 a year has tested NDIS systems and processes.
In response to the findings in the report, NDS is committed to maintaining a leadership role in achieving the following reforms:
1. NDIS prices that reflect realistic costs
2. More NDIS plans with employment supports
3. Securing the future of Disability Enterprises
4. Boosting the capacity of DES providers to attract and support job seekers
5. Making the National Disability Strategy more effective
6. Increased investment in data analysis and research
7. More investment in sector and workforce development
8. An efficient IT portal and streamlined processes
9. Choice for participants on NDIS planners with expertise and experience
10. Resolution of NDIS design issues
11. Increased flexibility and local decision-making in the NDIS
12. Structured engagement between the NDIA and the sector through a partnership forum
NDS looks forward to working with providers in the coming year to realise these important changes for the sector.