A new proposal for a portable training system for disability support workers under the NDIS would help to ensure the program achieves its goal of delivering high-quality, individualised services to people with disabilities. The proposal is developed in this new report from the Centre for Future Work.

Under the plan, disability support workers would receive credit for one hour of paid training, for every 50 hours worked in NDIS-funded service delivery.  Those credits would be vested with each individual worker, allowing them to accumulate credits even if they work for multiple employers or directly (as sole traders) for NDIS participants.  The training system thus takes account of the very flexible and mobile nature of work in this growing sector. 

The system would allow a typical disability support worker to access one three-day upgrading course per year. A corresponding system of advanced recognised qualifications (and matching job classifications) would provide specialised pathways allowing disability support workers to develop their careers over time, thus reducing the very high staff turnover that has bedevilled the roll-out of NDIS services.

The NDIS has the potential to enrich the lives of people with disabilities through customised individual packages of services. But to achieve that goal, the system must facilitate ongoing investments in specialised skills and qualifications, rather than relying on short-term ‘gigs’ performed by high-turnover, casualised workers.

Most disability support workers are employed in part-time or casual jobs, and spending on staff training by established service providers has shrunk as the NDIS has been rolled out.  The NDIS is expected to spur massive job-creation in coming years, adding as many as 70,000 full-time-equivalent positions, but evidence is accumulating that the quality of many jobs is very poor, undermining stability of the workforce and the quality of delivered services.

Cost estimates suggest the overall scheme would require $192 million per year in additional funding, which the authors suggest should be delivered through a separate state-Commonwealth funding stream (to avoid undermining the revenue base for delivered services). Compared to the $22 billion annual pricetag for the NDIS, the authors suggest this cost is modest: less than one cent on the dollar to support the development of a workforce with state-of-the-art knowledge and training.

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