Long road ahead to ensure the NDIS gets back on track

Since June 2016, the number of people participating in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has almost tripled, increasing from 30,000 to 112,000. However, across the country, confidence is slowly waning for many Disability Service Providers, with more than fifty per cent of organisations concerned about their ability to keep up the pace and adjust to changes resulting from the disability scheme.

Teething issues with the NDIS have made it difficult for many organisations to expand their services, citing over-spending and insufficient resources as core issues impeding their ability to move forward with consumer demand. Sadly, many businesses are finding it hard to make ends meet, with up to 25 per cent of organisations in the sector operating at a loss, and many more considering closing the door on the industry all together.

Some businesses are dipping into their own reserves to make ends meet. For example, Darling Downs support service, in Queensland, have invested more than $800,000 into the Warwick Community in the past year to purchase a farm house, which will provide respite to clients. This type of investment is not so realistic for smaller community based organisations.

Whilst the demand to access NDIS is increasing, for many non-profit organisations, where minimal money is generated, there exists little or no buffer to absorb the costs associated with delayed Government payments and ongoing problems with the initiative itself. This makes it difficult, and nearly impossible, to invest capital in growth and expansion.

Organisations are losing confidence in their ability to continue under the NDIS, with many citing financial difficulties as the key driver for this lack of optimism. More than half of disability service providers believe that they will be unable to meet consumer demands in 2018, due to continuing concerns about their ability to offer services at the prices set by NDIS. The current price guidelines make it difficult for businesses to make a profit, with nearly three-quarters of service providers believing that they will be unable to provide services at current NDIS fees.

There has been a three-fold increase in the number of service providers approved to deliver NDIS services in the last 12 months, however, amidst an uncertain policy environment, fuelled by a shortage of disability support workers, and ongoing NDIS bureaucracy, the future for many organisations is uncertain. An inability to grow at the same rate as this growing demand means that potentially, people will have support plans but no services available.

Despite these setbacks, The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) is committed to working with disability service providers’ partners to support the growth of the sector during this challenging transition period. Failing to meet the expectations of the public, the NDIA has a lot of work ahead of them to ensure the scheme gets back on track. This will include more time allocated to face-to-face planning sessions (as opposed to phone sessions), ironing out issues with the NDIS web portal, actively monitoring and analysing the growth of the disability services market, and taking a more pro-active approach to interactions with service providers.