Almost three quarters of NDIS service providers do not think the NDIS is working well, according to a report which says the scheme is at risk of failing to deliver on its “great promise” to Australians with disability.
The 2018 State of the Disability Sector Report, which surveyed 626 providers around Australia, reflects growing levels of uncertainty about the current environment.
It was conducted by the peak body for non-government disability service organisations, National Disability Services (NDS), in collaboration with the UNSW Centre for Social Impact.
Only one in ten providers give NDIS a thumbs-up
The report found just ten per cent of providers think the scheme is working well. It says the road to reform has been rough, with many organisations under stress and frustrated by red tape, inconsistent advice, inadequate NDIS pricing and lack of market data.
Fifty-five per cent see the operating conditions in the disability sector as worsening.
More than half think NDIS implementation is going in the right direction, but 80 per cent say the disability policy environment is uncertain.
That figure was up from 75 per cent who saw the environment as uncertain over the previous two years.
“Providers are expending unpaid effort on untangling red tape, resolving payment issues and helping people with disability to get plans that properly reflect their needs and goals. All of this imposes costs on providers at a time when they are under pressure to reduce their costs,” the report says.
“While problems persist, the NDIS will not deliver on its great promise to Australians with disability.”
Calls to adjust NDIS pricing
Fifty-eight per cent of providers surveyed were worried they wouldn’t be able to provide NDIS services at their current prices and 54 per cent said they would have to reduce quality of service, up from 46 per cent in 2016.
The study also found a lack of meaningful engagement between providers and the government. Only 15 per cent believed the authority tasked with delivering the NDIS, the NDIA, had a high level of respect for service providers.
Seventy-one per cent don’t believe Australian governments are responding well to their needs, however this a slight improvement from 74 per cent in 2017.
Almost one in three (28 per cent) organisations reported operating at a loss. Of the 44 per cent who made a profit, many said this wasn’t meaningful in relation to CPI.
The report also found significant merger activity, with almost three out of 10 organisations saying they had held merger discussions over the last 12 months, mainly to improve efficiency and broaden services. Thirteen per cent discussed winding up in 2018.
Of the organisations surveyed, 138 said adjusting NDIS pricing would have the greatest positive impact on their ability to deliver goods and services in the next year, followed by better engagement with government and improvements to the NDIS portal.
Forty-two per cent of providers had an income of less than $1 million and 14 per cent had income of 20 million or more. The proportion of sole traders (23 per cent) had almost doubled since 2017. Seventy-three per cent were not-for profit.
Minister says providers must adapt
A spokesman for Minister for Families and Social Services Paul Fletcher said the introduction of the NDIS in 2013 meant block-funding was replaced with person-centred funding giving people with disability more choice in services and support, and providers have had to adapt.
The first set of Independent Pricing Review recommendations had been implemented, he said, and a number of projects were underway including pricing for participants with complex needs and therapy supports.
The new Pricing Reference Group would guide NDIS price regulation and monitor market settings to respond to the needs of participants, he added.
“While the NDS report indicates that some providers remain challenged by transition to the NDIS, there are many positive signs that the market is growing and offering participants more choice and control than ever before, with 17,925 providers registered to deliver NDIS supports nationwide, representing a seven per cent growth on the previous quarter,” the spokesman told Community Care Review.
“The NDIA is committed to ensuring NDIS prices are fair, affordable for participants and commercially sustainable.
“The NDIA appreciates the important relationship between the agency and disability services providers and will continue to work collaboratively to deliver the ground-breaking NDIS.”
NDS State of the Sector report at a glance
- 80 per cent of operators say the disability policy environment is uncertain
- 42 per cent have income of less than $1 million
- 23 per cent are sole traders
- 73 per cent are not for profit
- 73 per cent disagree the NDIS is working well
- 46 per cent identified adjusting NDIS pricing as the top action for government
- 15 per cent believe the NDIA is working well with the sector to implement the NDIS
- 71 per cent do not believe government is responding well to their needs
- 58 per cent are worried they won’t be able to provide NDIS services at their current prices.
You can find the 2018 State of the Disability Sector Report here.
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