Disability service providers are calling for a please explain on $1.6 billion missing from NDIS funding in the federal budget, and have reacted with disappointment to the government’s workforce strategy, saying it comes too late and doesn’t contain anything new.
Budget papers released on Tuesday night show spending on the NDIS has fallen from last year’s forecast, providing the government with extra cash to boost its coffers.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has denied starving the insurance scheme to feed the budget bottom line, but the peak body for disability service providers is calling for more transparency on NDIS underspending.
National Disability Services acting CEO David Moody said the federal budget revealed the government’s contribution to the scheme was $1.6 billion less than expected.
“Our sector expects funds allocated to the NDIS to be invested in the scheme, and not be absorbed into general revenue for other government programs or to fund a surplus,” he said.
In an interview with the ABC, Mr Morrison admitted the government had overestimated the demand in the NDIS but described it as “swings and roundabouts”.
The budget blow came after social Services Minister Paul Fletcher last month released what he described as a “comprehensive strategy” to create new jobs and help businesses plan for the future.
The strategy includes initiatives to provide information, increase the number of NDIS providers and grow a capable workforce. As part of the strategy, the government has also unveiled new data on projected areas of demand for services saying will help providers make decisions about expanding
NDS says the document contains only a “very small number of actions” that will actually grow the NDIS market or workforce.
“The Government appears to have pulled together information that is already in the public domain and dressed it up as new news,” Mr David Moody said.
“It is very disappointing that much of the content of their Growing the NDIS Market and Workforce consists of past announcements and what is currently being done.”
He said the NDS welcomed having access to better information on which to base decisions about investment and growth but said members had been crying out for this for years, as well as calling for a National Workforce Strategy since 2013 when the NDIS was first announced.
However he said NDS was pleased to hear that research commissioned by DSS and the NDIA addressing the issue of thin markets would wrap up in May.
The findings would hopefully help stop the exodus of providers from certain areas including those involving remote, CALD and Indigenous NDIS participants, he said.
Planning for the future
Mr Fletcher said the new website would make it possible for providers to work out their readiness to become an NDIS provider or expand their services.
“These tools will be integral in assisting providers and businesses plan for the future and grow their business by giving them forecasts of projected demand for services and the future workforce by postcode,” he said.
Meanwhile, existing providers as well as organisations keen to enter the scheme will be able to apply for up to $20,000 of support, including advice on transitioning from block funding, under a $5.6 million Transition Assistance Funding program.
“The Government is also working with states and territories on skills and capability, to ensure a workforce is ready to provide safe and quality services for NDIS participants to assist them to achieve outcomes in the community and workforce,” assistant disability services minister Sara Henderson said.
Information about applying can be found here.
NDS has welcomed the commitment of $528 million towards the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.