Survey of service providers finds only 47% could keep pace with demand and just 57% said they had sufficient resources in 2017
This important article is originally from the Guardian 04 December, 2017
Disability service providers are struggling to keep up with growing demand and increased costs under the National Disability Insurance Scheme, according to a new report that warns the speed of the rollout is potentially affecting service quality.
The National Disability Services 2017 state of the sector report, released on Monday, warns that policy uncertainty and inadequate price-setting by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has seen business confidence and financial stability among disability service providers fall in the past 12 months.
A survey of 516 service providers found that only 47% could keep pace with demand and 73% saw an increase in demand for their services in the past 12 months, while only 56% actually increased the scale or range of services they offered to meet that demand.
Only 58% of service providers in 2017 said they planned to expand their services, down from 68% in 2015, and only 41% described their financial position as strong or very strong, down from 53% in 2016.
Sixty per cent of organisations said they were worried about their ability to adjust to changes resulting from the NDIS and only 57% said they had sufficient resources in 2017, down from 60% in 2016.
The report will be presented to industry chief executives at a meeting in Sydney on Monday, before a meeting between industry and the NDIA CEO, Rob De Luca, on Tuesday.
The number of participants in the NDIS has grown from 30,000 to 113,000 in the 15 months since the trial period ended in July 2016.
At the same time there was an almost sevenfold increase in the number of complaints about the scheme to the commonwealth ombudsman, which service providers said reflected problems with the process for designing individual service plans.
The NDIA is working towards a target of 475,000 participants by 2019-20 but a productivity commission report in October warned that deadline would not be met because the sector was not growing fast enough
The chief concern listed by disability service providers in the state of the sector survey was that the service prices set by the NDIS were not sufficient, with 50% of providers saying they would have to reduce the quality of the service they offered to fit within NDIS cost parameters.
National Disability Services has warned before that organisations were faced with shutting down regional or remote services because the price structure set by the NDIS did not cover the actual cost of services.
Sixty per cent of organisations said they wanted the NDIS to set prices aligned with the cost of supply.
An independent review of pricing under the NDIS, commissioned by the NDIA board, is due to report its findings this month.
Organisations also raised concerns about poor-quality NDIS plans, which the report said were being undertaken by local area coordinators who were under pressure to meet rollout targets and often cutting corners.
“Planning was rushed, often conducted over the phone and existing services were frequently disregarded as a starting point for considering the supports needed,” the report said. “Essential supports were omitted from plans and rectifying these omissions was not easy.”
The number of organisations that said the government was neither anticipating nor responding to the needs of disability service providers rose from 62% in 2016 to 74% in 2017, and 67% said the NDIA was not working well with providers.
“The NDIA cut corners to meet ambitious targets to get people with disability into the scheme,” the National Disability Services CEO, Ken Baker, said. “I think it recognises now that it needs to focus much more on improving the quality of the NDIS experience for providers and participants.”
Baker said the disability sector would work with the NDIA to resolve problems.
“We are determined to see the NDIS succeed,” he said. “Too much is at stake to let it fail.”