By 2019, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will support over 460,000 Australians with a disability and invest approximately $22 billion per year in services and equipment.
The NDIS aims to be an equitable scheme for people with a disability (under the age of 65). It aims to invest in each individual to achieve their goals and build skills and capability so that people with a disability can engage in community life and live an ordinary life.
People aged over 65 will be covered by the existing aged-care system and will not be able to access NDIS support. Those who are under 65 when they make a successful access request, will be able to choose whether to stay with the NDIS or transfer to the aged-care system when they turn 65.
How does a client access NDIS?
Once a person has been determined as able to access the scheme, an NDIS planner will listen to their goals and aspirations, and work with them to determine the most appropriate, reasonable and necessary supports that will help them achieve these goals. Funding is determined by these conversations and individual plans are reviewed annually.
The complexity and cost of the plan determines who can approve it. This might be the NDIS planner or senior staff such as the launch site manager. If an assessment by an allied health professional such as a physiotherapist or occupational therapist is needed to develop the plan, the NDIS will pay for the assessment.
So far approximately 100,000 people are now accessing support under the NDIS. The following maps highlight the rollout plans for the Eastern states:
NDIS teething problems
A quick media scan (note - negativity bias) reveals that the rollout has not been a smooth one to date. The issues being reported include:
- Between 3,000 to 4,000 businesses and not-for-profit providers were blocked from entering the scheme because applications could not be transferred to a new IT system (Source: ABC)
- Less than a third of the Local Area Coordinators (LACs) were trained by the deadline of June 2017. LACs do not understand client's conditions or circumstances and often "rush" people through the process
- Participant plans are being developed by phone and not in person
- People aren't getting the items they have asked for in their planning process
- There are long waiting times for phones to be answered and appointments to be scheduled
- The language is confusing
- There are problems with the online portal
- There are issues regarding what is "reasonable support" (see diagram below)
However many people are now saying that while they may not have had an easy time navigating the system initially, they are now benefiting from the scheme and are receiving the supports they need to participate in community life.
Opportunities for the disability sector
The majority of the issues being experienced by service providers and clients relate to the confusion and volume of paperwork in the change-over from State-based funding to NDIS funding. However the NDIS can work well for a disability service provider and meet the needs of its clients provided that the system is viewed with integrity and forward-planning.
In terms of sustainability, it is critical for service providers to view the NDIS as an opportunity to choose how they want to "show up" in their sector. In planning for NDIS implementation, service providers should consider:
- Their purpose and the difference that they want to make
- How they will stand out as a service of excellence
- How they will focus on relationship building and the true needs of their clients
- How they will advocate for the outcomes and value delivered by the products and services they offer
- How they will engage team members and communicate a strong vision and purpose
- How they will change to become a customer focussed organisation with strong communication, service and flexibility and move away from a culture of "Government contractor"
Service providers also need to be vigilant with the pricing guide. It is important to take the time to know the value and outcomes that you achieve for your clients so you can help families flexibly use their funding to meet their goals.
NDIS is not a money making scheme. It is a way to empower clients with consumer choice based on need. Service providers who are just interested interested in making money are not operating alongside the values of the NDIS.
"If your organisation is honest and genuine then you will shine. Just make sure that, among other things, you spend time educating families around the real cost of services and help them to understand the pricing guide," Mrs Katrina Johnson, CEO, CATS Inc.
Opportunities for allied health professionals
Once a client has their plan in place, their legal guardian or support coordinator can start looking for services for them. This is when it pays to have an updated and easy to find website, with the "NDIS provider" logo and a clear list of services on your marketing materials. You should also ensure your business and services are listed:
- On the NDIS website "MyPlace Portal"
- Therapy Choices website
- AHP find a provider website
In oder to be able to offer NDIS services, there are terms of business that you will have to meet and there are costs involved in becoming a registered service provider. Click here for more information.
It helps to keep in mind that the NDIS is not a commercial opportunity for health professionals. It is a more equitable system for people with a disabilty to access the services that they need. In many cases, services such as sourcing equipment for clients or case management are not covered by NDIS. Therefore it is important to work with each client's family or carers to ascertain what is included in their plan. It the family want a service that isn't funded they may have to pay for it directly as the NDIA will not cover items that are not stated in a person's goals and plans. Check first before working with a client to ensure all parties know how the services will be paid and that they are included in the plan. Note - families do not have to show you their plans.
However while the opportunities for growing your practice may not come directly from NDIS funded services, it is worth looking at other opportunities that may come your way from promoting yourself as a registered NDIS provider. For example, a child who is introduced to your service to access NDIS supports, may also turn to you for other health needs. In time, you may end up looking after the whole family. Therefore, you could treat NDIS as an opportunity to attract more people to your practice over time.
Allied health professionals need to become familiar with the NDIS as although they may not be directly involved in the scheme, they will be supporting clients who are involved in the NDIS and other systems ie. public housing.
Here are some other handy resources for allied health professionals:
- Visit the "provider" section of the NDIS website to gain an understanding of the role of AHPs under NDIS
- Read the provider toolkit
- Read the NDIS price guide relevant for your state
- Take a close look at the fee schedule and ensure that the rate you are quoting includes allowance for report writing and other tasks relating to support each client ie. researching and recommending equipment
NDIS "Fair and Reasonable" supports
Your invitation - NDIS Lunch and Learn
Would you like to learn more about the NDIS, how it will impact your organisation and how to best prepare for the changes ahead?
Please come along to an exciting event we are hosting:
- 12pm to 2pm
- Tuesday 21 November
- Queensland State Library
Two disability sector experts (Katrina Johnson from CATS Inc and Jeffrey Allen from Spark NeuroCare) will provide their experience of what it is has been like to operate under NDIS in two Queensland trial sites - Ipswich and Townsville. Gain tips and insights on how to best prepare and priority strategies for your organisation.
For more information on marketing and communication strategies for your health or not for profit organisation, please contact Megan Walker: email@example.com.