Opinion News

Transitioning to the NDIS

20 Feb 17

The introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is Australia’s largest social reform undertaken since Medicare. Not only does it represent a massive shift in the way people living with disability receive supports, it’s a seismic shift in the way not-for-profits (NFPs) will need to operate.

We had a chat with Bruce Argyle, Sector Transition Manager at National Disability Services (NDS) about how not-for-profits are transitioning, what NFP readiness looks like and what challenges they’re facing as the NDIS rolls out.

How are not-for-profits finding the transition?

Argyle explained that one of the biggest changes occurring as a result of the NDIS was changes to NFP funding models.

“It’s requiring organisations, and NFPs in particular, to move away from traditional block funding, where they get 3 -6 months government funding for service delivery, to a situation where it’s market driven and customer focussed,” Argyle began, “not-for-profits will have to move towards individual invoicing after the provision of supports and no longer count on their 3, 6 or 12 months of block funding.”

It’s no surprise, therefore, that without large cash reserves, many organisations are revisiting their business models.

“Up to 40 per cent of the current disability sector are considering mergers or consolidation as a result of these financial pressures,” said Argyle.

The drastic transition needed from NFPs for the NDIS to be a success is one of the reasons governments have created sector transition funds. In Victoria alone, $10 million is set aside to support organisations as they prepare for the NDIS rollout.

What are some of the challenges they’re experiencing?

With a predicted average of 150 people moving into the disability sector every day until 30 June 2019, the changes to existing workforces cannot be understated.

“It’s a huge change for the sector,” Argyle said. “NFPs will need to embrace different ways of working.”

“A lot more decision making and responsibility will lie with frontline staff and we’ll see management layers simplify as organisations look for leaner ways of working. With a notional 3 minutes in every hour allocated to admin, frontline staff will rely on more integrated IT systems,” Argyle predicted.

This, combined with the removal of minimum qualifications for baseline support provisions has raised questions in some quarters about ensuring quality of service provision not compromised under the new system. However, to date, the NDIA is reporting that 85 percent of those on new NDIS plans have said they were happy or very happy with their new plans.

NFPs are also needing to become more market driven with many more for-profits moving into the space. NFPs are needing to market themselves more in order to attract clients – something that doesn’t come naturally to the sector according to Argyle.

What does readiness look like?

According to Argyle, levels of readiness vary enormously across the sector, and the size of an organisation is not necessarily a predictor for readiness.

“MSMS – the model, staffing, marketing and system integration (IT) all need to be right to be NDIS ready,” Argyle explains. His advice for organisations seeking to be ready?

  • Look at the profile of your participants or clients
  • Look at the range of supports available in anticipation of helping planners develop their plans
  • Work with your staff to look at different ways of working that include greater independence and autonomy. Look at upskilling your staff.
  • Look at your costing structures and see where you might be able to run leaner operations
  • Look at ways you can market what you offer