The National Disability Insurance Scheme is unlikely to have enough providers and workers to deliver the full rollout of the $22 billion initiative without further policy intervention, a Productivity Commission report warns.
The draft report on NDIS costs estimates that one in five new jobs created in Australia over the next few years will need to be in the disability care sector.
To address these workforce shortages, the report recommends a series of changes including:
- meeting the preference of many workers to work more hours
- temporarily relaxing rules to allow informal carers to provide more paid care, especially in rural and remote areas, and
- greater use of skilled migration to address persistent shortages, for example among allied health professionals.
The commission said trends showed providers were already responding to workforce shortages by using less skilled labour, which could compromise the quality of care.
If left unaddressed, these workforce pressures could create short and long-term risks to the sustainability of the scheme and participant wellbeing, according to the position paper.
A shortage of disability supports served to contain scheme costs in the short term but was likely to eventually contribute to higher costs as people were unable to access the supports they needed.
In addition to improving workforce data, the commission said a more coordinated approach to workforce development was required. The report said:
“Without a sufficient supply of disability supports, the NDIS cannot function as intended.”
The scheme’s “highly ambitious” rollout, as specified in agreements between governments, was also putting quality and sustainability at risk.
The speed of the transition has placed a lot of pressure on the National Disability Insurance Agency to finalise plans quickly, which has compromised the quality of participant plans, the report found.
To reach the estimated 475,000 participants at full scheme by 2020, the NDIA will need to approve about 500 plans a day.
The commission is seeking feedback on how a slowdown in the scheme’s rollout could be implemented and flow on implications, in preparation for its final report due in September.
To improve transparency about how price caps are set under the NDIS, the commission recommended the immediate introduction of an independent price monitor.
By 1 July 2019, price regulation powers should be transferred to an in independent regulator as part of a staged move to price deregulation, the commission said.
The paper found more attention was also needed to address access issues in thin markets and the commission was seeking feedback on measures that could be adopted.
Submissions in response to PC’s draft findings are required by 12 July.
Read the position paper in full here