How is the NDIS Commission responding to the Royal Commission and its findings?
What impact will that have on you?
The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission (NDIS Commission) is well known for delivering significant Christmas presents to NDIS providers in the days before the summer break, and it’s looking like 2023 will be no different.
The Royal Commission into the violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability, took aim, fair and square, at the NDIS Commission. (read last month’s Supporting Potential summary of the Royal Commission’s findings)
Part B of the 439-page Volume 10 insight into Disability Services focuses solely on the NDIS Commission (about 202 pages worth to be exact) and what they are doing to ensure people with disability receive safe, quality services.
It’s suggested that the NDIS Commission needs to move from a regulatory body to one that enforces compliance.
The report states “We have identified areas where the NDIS Commission could enhance the performance of its functions, in particular by incorporating active engagement with NDIS participants and the disability sector and increasing its compliance and enforcement measures”. They also identified a long list of issues, including:
- The need for more active engagement.
- Closing the gaps and shortening the processes for complaints and reportable incidents.
- People with disability having a lack of visibility about what the commission is doing.
- The limited training and knowledge transfer from the commission about safeguarding.
- Confidence in the commission is lacking.
- Inadequate information sharing arrangements with other Government agencies.
- The need for more effective regulation to hold providers to account.
- Disability support workers not complying with obligations to notify the NDIS Commission of reportable incidents.
- Unnecessary regulatory burden.
- Lack of communication from the commission.
- The NDIS Commission’s data systems are not currently supporting intelligence-driven decisions about operational priorities.
The NDIS Commission however told the Royal Commission that its current resources are not sufficient for it to fully discharge its functions.
At the end of last FY, the commission employed 565 staff. It is also worth noting that the NDIS Commission has operated at a loss for three of the five years, including financial year 2022–23, where they spent an estimated $82,000,000. Now in FY 23-24, their budget has almost doubled to $149,299,000and this doesn’t include the additional $732.9 million in initiatives developed with the National Disability Insurance Agency in consultation with the NDIS Review Co-Chairs.
Whilst there has been little visible change since the Royal Commission released its final report, we have seen the NDIS commissioner hit back.
Her first target, the low hanging fruit of restrictive practices.
In recent weeks, both behaviour support practitioners and behaviour support implanting providers have received multiple strongly worded letters where the Commissioner stated that educational material had previously be provided and that the expectation is that providers conform or face the consequences.
And in my view, the education material is weak and the website to find the material is complicated. Bottom line is, restrictive practices are against human rights. The NDIS Commission should be focusing on how to reduce them, simply writing to the providers that are being transparent in their use, that they need to conform, or else, is not enough.
- Where are the possible strategies on fading out long-term restrictive practices??
- Where is the accredited training material for behaviour support practitioners?
- Where is the information for mum and dad who tell their son’s service provider that he can’t have Coca-cola.
- Where is the understanding that long term restrictive practices (however inappropriate they may be) can often create a sense of comfort and safety for the person with disability?
- Where is the investment in front line staff to build skills in fostering understanding and then independence?
The Royal Commission into Disability is not the first report or enquiry that has made findings about the NDIS Commission and its role and it definitely won’t be the last. The NDIS review was handed to parliament a few days late (possibly due to the large number of hospital passes thrown it’s way by the Royal Commission) on the 3rd November, but it has yet to be publicly released. This combined with the recent mail outs suggest the NDIS Commission may be planning a doozie of a Christmas present this year.
The pessimist view might suggest that the commissioner is currently targeting restrictive practices because they have previously had a focus on them. They become an easy point to prove action. They are tangible to count and negative impacts are often pushed aside in the interest of advancing the human rights of the person with disability.
Providers that may have previously flown under the radar are now likely going to be included in some form of oversight. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see clear guidance on the delineation between registered and not registered providers, and a line in the sand that providers of more complex supports, must be registered. There are also likely changes to the practice standards, adding more rigorous regulation and reporting, and I wouldn’t mind betting that we might even see ad hoc policing.
In a scheme that is expected to double between 2022–23 and 2030–31, the oversight from the NDIS Commission will become more intensive, Service Providers must be ready to mobilise and capable to meet the compliance burden quickly.
Before I hear the chorus of “its too much red tape” and “we are not funded” , I prompt a simple question. How much have your services actually evolved in the 10 years since the NDIS was introduced. I’m not talking about how you organise your services. I’m talking about the things people with disability actually receive.
This is the same timeframe that Blockbuster went from 9000 stores worldwide to bankrupt. Why, because they didn’t listen to their market. They dabbled in changes, but they didn’t really listen to what their customers wanted. The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission police our industry. We can question who polices the police as much as we like, but realistically we shouldn’t need them. We shouldn’t have to hear that at 17th February 2023, the Royal Commission had received 1,745 accounts of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation, specifically related to disability services, with the selected case studies being major registered service providers.
- Can you hand on heart state that you are providing a quality and safe service for people with disability?
- Does your service support people with disability to become more involved and accepted in the mainstream community around them?
- Do you have a disability action plan to ensure equitable representation of people with disability in your workforce and leadership?
Sadly for many providers, the answer is still no. but the good intentions are there, its just knowing where to start. A business health check can be a great opportunity to get an outside set of eyes and suggestions on where to go from here. Often, organisations have spent a lot of money on systems without realising their full economic potential. Small changes in this space can result in better informed decision making and additional finances to spend where you need to.
Also start to consider how the people you support have more of a voice and a viewpoint about your front-line team. The token participant on a recruitment panel is not enough. Participants need to be empowered and provided with support on how to ask for the support they want and need.
And finally look to review how you know what you think you know. It is only by reviewing our assumptions that we can begin to mould change for the future.
Note for those from the NDIS Commission reading this, these tips could work for you too.
For information on the NDIS and many other aspects of the disability sector please reach out Contact – Supporting Potential