Welcome to 2024. Yes, I know its February but if you are like most people, January is for enjoying the sunshine, and fixing up all the problems that ‘December you’ felt could be better addressed in the new year.
February is our time to start fresh, but in the current NDIS environment, what does that even mean?
October saw the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability make 222 recommendations (read Supporting Potential’s summary of the Royal Commission’s findings) on “how to improve laws, policies, structures and practices to ensure a more inclusive and just society that supports the independence of people with disability and their right to live free from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation”.
Then in December the NDIS Review made a further 26 recommendations and 139 actions on how to change the system that supports people with disability and provide a blueprint to renew the promise of the NDIS and deliver a more accessible and inclusive Australia”.
We acknowledge that the NDIS Review and the Disability Royal Commission have different terms of reference and were therefore different in scope and focus but there are many common observations and recommendations. These include:
- Inclusion and the human rights of all people with disability need to be better promoted and preserved.
- The governance of disability policy and reform as a whole need to be strengthened.
- Immediate requirement to improve quality and safeguards.
- Responding to the experiences of First Nations people with disability.
- Improving the accessibility and inclusiveness of mainstream services.
- Regulatory oversight needs to be proportionate to risk.
The Royal Commission cost Australian taxpayers $527.9 million and the NDIS review was $18.1 Million. So as a country, we have committed nearly $550 million to doing better by, with and for people with disability. This is in addition to the scheme being projected to grow to $92 billion in 2032-33.
The current approach for disability support is still largely segregated. The NDIS fee-for-service model rewards providers for the volume of supports they deliver, with little incentive to improve quality, be innovative or responsive to the needs of all participants. It also creates the illusion that there is sufficient support out there and other parts of our community don’t need to work to remove the barriers put in the way of people with disability.
One of the hot topics of contention is NDIS provider registration.
The Royal Commission, didn’t engage directly with this debate, simply making the recommendations to:
- Establish a national disability support worker registration scheme by 1 July 2028.
- Enhance the registration process.
- Publish data about the unregistered provider market.
The NDIS Review has been far more specific stating:
- Providers delivering psychosocial supports should be registered, including demonstrating compliance with a new support-specific practice standard.
- There needs to be an approach to measure and publish metrics of registered provider performance.
- Design and implementation of a graduated risk-proportionate regulatory model for the whole provider market. Including, mandatory registration or enrolment of all providers, with requirements proportionate to the risks of a provider’s activities and operations.
- The Australian Government should amend the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 to remove the link between a participant’s financial management of their plan and the regulatory status of their support providers.
What we know is that there are currently more than 154,000 unregistered providers and only 16,000 registered providers. Of the unregistered providers, only 6,467 have any workers with a NDIS Worker Screening Check.
There is a lot of talk that the move to forcing providers to register removes the choice and control of people with disabilities. However, most industries in Australia require you to have some form of accreditation. To be a barmaid, I need to have my responsible service of alcohol certificate to show that I have a basic level of understanding of what the role entails. You also wouldn’t likely visit a restaurant that has just received sanctions from the food safety authority.
Regardless of which specific recommendations the government accepts, we are guaranteed to see significant change in this area. Whether it is at a provider registration level, or an individual worker level, workers in the disability sector are going to have to demonstrate competence. The easiest way for government to achieve this on mass is auditing and individual accreditations.
In the last 8 months, we at Supporting Potential have supported NDIS providers through the various audit types including brand new organisations with no clients, to midterms and full certifications.
No two audits have been the same (even when the parenting audit company was). The nuancing and interpretation of standards came largely down the individual auditor allocated. We also need to acknowledge that there are currently 124 practice indicators, plus probably an additional 20 when you factor in the different NDIS Rules. This is a lot of detail to be across.
Our philosophy when supporting clients through audit, is we will only agree to work with you if we can see there is quality support being provided directly to the person with disability. If that is the case, then it is our job to work alongside you to get the paperwork and administration up to scratch.
Our goal through this process is to amend your quality management system, so that it meets the requirements and also ACTUALLY supports you to deliver a quality service. I am proud to say we are very good at this. When we say we have successfully supported providers, we mean, there has not been a single non-conformity, not even a minor. We also have a great track record of ensuring the auditor has access to everything they need and can finish up early.
So how can you best prepare:
- If you are currently not-registered but provide psychosocial support or support that could be considered high risk of violence, abuse or neglect, I suggest you start the auditing process ASAP. We know from when the Commission was first introduced, those organisations that had other forms of accreditation status were allowed reprieve and pushed to the back of the line for the new type of certification.
- Invest time in looking at your policies and procedures. Do they say what you actually do? Don’t say in your policy that you will review all policies and procedures every 12 months. It is not necessary, but if you have said it, the auditor will expect to see the evidence that you have done it. This is a particularly easy trap to fall into when you buy pre-made policies and procedures. They can often give you gold standard quality management which isn’t practical in the current NDIS pricing and regulatory frameworks. Policies need to reflect legislation and regulation, but they should apply those in a way that you can manage it on a daily basis.
- Understand the structure of the NDIS practice standards, this is what you are being tested on. Know how your service delivery aligns to the elements.
- Have you success stories ready to be told.
For information on the NDIS and many other aspects of the disability sector please reach out Contact – Supporting Potential
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