In a contentious decision the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has appointed UK-based Serco as its service delivery partner for contact centre services.

In a statement, the NDIA said the contact centre is integral to its service delivery strategy as it is often the first point of contact and experience participants and providers have with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).  And for this reason it was critical that the centre is able to provide fast, accurate and effective advice to callers.

“This approach is in line with the NDIA’s commitment to continuously improve so that the NDIS offers participants a quality experience that makes a difference to their lives; which encourages a vibrant provider market that will progressively be deregulated; while ensuring that the scheme is financially sustainable,” the NDIA said.

However, the decision has not been without controversy with some disability advocates and politicians reportedly expressing concerns about the decision.

Shadow Minister for Social Services, Jenny Macklin, described the decision as a worrying development. “NDIS call centres are specialised, they require properly trained staff. People with disability and their families want a people centred NDIS not a commercial call centre.

“The staffing cap at the NDIA must be lifted because there are not enough staff inside the NDIA and staff must be well-trained. “The NDIS exists to improve the lives of people with disability, not the profits of multinationals,” she said.

The use of external partners is not a new approach for the NDIA. A large proportion of NDIA work is already done in partnership with the private sector, with a number of service providers and local area coordinators operating as representatives of the NDIA in local communities.

“This partnership approach with the community and private sector has proven to be an effective and efficient means of ensuring the delivery of high quality services to NDIA participants. Sourcing our contact centre services from Serco will give ongoing flexibility, responsiveness and value for money,” according to the agency.

Under the partnership arrangement, Serco’s staff will be fully trained and will comply with all Commonwealth Government privacy and security requirements. “As an Australian-based supplier, Serco will ensure that no services or data will go offshore,” the NDIA added.

Serco is a provider of public services for sectors including health, defence, immigration, justice, transport and citizen services. It employs over 50,000 people worldwide and is a FTSE top 250 company.

Serco will be operating the NDIA contact centre service in Melbourne and regional Victoria in a two year contract that starts in June 2018.