Kymberly Martin
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NDS report delivers mixed provider experiences

Financial pressures and too much red tape were among the key findings to emerge from National Disability Services (NDS) latest State of the Disability Sector Report.

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The Annual Market Survey was conducted by the University of New South Wales with 667 disability service providers responding to the survey this year, the largest number so to date. The report also gave an analysis on major issues confronting the sector.

Provider experiences of the NDIS were mixed. While more than half of those surveyed think NDIS policy reforms are heading in the right direction, around 75 per cent continue to see the policy environment as uncertain. However, only 13 per cent of those surveyed thought that NDIS processes and administration are working well, which is consistent with data from previous surveys.

A majority, 37 per cent, reported an annual income of less than $1 million, 25 per cent between $1 and $5 million, 24 per cent between $5 and $20 million, seven per cent between $20 and $50 million, and seven per cent had an income of more than $50 million. Of those responding, 17 per cent were sole traders, down from 23 per cent in 2018, 41 per cent were a company, 37 per cent an incorporated association, 74 per cent were not-for-profit organisations and 25 per cent for-profits.

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The largest group, on 83 per cent, had provided support or services funded by the NDIS. Fewer reported being funded under the Disability Employment Services Program (5 per cent) or the Supported Employment/Australian Disability Enterprise Scheme (11 per cent).

As in 2018, participation in community, social and civic activities was the most-commonly provided support (43 per cent), followed by assistance services (41 per cent) and life stages, transitions and supports (35 per cent). There was a significant increase in the proportion of organisations offering these three types of services in 2019 compared to 2018.

While business confidence is improving it came with a caveat on pricing. This year, 22 per cent of respondents think operating conditions have improved, compared to 11 per cent in 2018.This result reflects those last seen in 2016, and suggest that perceptions of the disability sector environment have returned to 2016 levels after several years of declining confidence.

Perceptions of the wider Australian economy remained relatively stable between 2018 and 2019: 14 per cent think the economy has improved, and 29 per cent think it has worsened.

Details of key findings:

  • Financial stability is fragile: Just 49 per cent reported making a 2019 profit of 3 per cent or more
  • 76 per cent of providers are worried they can’t provide NDIS services without the Temporary Transformation Payment price loading
  • Three quarters of respondents think there are too many unnecessary rules and regulations
  • 75 per cent said unpaid assistance for people to navigate the NDIS distracts from their service provision
  • Over half of providers said NDIS policy reforms are heading in the right direction
  • Four in ten respondents are confident the Quality and Safeguards Framework will improve services
  • 22 per cent of providers said operating conditions have improved (compared to 11 per cent in 2018)
  • Only 22 per cent of respondents feel the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has a high level of respect for service providers

The NDS has proposed the following 12 actions:

  1. Prices and funding models that stimulate growth and quality
  2. Sector development that supports transition and progress
  3. Market stewardship that responds to warning signs of market failure
  4. NDIS processes informed by experience
  5. Flexibility that reflects national diversity
  6. Resolution of complex design problems
  7. Investment in quality and safeguarding
  8. More open employment opportunities
  9. Extended school-to-work support
  10. More job opportunities for people with disability
  11. An appropriately resourced National Disability Strategy
  12. A National Mental Health Strategy

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