National Disability Services (NDS) is predicting a wave of closures to disability services as recent changes to the NDIS pricing model, coupled with rising costs will make it impossible for many providers to continue their services.

An NDS survey of providers showed that 83 per cent have concerns regarding their ability to deliver disability services using the new price limits this financial year; 32 per cent had trouble accessing insurance required to run their disability services in the last 12 months; and 59 per cent have concerns about adapting to the NDIA payment system PACE that is expected to be rolled out later this year.

NDS CEO Laurie Leigh said the current pricing arrangements are not sustainable. “Without adequate pricing to cover costs, a majority of disability service providers are concerned they will be unable to continue to provide the essential supports that people with disability rely on,” he said.

“The government talks a lot about cracking down on NDIS fraud, as they should, but what are they doing to support the majority of providers who are doing the right thing and struggling to cover the costs of compliance, training and insurance? “We are calling on the minister to urgently address the concerns of the sector outside of the NDIS Review and Annual Pricing Review and consider an out-of-cycle pricing update to prevent this impending walk-out.”

The Annual Price Review comes at a pivotal time for the sector. The 2023-2024 financial year will require sector-wide transformation as participants, providers and governments respond to the findings and recommendations arising from the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability and the outcomes of the current NDIS Review. 2023-2024 prices must enable providers to prepare for the changes to their structures and systems that are likely to be required.

Viability remains an ongoing issue for the sector. Almost 60 per cent of respondents said they would be unable to deliver NDIS services at current prices.

NDS too is concerned that current pricing does not enable a focus on increasing service quality, attracting the workforce required to meet demand, or support innovation. While policy issues relating to the effectiveness of current pricing mechanisms and future options will be considered, part of the NDIS adjustments to pricing are required now.

Therapy prices have not changed for three years and wage inflation in the therapy space has been significant because of competition from health and aged care that has benefited from wage increases.

According to Biala CEO David Greenwood, as a not-for-profit working exclusively with children, the organisation has been hit by a lack of price increases and working with children in their natural setting is becoming unviable under the NDIS.

“We are now at the stage where we will see providers exit the market and our concern is for the children and families we support. The result of the pricing strategy, for organisations such as ours, will see children exiting services and joining ever increasing wait lists, which is unconscionable,” he said.