One Step Forward? An Analysis of the Productivity Commission's Report on NDIS Costs

The Productivity Commission has just released its report investigating the Scheme costs. From an initial review of the document there are some really important findings that reflect the majority of challenges the rollout has encountered to date.
 
The key themes include:
 
Delay the Rollout - The time pressures of the rollout and the ambitious rollout target of 2019/20 has been analysed in multiple locations throughout the report. For example, the report correctly indicates that to maintain the rollout schedule it would require approximately 500 new plans to be approved each day from now to 2019/20 with a further review of several 100 plans each day. The current capacity sits at around 165 plans a day. Whilst delay to the rollout is recommended, the report also stresses that it is inevitable that the rollout completion will not be met so it is more of a “lets get real with the time frames” rather than a delay the rollout.
 
Prices - The hottest topic within the NDIS takes centre stage with numerous areas focusing on the cost pressures within the scheme. Cost pressures are being felt everywhere you look within the NDIS. The report recommends that prices need to be set by an independent body and potentially this could be within the Quality and Safeguarding Commission. The report also notes that the time frame for the establishment of the Commission is ambitious.
 
Skills Shortage - Directly echoing the advice I give to anyone who will listen - skills shortages within the workforce required to support the Scheme is a sleeping giant in terms of issues the Scheme will face. The report underlines the tsunami of workers required. Skills shortages are also linked to the price question as it is difficult to promote opportunities for employment within the sector when remuneration cannot be anything more than award rate. Basically there is little information or incentive to embark on a career within disability support at present. At one stage the report even suggests investigation of migration related employment opportunities - 457 visas here we come again?
 
Increase ILC Funding - The report highlights what DSC has been preaching for years - ILC funding needs to be increased to facilitate outcomes within the scheme.
 
Psychosocial Pathways - The need for a specialised pathway into the NDIS for people with psychosocial conditions has been identified - at last!!
 
Some other key points within the report include:

  • Minor plan amendments should be able to be made without full plan reviews
  • Planners need more consistent knowledge of disability
  • Continuity of Support models need to be made public
  • In-kind arrangements should be phased out as quickly as possible
  • The NDIA needs to be more transparent with reports and reports need more information.
  • Market position reports need to be published more frequently
  • The roles of States and the Federal Government need to be more clearly defined.

 
What does this all mean?
 
The Productivity Commission report appears to have captured the vast majority of the current challenges within the Scheme. The team that prepared this study should be commended for their efforts.
 
Almost in parallel there are some encouraging signals coming from the NDIA in terms of recognition of their past failures and recent developments such as the improved pathway approach released this week.
 
It would seem that both the Productivity Commission and the NDIA itself are largely in agreement about what has gone wrong and how they need to fix it moving forward.
 
All sounds really positive, doesn’t it?
 
Then we get the first response from the Turnbull government this morning that the rollout will not be delayed. You may recall that these are the guys that used NDIS funding as a political football along with the equally unimpressive blocking tactics of Bill Shorten. It troubles me that we are so close to the planets aligning in terms of getting the rollout on a really good path to a full rollout yet our politicians cannot seem to understand that 500 plans a day (of any consistent quality) simply is not possible - despite any of the other challenges facing the remainder of rollout and full scheme operation. Can they not read?

I will chalk this up as another step in the right direction, an excellent report with sound and sensible recommendations - we just need the politicians to read and understand it and more importantly to have the courage to elevate the needs of Australians with disability to a platform of true bipartisan support.


Click here to read the full report