The National Disability Insurance Agency released its first quarterly report since the beginning of the national rollout. The report shows that the scheme now has almost 37,721 participants with $3.3 billion committed in participant plans.
This latest report has significantly changed in structure. In this article we have picked out six of the most significant lessons that providers can learn from the data.
1. Participant satisfaction has dropped.
It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that participant satisfaction with the NDIS has dropped in the last quarter, with 85% of participants rating their experience as “good” or “very good”, down from 95% since the beginning of trial. Fewer people are answering this survey at all, which would suggest that this number may be even lower in practice.
2. Participants are being rated by their “level of function”.
The new quarterly report includes data that distributes participants on a 1-15 scale of “level of function”. This is the first we’ve heard of this scale and it’s frankly a bit shocking to see. We are speculating that this 15 point scale may be linked to the NDIA’s infamous reference packages, using participants’ “level of function” as a key indicator of their package size. Specifically with relation to the ECEI approach, the report states, “The first plan process is a method for better aligning the level of function and need with support packages for participants when they first enter the Scheme.”
3. Adjustments to the categorisation of disability groups gives some new insight.
This report has changed the categorisation of disability groups, merging all the intellectual disability groups and separating out some physical disabilities. This new categorisation puts the total number of participants approved in Q1 with Intellectual Disability and Autism at 66.6%.
The separation of some groups now gives us specific insight on participants with ABI, Spinal Cord Injury and Stroke. For example, we can now see that participants with Spinal Cord Injury have the largest average package cost, at over $100,000. This is close to double the expected package cost for this group.
4. Data using the new Price Guide shows the scale of each support category.
This report is the first to give insight into the amount that will be spent on each support category using the Price Guide released in July 2016. This is significant because this Price Guide was the first to separate out (amongst others) Support Coordination & Plan Management.
Extrapolating these numbers out to full rollout, this could mean that the Agency will spend $770 million on Support Coordination. This spend is higher than we would have predicted, and puts Support Coordination in the top 4 largest categories by spend. Given that the national budget for LACs is $550 million and with such significant crossover between the stated roles of Support Coordination and LACs, the amount of funding allocated to Support Coordination may indicate a failure of LACs to fulfil some of their key plan implementation functions.
5. Some key pieces of information are missing.
Despite the excitement at the inclusion of data just described, there were some notable absences in this latest report. In contrast to earlier Quarterly Reports, this report does not include data on:
The proportion of participants who are self-managing their funds
Complaints by type and outcome
Data on the characteristics of the entire NDIS cohort, including trial. Almost all graphs refer only to participants entering the Scheme in Q1.
6. Bilateral targets for plans are not being met – by a long way.
The original target for the number of approved plans in Q1 was 20,264. In the wake of the GPD (Great Portal Disaster), this was halved to just over 10,000. The final number of plans approved in Q1 was 7,440, falling fairly significantly short of even the reduced target.
This shortfall speaks to the contradicting pressures that LACs and Planners are experiencing – on the one hand to create fantastic plans in a way that actively engages the participant and on the other, to push through plans at twice the rate of what was already an unreasonable timeline. This is inevitably resulting in inconsistent plans, meaning that pre-planning is more important than ever. See Sally’s recent article for some great pre-planning tips.
The greatest planning squeeze is being felt in NSW, where the timeline to full rollout is a mere two years (one year less than every other state). While most other states have met or nearly met their revised targets, NSW is understandably lagging behind, making up almost all of the national shortfall.