Cue the hype, because it is Quarterly Report time once again. Really, time is moving so fast at the moment. Before we know it, the NDIS will be #oldnews and people will be describing some other program as “the biggest social reform since the NDIS.” Anyway, this quarter’s report has some really interesting data. Here’s what we have learnt:
Rolling through the rollout
The NDIS is now available in all regions of Australia, except Christmas Island and the Coco Islands (sorry you guys!). This is big news. It means that the transition is almost over and we will soon be heading into a new era of the NDIS. Could it be possible that the next era will be less frantic, with an emphasis on quality over quantity, outcomes over costs?
Things that are going well
Participant satisfaction with the NDIS is currently at 90%. This is the first time that this number has left the 80s since mid-2016. In more good news, the rate of unscheduled Plan Reviews has also continued to decrease. It is now down to 16.1%. This is movement in the right direction, as it hopefully indicates Participants are more satisfied with their Plans the first time around. Though to be honest, most people who got things wrong at work 16.1% of the time could probably expect it to come up in their next Performance Review.
This report goes into some super fascinating data about how different cohorts of Participants manage their Plans. It is great to see that rates of Self and Plan Management are both on the rise. Currently, 29% of people are Self-Managing, which is a 10% increase from 2 years ago. Meanwhile the rate of Plan Management has shot up by 21%, and is now sitting at 34%.
Interestingly, in this report we learnt that children are more likely to be Self Managed, whereas adults more commonly use a Plan Manager. In the 0-14 age bracket, 30% of Plans are fully Self Managed, compared to only 6% for people over 25. In contrast, people over 25 are more likely to opt to use a Plan Manager (36%), compared to the 0-14 aged band (20%). Rates of partial Self Management are pretty consistent at 11% across all age groups.
Rates of Self and Plan Management also differ amongst disability cohorts. People with a hearing impairment (47%), spinal cord injury (41%) and autism (38%) are the most likely to Self Manage. Whereas rates of Self Management are the lowest for people with psychosocial disability (5%), ABIs (12%) and intellectual disability (15%). However, people with psychosocial disability are among the most likely to use a Plan Manager (42%), as are people with MS (42%) and people who have had a stroke (41%). People who are least likely to use a Plan Manager are those with developmental delays (12%), global developmental delays (13%) and speech/sensory disabilities (14%).
Plan utilisation refers to the percentage of NDIS Plans that people are using. It is a really important indicator of the health of the NDIS market and the ease with which people can access it. Currently, Plan utilisation across the nation averages out to 68%, which is pretty low. The longer people spend in the Scheme, the more of their Plan that they use. On average, Participants who are on their first Plan only spend 47% of their funding. But people on their fifth Plan generally use 75% of their funds. This report, we also learnt which regions have the lowest utilisation rates:
Far West NSW
Inner East Melbourne, Inner Gippsland and Ovens-Murray in Victoria
Eyre and Western, Fleurieu and Kangaroo Island, Murray and Mallee, Far North and the Limestone Coast in South Australia
With the exception of Inner East Melbourne, these are regional areas. It probably does not come as a huge shock to anyone to learn that there is a correlation between low Plan utilisation and rural regions.
Across the country, people are utilising a greater proportion of their Core budgets than their Capacity Building funds. The only exception to this rule is in very remote areas where people use slightly more of their Capacity Building funding (36%) than Core (33%). (Side note: it’s a pretty bad state of affairs when people are using on average around a third of their Plan. This means that there is a large chunk of people using less than that). Interestingly, Capacity Building utilisation goes down after Participants turn 15. This perhaps indicates that there is a lack of Capacity Building professionals targeting people over 14.
Early Childhood Early Intervention
Some of you might know that the Minister recently had what you might call a late intervention on Early Intervention. The NDIA has been told to speed their processes by like 10x. And even that might still be too slow. In the next six months they will be:
“Working with ECEI Partners to secure additional resources to ensure children receive early childhood supports in a timely manner.” I would really love to know what these “additional resources” are. Because if they are more staff, then great. But hopefully they are not just extra pamphlets.
Children who are found eligible for ECEI, but who will likely have to wait more than 50 days to receive a Plan, will receive a standardised interim Plan.
Children with complex support needs will be immediately streamed to the NDIA’s Early Childhood Specialists for Planning.
Employment of Family Members
It is common knowledge that family members of people with significant disability often find it difficult to find and maintain employment. This can negatively impact the wellbeing of the entire family. Back in 2011, the Productivity Commission promised that an additional 3.4% of family members of people with disability entering the workforce could increase the GDP by $1.5bn. Like most Australians, I care deeply about the GDP. So I was pretty happy to read that after 1 year in the Scheme, the employment of family members of Participants under 25 goes up by 3%. That’s pretty close to 3.4%, so I reckon we just count it.
Except hold the champagne, because we still have more work to do if we want to support family members and Participants to gain full employment. Family members of NDIS Participants are more likely to be in casual employment and working fewer hours compared to the general population. The number of hours family members can work does increase slightly after one year in the Scheme. However, family members are still saying they would like to work more hours. And rates of casual employment stay consistent. The rate of employment for family members of Participants who are over 25 has also not gone up. But this might be largely due to the number of family members who have hit retirement age by time the person they support is 25.
As always, you can find the full Quarterly Report here, including state-specific data. And remember to add “the fact that government agencies are required to report periodically to the public” to your gratitude diary tonight. Because you can never love data too much.