This may be hard for you to believe, it certainly is for me, but it has been a full 3 months since our last quarterly report. So now we are back with a fresh load of new data to analyse from quarter 3, year 6. In case you are too busy with everyday life to read the full report for yourself, here’s a quick summary of the hottest news it has to offer.
You really get the impression in this report that the Agency is pretty happy that it is starting to take a lot less time for Plans to become activated. “Plan activation” refers to the time between a Plan being approved and the person receiving their first support. Ideally, it really should not be very long at all. Over the last quarter, 70% of Plans have been activated in the first 30 days. A further 86% of Plans were activated in the first 90 days. This is being celebrated as good news, but you do have to wonder why on earth it is taking more than 90 days to activate 14% of Plans. A solid three months without support is, to put it mildly, far from ideal.
The rate of activation within the first 12 months is consistent at 94-95% across all disability cohorts. It is slightly lower at 90% for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Participants, and 88% for people living in remote areas. This means that 1 in 20 Participants, and 1 in 10 Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Participants, do not spend a single dollar of their Plans within the first year. By that time, their Plan has probably expired anyway.
2. Provider market
There has been a 6% rise in the number of registered providers over the last quarter. The highest rates of growth were in Queensland (17%) and Victoria (12%), which makes sense as both states have seen the NDIS rolled out to new regions this quarter. Of all registered providers, only 57% were actually providing services to Participants in the last quarter.
For a while, the percentage of providers who were active was stagnant at 50% so 57% is actually an improvement. This (slow) increase could indicate that there is growing confidence in the NDIS market or that inactive providers are deregistering due to the new Quality and Safeguarding requirements.
The NDIA has also announced that they are working on a strategy to increase provider innovation. The strategy should be released later this year and there are absolutely no clues about what it could look like.
3. Community and Social Participation
Increasing the community and social participation of people with disability has always been one of the central aspirations of the NDIS. It is also one of the key focuses of this report. Data shows that the Scheme is having some success. Across all age groups, the community and social participation rates increase for people after two years in the Scheme (YAY).
However, the percentage of people participating in community and social activities is still mind-bogglingly low. Rates do vary across disability cohorts. At the baseline, people with people with autism (28%) and psychosocial disability (30%) had the lowest levels of community and social participation. Whereas people with Down Syndrome (48%), hearing impairments (48%), visual impairments (39%) and other sensory or speech disabilities (40%) had slightly higher, though still quite low, levels. Over two years, the Scheme has had the most impact on the social participation of people between 19-35 years old, and people with Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and intellectual disability.
Out of all people in the NDIS, 25% of Participants are involved in general community activities and 21% are involved in groups for people with disabilities.
4. Assistive Technology
Has anybody noticed that there are some delays in getting AT quotes approved? I have never heard of it, but apparently it is a thing.
Luckily, the NDIA now has some new rules to address this issue. They are:
As of February 2019, Participants that require replacement for existing AT (valued $1,500- $15,000) that can not be repaired or has reached the end of its service life can have the money included in their Plan without reassessment.
People can also have repairs added to their Plan without assessment.
AT under $1,500 no longer requires a quote.
The Agency is hoping that this seriously reduces waiting times. But as of yet, there is no data to show whether or not it is working. So I guess we will have to #waitandsee.
5. Plan Utilisation
Plan utilisation refers to the percentage of funds in Plans that is actually being spent. Right now, 66% of funds that the NDIS has committed to at this point in time have been spent. The two most significant drivers of Plan utilisation are how long the person has been in the NDIS and whether or not they are funded for Supported Independent Living (SIL). SIL is funded through a quotation process, so there is not much room for any underspend.
The quarterly report tells us that the longer a person is an NDIS Participant, the more of their funding they are likely to use. This is because they become more comfortable with how the Scheme works, and have had more time to establish connections with providers who can deliver all of their supports. Of course, it is also possible that people are spending a higher percentage of their Plan in later years because their unused funds have been slashed in Plan Review. But hopefully it is mostly the former reason.
Unsurprisingly, Participants in remote communities are having more trouble utilising their Plans.
The report also shows that Participants are struggling to utilise their Capacity Building funds. On average, people use 63% of their Core funding, compared to 52% of their Capacity Building funding. This really shows that once you remove SIL from the picture, Plan utilisation is actually extremely low.
6. Hospital Discharge
The report tells us that the NDIA has been working with South Australia Health to develop a Hospital Discharge Framework. The Framework will be tested and evaluated over six months, beginning in April 2019. We don’t have any details on exactly what it will look like yet, but stay tuned.
7. A Final Note
To the NDIA’s communication team: I hate to be a nag about this, but you really need to work on representing Participant voices in the quarterly reports. There are 6 quotes from NDIS users in this report, and all but one of them are from family members of the people with disability. Representing the voices of family members is, of course, important. But the NDIS is all about valuing the contributions of people with disability. It just seems like it would be a really good idea to value what we have to contribute to these reports. So, next time, can you do that, please?
That’s it from quarter 3, year 6. You can find the full report, including state specific data, here. See you in 3 months!