Data nerds, we’re back.
The latest quarterly report has just been dropped. And while this is technically the second report for Year 6, it also serves as a bit of an agenda setter for 2019. And if you are thinking- “Year 6!?! Wasn’t this Scheme announced like yesterday?” Then mate, you are not alone.
Reading this report in the context of the Agency’s recent communications we can now safely say that the major theme for 2019 is going to be *drum roll please*:
There is no mystery as to why the Agency is so keen to focus on employment. Not only does Australia rank 21 out of 29 in employment of people with disability amongst Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) countries, but the report tells us that the number of NDIS Participants in employment has remained stagnant at 21% throughout the life of the Scheme. In fact, only 14% of people who were looking for work when they entered the NDIS were employed 2 years later. 14%! This is a report card so bad it would make for an incredibly awkward parent-teacher night. It has certainly embarrassed the NDIA into setting up a Participant Employment Taskforce in order to address the challenge.
The report provides some pretty interesting data on the percentage of Participants in employment by age and disability. It demonstrates that while it is hard for anyone with a permanent and significant disability to get paid work, the type of disability a person has does seem to impact their chances of employment.
I know what you are wondering: what type of work are people getting? Supported or open employment? Well there is data on that too:
Interestingly, the rate of open employment is significantly higher for people under the age of 25. If people in this age bracket are able to stay in open employment throughout their working lives, then this could be a sign of positive changes to come.
Employment is not the only topic that gets an airing in the quarterly report. There is also some very limited discussion on the new Participant Pathways. And I mean VERY limited discussion. What we do know is that the new general, complex support needs and psychosocial disability pathways have all been trialled and are at different stages of rolling out across the country. What we do not know, from this report or anywhere else, is exactly how the trials actually went. Presumably, the Agency believes they were a success if they are willing to roll the pathways out to the rest of the country. But in the absence of any hard data, it is difficult for any of us to draw the same conclusion.
We also do not have a roll out schedule for any of the pathways. This makes it hard for providers and Participants to anticipate when they can expect these changes.
Independent Assessment Pilot
In November 2018, an Independent Assessment Pilot was undertaken in NSW with people with autism, intellectual disability and psychosocial disability. The assessment involves an observational session and a functional assessment conducted by an Allied Health professional. The stated aim is to objectively measure the impact of disability on people’s daily lives, in the hopes of achieving fairer and more consistent access and planning outcomes. Conveniently, it also allows the Agency to use their own in-house Allied Health professionals to do assessments, rather than letting people select their own. According to the quarterly report, the results so far have been positive. Apparently, a ‘high percentage’ of people in the pilot were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with the process. But in the absence of knowing what exactly the ‘high percentage’ was, this information is vague to the point of meaningless. It also does not necessarily tell us whether the assessment is actually producing fairer outcomes, like it was designed to.
The number of scheduled Plan Reviews exploded this quarter. It went from 52,117 last quarter to a whooping 236,642 in the last three months. Presumably, this is due to the roll out schedule, which resulted in a large number of people entering the Scheme a year ago. The good news is that the there has been a steady decrease in the number of unscheduled Plan Reviews. It is now at its lowest percentile (13.6%) since September 2016. Hopefully, this indicates that people are more satisfied with their original Plans. However, the report does not say whether the data refers to the number of request for reviews or reviews that actually took place. It is possible that the Agency is just denying requests for reviews at a greater rate. Or, the low percentage could be the result of the Agency increasingly using ‘light-touch reviews’ to make small changes.
We have some more data on the percentage of Participants from targeted cohorts. A targeted cohort is a group of people who are more likely to receive poor outcomes in the NDIS. Monitoring the number of people from these cohorts in the Scheme allows us to identify potential access issues. From this quarter we know:
People from culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds: 8.0% (up 0.8% in the last 12 months). The increase is largely due to the Scheme’s roll out in metropolitan Victoria. However, it still falls well short of the Agency’s 20% target.
People with psychosocial disability: 8.2% (up 1.1% in the last 12 months).
Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people: 5.4%. This is in line with expectations.
Young people in residential aged care: 3,262 Participants. This has increased by 91% in the last 12 months.
The Provider Market
The provider market has grown by 6% this quarter, with 55% of providers now active. Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) was the registration group that saw the biggest growth in the number of active providers. This may demonstrate that the market has responded well to recent efforts by the NDIA to improve the SDA experience.
The Agency has undertaken a “longitudinal” study of people who entered the Scheme in 2016-17 and have now been in the NDIS for 2 years. They were asked the question “has the NDIS helped?” in various domains of life. In most areas, people’s experience of the NDIS seemed to improve over time. Employment was the only notable exception. It will be interesting to see the responses in 5 or 10 years time, when it can perhaps more accurately be described as a longitudinal study.
Just a quarterly reminder that the NDIS is still under budget and ALWAYS HAS BEEN.
That’s all from Year 6, Quarter 2. As always you can find the whole report, as well as state-specific performance reports, here. Until next time, happy NDIS-ing!