This is a Community Thought Leadership article. Our Community Thought Leadership series focuses on NDIS ideas and advice shared by members of our community. Our goal is to welcome diverse views, encourage conversation and foster a better NDIS for all.

This Community Thought Leadership article comes from Richard Hoskins

As the author I am typically against privatisation of government services. As when we speak about privatisation the passion both for and against will come out. This creates robust debate about a needed topic here, in my opinion based on my experiences and learned knowledge. As you read this; ask yourself is the government best placed to effectively and efficiently manage an ‘insurance scheme’?

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)’s goal is to provide about 460,000 Australians under the age of 65 with a permanent and significant disability with reasonable and necessary support they need to live an ordinary life. Roll out at national level started on 1 July 2016 but testing started in July 2013.

I am very much familiar with the software programs, NDIS’s contracts with a partner agency that employs Local Area Coordinators (LACs) and the methodologies that are currently used in the planning process. Based on my knowledge, the process is inefficient and it has failed to enrol the numbers required. According to the quarterly report dated 31 December, 2016, as at that date, 61,215 people had received individualized plans. If NDIS is going to meet the target of 460,000 people by 31 July 2018, it must enroll 22,000 people per month from now on. How are they going to achieve that if they only have 61,215 people since the testing from July 2013 to June 2016, and the roll out from July 2016 to December 2016?

In my professional opinion, NDIS and their partner agencies are not well equipped to handle this work. Private insurance companies would provide a better service (1). Here are some of the problems that the NDIS has faced:

  • An IT meltdown saw people with disabilities wait weeks for their care packages to be approved while payments to providers were frozen.
  • Between 3,000 and 4,000 businesses and not-for-profit providers were blocked from entering the scheme because applications could not be transferred to a new IT system.

·        They NDIS staff could not update their own website for days; they had to call officials at the Department of Human Services, to make changes.

  • Out of 27 properties, 7 were “not operationally ready” on 1 July 2016, because of short-term branding “compliance issues” along with “timing issues” for long-term properties.
  • By late June 2016, only 150 LACs had taken an online course and only 54 had received face-to-face training, yet the plan was to have 550 coordinators trained and ready by 1 July 2016.
  • Participants are experiencing a shortage of support workers.
  • The NDIS web portal continues to frustrate users.
  • Some care providers say the rates they are being paid by the scheme make it unsustainable (2).
  • The service providers registered in the scheme are mostly of them non-profit organisations. They have to spend money on IT and other systems to provide services under the new arrangements. And they need to train staff to conduct their businesses effectively in the new environment. Most disability service providers do not have the capital to meet these challenges and the government isn’t providing sufficient funding.

By the look of things, the NDIS is not in a position to meet its July 2018 deadline when the transition period is meant to end. Privatisation always has those for and against and both have some valid points to be made. However, continuing down the path we are going will only require an extension to the July 2018 deadline and the NGO’s that had been handed the contracts receive an automatic extension at the cost of the NDIS budget and providers of frontline services again being disadvantaged by further reductions since the savings will have to be found somewhere.

The NDIS is a great idea that is set to provide a great service to Australia’s individuals with a disability. The goal to improve individuals with disability outcomes later in life is noble. Parents whose children are born with a disability or later acquire a disability will have peace of mind, knowing they will get support. However, the roll out is lagging behind and the disability sector has no confidence that the deadline will be met. Few people have confidence that the scheme will be run efficiently. Meanwhile, the disabled people who expected to be enrolled in the scheme by now are still waiting.

Yet there is another way that the NDIS’s noble mission can be accomplished. The answer lies in the private sector.

Private insurance companies, like QBE, have been assessing and managing injured workers for years as part of their core business. They have the experience, the systems, and the infrastructure to do this work on behalf of NDIS. They will not need to dish out capital to create new systems since they already have tried and tested systems. Their staff members do not need training because they have been doing the work for a long time. Being focused on profits and goal oriented, the managers will make sure the work is done efficiently and cost effectively.

If private insurance companies get this work, they will only need to expand their current operations to include the NDIS work as a separate product. If enough of them are given to contracts, they can handle the roll out process fast and easy and meet the deadline. Best of all, they will provide a higher degree of satisfaction for the beneficiaries.

I have not talked about the MyGov problems and the portal issues in this article but this could also be eliminated from using a private insurance company.

The beneficiaries of the NDIS deserve a good service. The government should seriously take them into consideration and give this work to the private insurance companies. The government will look good when the roll out is completed according to plan and when the beneficiaries sing praises of the scheme.

Interested in writing your own Community Thought Leadership article? We welcome you to share your thoughts and ideas for how the NDIS can be improved and tips on how people with disability, carers and care professionals can make the most of NDIS. We encourage respectful debate and innovative solutions. If you would like to write your own Community Thought Leadership article, get in touch with us here

References

1. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-12/ndis-rollout-plagued-with-problems-foi-documents-reveal/8346892

2. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-03/ndis-there-could-be-trouble-ahead-after-problems-in-act/8157662

Editing and italics by CareNavigator.com.au

  1. I shudder to think this is a good idea!

    Trouble is Richard, NDIS is not a for profit organisation like an insurance scheme. Transactionally it might be behind the scenes, but not in purpose or function. And if you take in to account the way QBE and other big insurance schemes treat people with divisibility, we would all be left on the heap.

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