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Daily Telegraph: Time to address shortage

Jane Morrell reflects on the past 10 years of the NDIS, and explores the significant issues that need to be addressed to ensure the its sustainable for the next 10 years and beyond.

Jane Morrell

By Jane Morrell
Published in the Daily Telegraph | JULY 14, 2023

As we reflect on the past 10 years of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), there’s no doubt that it has helped transform so many lives, providing much needed funding and support, as well as greater choice and control for people living with disability.

In 2012, a year before the NDIS was introduced, I created Carer Solutions. I had worked in the disability sector for a number of years and had met with countless frustrated and exhausted families across Australia who were facing a significant lack of options when it came to finding suitable support workers.

Carer Solutions remains the only organisation in Australia that supports people living with disability to employ disability support workers that they already know and trust. We partner with individuals and their families, to take care of all the complicated and time-consuming tasks, including compliance, insurance, and payroll obligations.

But, with a support worker shortage of 200,000 forecast by 2050, the government really needs to invest in attracting people to work in the disability care workforce. We need to see more providers like Carer Solutions who offer innovative and genuine solutions for people living with disability, so that people eligible for the NDIS, can access it without barriers.

We know that attracting and retaining a suitably skilled, qualified workforce continues to prove a significant challenge, with the sector increasingly seen as overworked, underpaid, undervalued, and poorly trained.

In Bill Shorten’s first address to the industry, he recognised that the worker shortage was a complex and challenging issue that will take more than the ‘A Life Changing Life’ online advertising campaign to solve.

Carer Solution’s unique direct employ model is especially helpful for those participants with specific cultural and linguistic barriers, or for those living in regional and remote areas, where accessing support is even more challenging.

It’s crucial that we involve our First Nations people in developing a strategy for the NDIS, with new data showing greater numbers of First Nations people are accessing the NDIS.

Over a third of participants are not able to access support workers, as many NDIS services are not culturally appropriate for First Nations people with disability.

Another area that the NDIS needs to address is their systems and processes. One of many challenging examples is the worker screening process in Tasmania. We are currently working with government ministers to identify technical issues between Federal and State departments, highlighting the need for departments to work together, and not in silos.

This worker screening issue is impacting a significant number of our Tasmanian participants and their Support Workers, and if not addressed as a matter of urgency, it will continue to affect them being able to access much-needed support.

I would also love to see more open collaboration and direct lines with providers who can assist with navigating unclear changes and ambiguous rules within the NDIS. I welcome the concept of an ‘NDIS Innovation Panel’, where disability service providers can collaborate on finding innovative solutions to complex challenges within the disability sector.

So as we look to the future, I think we can all agree that much needed reform and innovation is needed with the NDIS to ensure it remains sustainable for the next 10 years and beyond.