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  • Writer's pictureKate Bradshaw

NDIS National Workforce Strategy

The recent release of the Federal Government’s National Workforce Strategy is disappointing, with much of the strategy a rehash of old news, the peak body for disability service providers said today.

National Disability Services (NDS) Acting CEO, David Moody, said NDS has been calling for a National Workforce Strategy to support the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) since 2013, when the scheme was introduced with bipartisan support.

“The Government appears to have pulled together information that is already in the public domain and dressed it up as new news,” Mr Moody said. “It is very disappointing that much of the content of their Growing the NDIS Market and Workforce consists of past announcements and what is currently being done.

With an extra 90,000 workers nationally required, as spending on disability almost quadruples to $22 billion by 2022, the federal government is relying on the free market to meet demand in its workforce strategy. Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher wants a more diverse workforce as the NDIS ramps up. The minister said the strategy would give providers the right information and support to make key business decisions. According to Fletcher, the Boosting the Local Care Workforce website will “showcase projected demand for disability services at the micro level” and allow the service providers to plan ahead based on “forecasts of projected demand for services and the future workforce by postcode”.

As part of this, the government has launched a website that provides a postcode-by-postcode breakdown of the estimated number of clients and their needs, the workforce required and the annual spending on various services, to help private businesses and not-for-profit providers satisfy demand. “The new website will also allow organisations to self-assess their existing systems, processes and overall readiness to become a NDIS provider or sustain or expand their service offering,” said the minister.

Disability services is becoming one of the nation's fastest growing industries, with the government estimating that one in five new jobs will come from the sector. Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher said the NDIS would be one of the biggest job-creation opportunities in Australia’s history. “When fully rolled out, the NDIS will support 460,000 people with disability and this provides significant opportunities for job seekers, including job seekers with disability, to take advantage of new roles being created to provide safe and quality services to people with disability."

In Sydney, the data shows how suburbs on the rapidly growing south-west urban fringe need to play catch up. In postcode 2560, which spans from Campbelltown to Appin and west of Wollongong, annual spending could nudge as high as $105 million even though it has a similar number of NDIS clients. The workforce strategy acknowledges the need to balance costs in the scheme to ensure the sector's sustainability. Setting prices too high puts an added burden on taxpayers, while too low makes it difficult to attract staff.

The strategy stated that, long term, the government was considering price deregulation but in the interim it plans to benchmark prices to mature markets already delivering similar services.

With the disability providers facing competition from aged care operators for workers, and battling perceptions jobs in the sector are taxing, the strategy says the government will unleash a public relations campaign to encourage people to work in the NDIS, and promote career opportunities.

As part of this, the government wants a more diverse workforce. Research shows the majority of the disability workforce is female, over 45, has a certificate-level qualification and is from an English-speaking background, which does not reflect the breadth of clients. Unemployed young people and refugee women are two groups that have been identified as potential sources of new workers.

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