Calls for disability reform ahead of NDIS

BENDIGO care providers have been urgedto preparefor the National Disability Insurance Scheme, or risk being squeezedout of the sector by private businesses.
Nanjing Night Net

Victorian manager for National Disability Services James O’Brien said not-for-profitproviders in Central Victoria need to reform their business models in the lead-up to the NDIS roll-out.

Mr O’Brien told Bendigo Access Employment’s general meeting thatgroups need to act now to avoid being overlooked in the scheme’s new funding model.

He described the multi-billion dollar schemeas a “major historic shift from a charitable approach to a market-based approach”.

The NDIS will be introduced inthe Bendigo region between 2016 and 2019.

Mr O’Briensaid the new model would inevitably involve more competition.

“We will see a rise in for-profit corporate providers,” he said.

“It’s not necessarily a threat but it’s the reality of the market.

“We’re likely to see more of a combination of not-for-profits, private providers and individuals set up as sole traders.We’ve already seen an expansion in providers in Geelong (the launch site for the NDIS in Victoria).”

Mr O’Brien said established groups such as Access Employment would have anadvantageover private businesses in terms of their volunteers and connectionwith the local community.

Bendigo Access Employment chief executive Michael Langdon said therestructure leading up to the NDIS was the biggest reform in the organisation’s 21-year history.

“We know there will be more service providers enter the market,” he said.

“We’re prepared for that. We think it can be a good thing.”

Dr Langdon said it would result in the group becoming an “employer of choice” due to the greater individual control patients can take through the scheme.

Radius Disability Services Bendigo has spent the past two years reforming their business model to fit in with the NDIS design.

Chief executive Cath McDonald said she was braced for a major shake-up to the industry.

“It will involveopening up the business environment,” she said.

“There’s challenges, certainly. Challenges we will undoubtedly have to face.It’s all about the market and providing a good service. That competition keeps you healthy.”

Mrs McDonald said her background in aged care gave her anidea of the level ofprivatisation expectedinthe disability sector.

She said it would involve agreater emphasis on managing the businessside of the organisation.

Brainlink chief executive Sharon Strugnell said there werelingering questions about how the rise in private providers would impact on charitable groups.

Mrs Strugnell -whohosted a forum on the NDISin Bendigo earlier this year -said there were concernsthe new model would impact on patients.

“It’s still a very unknown system,” she said.

“I’m all for competition and that’s very good but the heart of it is making sure families have a real choice. Often families don’t know what they need. One of the key things that came up at the Bendigo forum was that carers don’t have time to shop around, and do their own self-assessments.”

She said the roll-out in Geelong had created mixedfeedback with some positive responses and some teething problems.

The NDIS is estimatedto be used bymore than 100,000 Victorian patients by 2019.

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