From 1 July, National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) providers will be able to charge nine percent more for services delivered by disability support workers and participant plans will be increased automatically to cover the extra cost.
Minister for the NDIS Bill Shorten announced the new price limit for services yesterday, following the annual price review, and says the increase is designed to allow for several factors such as service costs and workforce pressures.
The factors include the increased costs of adapting services to be delivered safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, the introduction of the minimum shift and broken shift allowance for workers, the Fair Work Commission’s minimum wage decision, and the increase in the Superannuation Guarantee Charge.
Minister Shorten says allowing providers to charge more to cover these costs will result in a stronger workforce and better services for people with disability.
“These improvements will better support participant outcomes and reduce workforce turnover by funding better conditions for NDIS workers,” he says.
“Providers should be commended for improving rostering systems and reforming their business models to prioritise high quality support for participants and retain workers to reduce future cost by improving outcomes for participants.
“This price review finally recognises the true cost of continuity of support, keeping participants safe and improving systems to drive productivity.
“The Government will continue to work with the sector to ensure the NDIS better supports participants.”
The nine percent increase includes a two percent temporary loading, that will apply for 12 months, and the total increase is within the existing budget projections so it will not come as a shock to the system.
The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) will also be able to allocate $514 million to registered daily living and community support providers to address the costs of keeping participants safe from COVID-19, which will be subject to audits that prove the funding is spent as intended.
National Disability Services (NDS), the national peak body for disability service providers, has “warmly welcomed” the price increase.
NDS Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Laurie Leigh says, “The NDIS price guide was worth the wait!
“This is a very welcome response from the new Federal Government which recognises the additional costs service providers have had to bear during the pandemic as well as the costs of changes required of the sector by the NDIS reform processes being led by Minister Shorten.
“NDS has been closely engaged with the new Federal Government and welcomes this package as an appropriate response to our calls for compensation for providers.
“We support the call to action from the Minister for providers to engage with and contribute to the NDIS reform process.”
Members of the New South Wales (NSW) and Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Branch of the Australian Services Union (ASU) have also been campaigning for the increase in price limits to improve working conditions for disability support workers and cover wage rises.
ASU Secretary Natalie Lang says, “Disability workers are essential workers who make [a] difference in people’s lives every day. As the NDIS union, we welcome this increase in funding that recognises the essential work of our members.
“This new funding recognises that the NDIS needs to change the way it operates to keep skilled professional disability support workers.”
Alongside the wage rises, Ms Lang says improvements to conditions such as broken shift allowances go some of the way to encouraging workers to stay in the sector and provide higher quality services.
“Previous models didn’t actually reflect how a high-quality disability service should be run,” explains Ms Lang.
“There was insufficient funding for supervision and training. The prices didn’t include funding for all award entitlements. Bad pricing decisions promoted short-term thinking and drove many dedicated disability support workers from the sector.
“We need over 80,000 new disability workers. We need to attract and retain workers to fill this need, and provide people with disability the support they need.”
National Secretary of the Health Services Union, a disability sector representative union, Lloyd Williams, says the price increase shows the current Federal Government and Minister care about returning the NDIS to a format that “delivers for participants and for workers”.
Mr Williams says the decision is an acknowledgment of the additional pressures workers and providers have faced during the pandemic and signals change within the NDIS that Labor promised before the Election.
“Disability support workers took on the significant pressures of working on the frontline during this pandemic and this was never properly recognised by the [former] Government,” explains Mr Williams.
Under the previous Government, the NDIS price limits increased by 5.2 percent on 1 July 2021 and only 2.7 percent on 1 July 2020.
Mr Williams says, “This action taken by Labor [to increase price limits by 9 percent] sets a positive tone that we will be putting people back at the centre of the NDIS and restoring trust in the scheme.
“We look forward to working with Labor on its other commitments to this sector, including a wholesale review of NDIS pricing and market structures.”