Disability service providers servicing areas considered remote and very remote will receive double the income for their support services, under the new National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) price guide updates.
Minister for the NDIS, Stuart Robert announced a 50 percent increase on remote and very remote location loading on Tuesday, taking remote locations from 20 percent to 40 percent and very remote from 25 percent to 50 percent.
Among the changes effective 1 July 2019, are specific increases for therapists, attendant care and community participation and updates to assistive technology, home modifications, travel, non-face-to-face services and cancellation billing policies.
Minister Robert says the significant price increases will positively impact all participants and disability service providers.
“The increases are part of the Independent Price Review—with its 25 recommendations having been progressively implemented since July 2018 with the aim of transitioning the NDIS market to cope with significant demand growth, improving efficiency and quality of care and reaching the longer-term goal of price deregulation,” he says.
The changes taking effect nationally from 1 July 2019 also include:
provider travel claiming has increased from the current cap of 20 minutes to 30 minutes within city areas, and from 45 minutes up to 60 minutes in regional areas
a Temporary Transformation Payment of 7.5 percent in the first year for attendant care and community participation supports for providers who comply with certain conditions
two levels for therapy assistant supports
an hourly rate for non-face-to-face care activities conducted on behalf of the participant
support coordinators will be able to claim the increased travel time, as well as for non-face-to-face coordination activities
There are also price indexation changes to supports listed under Assistance with Daily Activities and Social and Community Participation (4.5 percent), Capacity building supports, including support coordination and therapy (2.1 percent) and supports listed under Consumables, Assistive Technology and Home Modification and Specialised Disability Accommodation (1.3 percent).
Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of peak body National Disability Services, David Moody welcomes the announcements but says it's not going to be a quick fix for the NDIS.
“The new prices will better support the delivery of quality services throughout Australia, increase transport funding for people with disability and workers, address funding issues around service cancellations, provide funding for non-face-to face services which have, in the past, been funded by providers as a ‘cost of doing business’ and provide a temporary loading for attendant care and community participation supports.
"While prices are starting to reflect some of the true costs of providing quality services for people with disability, this announcement is not going to miraculously fix all of the problems with the NDIS,” Mr Moody says.
“The timing of this announcement also means that, although the new prices are to take effect from 1 July 2019, in reality, many service providers will find it difficult to bed down the required changes to their business to apply the new prices by that date.”
Co-CEO of People with Disability Australia (PWDA) Matthew Bowden says the peak body welcomes moves to increase funding for NDIS supports in regional and remote areas of Australia.
“Increases to travel times and the remote loadings, take into account the very real challenges that many people with disability living outside the major cities face in trying to access the essential supports we need.
“We are also pleased to see better recognition for non-face-to-face services and will work with the Minister and the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) to ensure these are also available to non-regional people with disability who need to access services from home.
“We also welcome the announcement that the NDIA will review the terms of reference and membership of the Pricing Reference Group to increase the number of independent experts.
“People with disability are experts in our lives and it’s vital more of us have a seat at the table,” Mr Bowden says.
Minister Robert also announced a Western Australia Market Review revealed the cost to deliver services to less populated areas is discouraging providers from delivering services to participants in these areas, therefore reducing choice for participants.
“To ensure NDIS participants in outer regional areas surrounded by remote or very remote geography, like Kalgoorlie, are not disadvantaged and can access the best provider market available, pricing limits in these locations have been reclassified as ‘remote’,” he explains.
As a result, a 20 percent increase across the board will come into effect from 1 August 2019.
“The NDIA will continue to monitor remote and very remote markets across Australia, and where necessary, intervene with temporary adjustments to price controls to ensure NDIS participants receive the quality and breadth of services they deserve,” Minister Roberts says.
Alliance20, an organisation representing disability service providers also says the increases in the price for provider travel, additional loadings for service provision in remote areas and revised arrangements for non-face to face activities are significant improvements that will strengthen the ability of providers to offer quality services to NDIS participants.
Alliance20 spokesperson and CEO of disability provider, House with No Steps, Andrew Richardson says these new measures build on other changes and increases announced earlier this year.
“We congratulate the Federal Government and NDIA for recognising and responding to the financial pressures being experienced by not-for-profit service providers under the NDIS.
“The new prices will enable service providers to both continue providing necessary support services and also better plan for future service provision in a sustainable way,” he says.
Mr Richardson is calling on the Government and the NDIA to continue to work with the sector to refine pricing arrangements for other services and on other issues affecting the Scheme.
Alliance20 also acknowledges the creation of new levels of service provision for therapy services which will assist in the provision of these crucial supports, especially for people with disability who have complex support needs.