New research says digital service platforms in the NDIS market needs reform
What you need to know
- New research from the Brotherhood of St Lawrence says that limited regulations for digital platforms that connect support workers and NDIS participants may pose a risk to both.
- The report also points out a need for price settings that allow providers to adequately invest in workforce training, support and supervision.
- NDS echoes these findings and calls for worker screening for all those providing NDIS-funded supports.
Digital platform service providers that connect support workers with NDIS participants represent a significant and growing proportion of the NDIS market. Such digital platforms offer more choice and control for service users. However, recent research by the Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) has found that regulations do not offer enough protection for support workers and people with disability.
The report, titled “Support online: user experiences of digital platforms in the NDIS market,” found that the current NDIS pricing does not cover the full cost of services – including worker training. BSL argues that these issues are contributing to a poorly trained workforce, negatively affecting the quality of care. The report recommends:
- that the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission considers regulating unregistered digital platforms
- that the Australian Government pursues updates to the industrial relations regime to clarify the roles and responsibilities digital platforms have to workers
- further investment for employment-based training models in the disability workforce.
Victoria is moving to regulate the on-demand workforce following its Inquiry into the Victorian On –Demand Workforce. The government has supported all 20 recommendations of this inquiry, in full or in principle, and released Fair Conduct and Accountability Standards, established a Gig Worker Support Service, and outlined a roadmap to move to legislate the standards.
The BSL findings echo previous advocacy of NDS. Our recent submission into the Own Motion Inquiry into Platform Providers Operating in the NDIS Market recommended that the NDIS Commission work with the NDIA to implement price settings that adequately support providers to invest in workforce training, support and supervision. We recommended that digital platforms be considered a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) that owes duty of care to workers and care recipients.
Throughout its submissions, NDS does not advocate for a single model of service delivery for platform providers within the NDIS. However, we do argue for a coordinated approach with practical strategies that meet the increasing demands for a skilled, competent and engaged workforce.
In our previous submission to the Victorian Government on the Fair Conduct and Accountability Standards, we raised concerns about the quality of service and the risks to safety of people with disability in on-demand, gig-style model of disability service provision.
Digital service platforms that provide disability support are not necessarily required to register with the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission. Unregistered platforms do not have to comply with NDIS Practice Standards and so can classify workers as ‘independent contractors’ or ‘sole traders’, distancing the platform from legal liabilities of employers.
In addition, workers working in unregistered platforms need not have a NDIS Worker Screening Check, which poses potential risks for people with disabilities since there is no guarantee of service quality and safeguarding.
In its submission, NDS raised concerns around the risks for safety and wellbeing for both workers and clients. In response, NDS called for:
- mandatory worker screening for all workers providing NDIS funded supports
- greater education for workers on the difference between contracting and employment and the potential risks and liabilities of conducting gig-style work in the disability sector
- strong standards to support sufficient training of workers to minimise occupational health and safety risks.
NDS welcomes the Brotherhood of St Laurence report and will continue to monitor efforts by governments to regulate this growing and challenging element of the disability workforce.