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In the Media: release of NDS Workforce Census Report 2023

A large seated audience taking notes on notepads


In the media coverage of the release of NDS Workforce Census Report 2023, attention turned to the coming award wage rise in age care that might see disability workers switch sectors.   

Stories from ABC News Radio, SBS, 2GB and The Australian reported that, although salaries in the disability sector have recently been up to 25 per cent higher, that will change when a 15 per cent rise for aged care workers comes in on 1 July. With aged care seen as less demanding work with better hours, the narrowing wage difference may tempt workers from disability to aged care. 

In the ABC News Radio report (audio), NDS CEO Laurie Leigh told Nas Campanella that the workforce supply in disability was “precarious”. She said growth in demand for services has not been matched by the growth of the workforce. The recent award rise in aged care has added more pressure, with many in the disability workforce thinking of moving across the care sector.  

She sees a developing situation where NDIS participants have funds in their packages for services that cannot be met because of workforce shortages.   

Dr Martin Laverty, CEO of disability service provider Aruma, spoke of 54 unfilled support positions on Aruma’s books. As someone involved in the planning of the NDIS, he said some of the ideas from back then have not been fully implemented. “The sky is not falling in, but, gee, we’re pressured,” he said. He hoped that the NDIS Review, due to report later this year, will come up with some solutions.   

SBS news ran a comprehensive story on the workforce report, covering most of the key findings. It reported the disability workforce marking time in a growing market, the possibility of losing workers to aged care, the increased casualisation of the workforce, and the average work hours for support workers has grown. 

Laurie Leigh said that the entire care economy should be considered holistically, and reform is needed to ensure disability support workers feel incentivised to stay in the sector.  

“When things change in one part of the care and support economy,” she said, “and that's not matched or considered with the impact that it might have on other parts of the care and support economy, such as disability, it does have an impact. It does make things more difficult when you're struggling already to recruit.” 

Interviewed by Clinton Maynard on 2GB (audio), Laurie Leigh reiterated the Workforce Report’s main point, that providers are holding steady in an environment of growing demand.  

She stressed again that “the wage rise in aged care has had knock-on effects in disability.” 

Laurie went on to describe the frustration among providers, who want to improve service quality through more training but cannot provide it because it is not properly funded in the pricing of NDIS supports.  

Finally, she spoke about the rapid rise of casualisation discovered by the report and its flow-on effects for onboarding costs and training.  

Laurie Leigh also gave an interview to Ewin Hannan, the workplace editor at the Australian (paywall). She again described the workforce situation as stabilised, “but, in a sector that is growing very strongly, that actually implies we’re going backwards in terms of being able to have the right and appropriate number of workforce to be able to deliver services.” 

On the recent aged care wage rise, the Australian spoke to Alex McDonald of recruitment agency The Orchard Group, which recorded a 43 per cent increase in disability support workers looking for a new role in aged care. For disability providers thinking of switching, aged care work had other attractions, he said, describing it as “far less taxing on the body” with shifts that are “more family-friendly.”  

Media coverage