NDS releases State of the Disability Sector Report 2022
At our annual CEOs’ Meeting in Sydney, NDS released its State of the Disability Sector Report 2022, our annual health check on the disability services sector. The latest report reveals a difficult operating environment for most providers, but there are some glimmers of hope, with a cautious expectation of positive change.
In her presentation of the report, NDS CEO Laurie Leigh admitted that it had been a difficult past few years for the sector dealing with the COVID-19 emergency, which is still ongoing for many members.
“Last year, we reported that the sector was caught in a mire of pessimism, frustration and distress,’ she said. “Well ... what a difference an election can make! This year, the first impression is one of a level of optimism returning to the sector. Unfortunately, this is tempered by pessimism on the general economy."
Ms Leigh went on to summarise the report in five major findings:
- That general economic pessimism is tempered by the hope that the NDIS Review will bring improvement
- That recruitment and retention of the workforce is a worsening problem
- That regulation needs to focus on making services safer for participants
- That there is a lack of confidence in the direction of reforms in disability employment
- And, that providers are fatigued by change but need reforms.
Conducted in partnership with the Centre for Disability Research and Policy at the University of Sydney, who analysed the data from our State of the Disability Sector Survey, the report gathered responses from 364 NDS providers from every state and territory, who ranged from sole traders to large multi-state organisations.
There was a more optimistic outlook on policy reform, with the survey in the field in July, shortly after the change of federal government. Forty-three per cent of respondents believed that policy was heading in the right direction; up from just 25 per cent last year. But this was a light in the gloom. Sixty-seven per cent of respondents believed that conditions had worsened and 36 per cent expect their organisations to make a loss in the coming year.
The fact that many more providers are expecting to make a loss this year is particularly concerning. Providers have been very accurate in predicting their financial outcomes. Predictions of losses made in last year’s survey were consistent with the rate of losses reported by providers in 2021-22.
Finding and holding on to a skilled workforce is a worsening problem. The job market is dire for providers, with allied health clinicians the hardest to hire and retain. But with respondents reporting moderate to extreme difficulty finding staff in almost every skill category, the skills shortage seems to have become a labour shortage. Eighty-three per cent of respondents reported moderate to extreme difficulty recruiting suitably trained Disability Support Workers.
There was a strong sentiment that compliance and regulation is tying service providers in red tape, with many saying that regulation compromised service quality without improving safety. Only 39 per cent of respondents felt confident that the Quality and Safeguarding Framework supported quality services, and a mere 11 per cent agreed that ‘taken together, NDIS Pricing and Regulation are conducive to providing innovative services that respond to participant needs.’
Other major findings in the report include the generally poor view of recent reforms in disability employment. Just under half of DES providers (48 per cent) think DES policy reforms are not heading in the right direction. There was also a high level of uncertainty around the future direction of supported employment.
There was widespread ‘change fatigue’ felt by respondents. However, many still said they wanted reform, provided it was the right reform to improve conditions for providers and outcomes for participants.
Out of the findings, the report suggested a way forward: a ten-point plan to address the major concerns expressed in the survey. Further details are included in the report.
View the State of the Disability Sector Report 2022, including an accessible version and fact sheet.
For any enquiries, please contact Laurie Leigh, NDS Chief Executive Officer, submit enquiry/feedback