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NDS report shows ‘worst year’ for disability providers

Background art: autumn colours and green strokes. Text: State of the Disability Sector Report 2023


NDS has published the State of the Disability Sector Report 2023, based on its annual survey of disability providers, and has found a sector at breaking point. 

Thirty-four per cent of providers made a loss in FY 2022-23. This was the highest rate reporting a loss since the survey began collecting financial data in 2016. Eighteen per cent just broke even. 

Eighty-two per cent said that they had received requests for services that they could not fulfil. The main reasons given for not supplying services were that prices set for NDIS participants would not cover their costs and that they could not get the skilled workers to carry them out. 

Workforce shortages, although easing since last year’s report, were still acute. Seventy-eight per cent of respondents reported moderate to extreme difficulty in finding disability support workers, while the availability of allied health professionals ranged from low to non-existent — with the crisis biting hardest in regional and remote areas.  

In delivering the report to NDS’s annual Executive Leaders Conference in Melbourne, NDS CEO Laurie Leigh noted that, if providers are making losses while participants are desperate for services, this is “a clear sign of a failing market.” 

“We are already seeing some major providers cease their NDIS services and exit the market altogether,’ she said, “which, most importantly, is affecting the people with disability who rely on these to thrive.’ 

Each year, NDS, in conjunction with the Centre for Disability Research at Sydney University, surveys disability providers about a range of core issues. For this report, 432 respondents, from sole traders to large multi-state organisations, responded. The vast majority deliver NDIS services and most (69 per cent) were not-for-profits.  

For the first year since 2019, the financial results of providers were not greatly affected by government COVID-19 measures, such as payments, grants and other relief. With COVID support having fallen away, the true financial health of the provider sector was revealed. And it confirmed our worst fears.

Another concern that has become increasingly serious for providers over the past year is the unfair two-tiered regulatory environment, where providers who are registered under the NDIS work under a much heavier regulatory burden than unregistered providers delivering the same services.  

“More and more we are hearing that being a registered provider in this regulatory environment is not worth the hassle,” Laurie Leigh said.  

“Registered providers feel that they are taking the high, hard road to service quality — following all the rules, filling out a mountain of paperwork and paying for audits. While unregistered providers are allowed to provide the same services virtually unencumbered by monitoring and red tape.” 

Throughout her speech to the conference, Laurie Leigh recognised that the survey was taken before the release of the DRC report and the NDIS Review, which was released last Thursday. She singled out the recommendation in the Review for an independent pricing authority as a welcome step towards easing the financial strain on the sector.  

However, she cautioned, the NDIS Review is not where the fight for reform ends. The State of the Disability Sector Report makes clear the sector reforms cannot be delayed, nor can they be half-measures. 

A few months ago, NDS released their Top Ten Priorities for NDIS Reform, which reflects provider concerns, ideas and wishes. 

And armed with the results of this survey and with our deep knowledge and expertise in the sector, we dedicate National Disability Services in the coming weeks and months to making sure we have reforms that work and reforms that stick.

Contact information
Laurie Leigh, Chief Executive Officer, 02 9256 3109, submit enquiry/feedback