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DRC hears from more parents and people with disability

Themes included devaluing of people with disability, sub-standard health care and lack of choice.
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Moody's Message: Delivering The Promise of Jobs

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In 2011 the Productivity Commission (now known to one and all as ‘the PC’) handed down its final report into disability care and support. The report recommended the establishment of the NDIS – nothing’s been the same ever since as this massive social policy initiative wends its way through the disability community!

In its report, the PC devoted an entire chapter, Chapter 15, to workforce issues. This chapter made the case for an exponential and massive increase in the number of workers in the sector, providing individualised care and support to the 460,000 NDIS participants who will be in the scheme by the end of 2019-20.

I remember thinking when I read this part of the report (yes, I’m a bit of a geek for this stuff!), ‘Where are we going to get these workers from?’ A workforce able to provide NDIS participants with active support, positive behaviour support, and therapeutic services, among other services, doesn’t just grow on trees. It isn’t just going to spring up in response to market demand, is it?

This somewhat rhetorical question has since been answered, according to data curated by NDS, with a pretty resounding "no" in many parts of Australia.

Based on NDS’ Australian Disability Workforce Report, 3rd Edition (the 4th Edition is due out shortly), we know the following about the national disability workforce:

  • There’s been rapid net employment growth (13.8 per cent) in the last financial year, over five times greater than the workforce as a whole and mainly concentrated in casual employment
  • Employment policies are diverging between larger and smaller organisations
  • There have been some gains, possibly related to the more buoyant labour market, in permanent employment and average working hours. Among allied health workers, the long-term downward trend in working hours reversed for the first time in a year. 

For those of us focused on quality service provision (as a sector, we know there is a massive difference between services and quality services which support tangible, sustainable outcomes), it has to be a concern that just one in five new recruits in the December 2017 quarter had a disability-related qualification (Certificate III and above).

In Victoria in 2019, NDS will continue to play our part with our members, in efforts to grow the disability workforce, thanks to funding provided by the Victorian Government; albeit in the face of sector wages which, on average, are still not particularly competitive, due in part to the assumptions underpinning capped NDIS prices.

Our efforts will include the forthcoming Bendigo Jobs Fair on 28 February, another in Ballarat on 13 March and others at Geelong, Morwell, Mildura, Shepparton and Dandenong, up until mid-July. We’ve also employed four Workforce Connectors, situated in four sites around regional Victoria, to implement strategies to grow the work in their region. The work of these NDS team members will complement what is being undertaken in similar regions by Commonwealth-funded Building the Local Care Workforce consultants.

NDS also continues to sit on the Board of Governance of RMIT’s Future Social Service Institute, which is jointly funded by VCOSS, RMIT and the Victorian Government. We are about to roll-out a campaign with our industrial partners – HACSU, the AEU and Jobs Australia – seeking structural adjustment funding to support implementation of a local Multi-Employer Agreement (MEA). And then there’s our projectABLE team, our Ticket To Work initiative, and Workforce Hub.

Nationally, NDS is seeking funding to deliver a range of workforce initiatives through the Commonwealth Government’s Jobs and Markets Fund. Together with our industrial advocate, Jobs Australia, we are also continuing to make the case for greater workforce flexibility in the Fair Work Commission, which is still considering the Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services (SCHCADS) Industry Award.

But here’s the thing: none of these initiatives, together or separately, seems likely to grow the workforce to the critical mass we need to ensure service demand is met by supply in the short term. This issue is even more critical in remote and very remote parts of Australia.

It may be a cliché but there’s usually a truth in them: the NDIS workforce issue is a wicked problem which demands innovative thinking and creative solutions. It also requires ongoing and significant investment by Australian governments to avert the potential of market failure and to take advantage of the growing demand for workers in our sector – the fastest growing sector in the Australian economy.

Speaking of workforce and significant changes, I would like to take this opportunity to share that I have been appointed as NDS Acting CEO.

In this capacity, I will continue to work out of our Victorian Office, however, given this change to my role, other changes will flow. Pending the appointment of a permanent NDS CEO, the Victorian State Manager’s role will be taken on by Tony Pooley, our NSW Senior State Manager. I warmly welcome Tony to this role.

Tony has worked for NDS since 2014 in a number of roles, including NSW State Manager and State Operations, before taking on the role of Senior NSW State Manager. Tony has a deep knowledge of the NDIS from working for NDS over the last five years and through his experience in the disability sector at an executive and government level that exceeds 20 years.

As of this week, Tony will be working five days each fortnight from the Victorian Office, and will otherwise be available by phone and email should you wish to discuss any issues with him. Otherwise, I have always been fortunate to have a very strong leadership team reporting through me, and they will continue to report through Tony during this transition period. Accordingly, issues concerning project management (sector development and other funded projects) can be discussed with Belinda Wallin; policy position questions may be directed to Sarah Fordyce and NDIS transition/operational issues can be addressed to Fiona Still.

NDS is committed to progressing our core focus by representing our members robustly and well, at this time of very significant transition for our sector. Not yet a member? Increase your ability to influence change and access expertise by becoming an NDS member. 

Contact information
David Moody, Acting CEO, 03 8341 4312,