NDS and other provider peak bodies have been in constant contact with representatives of the Department of Social Services (DSS) over the last several weeks, as extraordinary countermeasures are implemented by the Government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. NDS has been advising government on additional measures that will enable DES providers to operate in ways that meet participant service requirements. Evidence is emerging that many DES participants placed in employment are either at risk of or are losing their jobs. Last week, NDS and other provider peaks recommended that the government ensure ongoing financial certainty for DES providers during the emergency period by maintaining income levels received from DSS during the first six months of the current financial year. Likely adverse impacts on DES providers and participants due to the economy wide COVID-19 countermeasures include the following:
NDS’s key priority at this point is ensuring the viability of the sector and the continuity of business operations wherever practical. We are seeking urgent confirmation of whether or not DES providers will be deemed an essential service during the emergency period. We will recommend that the Government consider the suspension of performance measures during the emergency period. We propose that star ratings remain as reported at 31 December 2019 and no star ratings be recorded for the March, June (and possibly September) quarters. When the current emergency is declared over, services’ star ratings will recommence at the December 2019 level. This is the most sensible way to ensure that services are not unduly impacted by job losses and reduced employment opportunities arising from the successive bushfire and COVID-19 emergencies.We also recommend that providers examine measures such as postponing Ongoing Support Assessments and assurance audits. DSS will be holding weekly Wednesday meetings with DES provider peaks and updating a set of Frequently Asked Questions on a weekly basis accessed via the provider portal. Providers are reminded that they are welcome to contact NDS with any questions or concerns they may have. We are here to assist our membership during this time of unprecedented social and economic upheaval.