Victoria in Focus by Sarah Fordyce, June 2022
- Almost every provider is reporting major issues with staff shortages
- There are multiple reports of providers forecasting a loss or break-even financial position this financial year
- NDS is working to help find solutions to meeting disability workforce shortages
- Providers are being urged to support early notification of positive rapid antigen tests (RAT) by people with disabilities
This comes at a time of building economic pressures, as the funding growth of NDIS over recent years is curbed with significant plan cuts. There are rising costs of power, insurance, and fuel, for instance, and impending significant salary increases, with wage indexation and the changes to the SCHADS Award commencing 1 July.
Added to this mix is an ongoing focus on quality and safeguards, with the regular hearings of the Disability Royal Commission, and an activist state government busy with a range of state-based new safeguards. There is recent work on new Social Services Regulations, new bus accreditation, amendments to the Disability Act (impacting tenancy protections), and a new Disability Inclusion Bill.
Priority issues for the sector
NDS continues to poll service providers about their top concerns at each of our community of practice meetings. The overwhelming priorities are workforce shortages, economic viability, NDIS prices and processes, and staff wellbeing.
Providers are reporting that workforce shortages are extreme with between five to 30-percent of workers on furlough. It is notable that more providers are reporting higher worker absences since mid-May.
Living with COVID-19 continues to put further pressure on staff. This sustained stress presents risks to long-term mental health and wellbeing, and providers are searching for strategies to best respond to this issue.
There are multiple reports of providers forecasting a loss or break-even financial position this financial year, up from the one-third of providers predicting this in the 2021 national NDS State of the Disability Sector results. The current workforce and economic pressures are not expected to ease in the near future, and this situation further adds to the pressure.
The changes to SCHADS are significant and prompting many providers to overhaul their rostering to reduce potential costs. It is estimated that the changes will see some organisations paying an additional $5 to $15 per worker per shift. NDS has commissioned Industrial Relations expert Toby Hall to undertake a comparison of the SCHADS award changes with the MEA used by many Victorian providers.
NDS is playing a leading role to help find solutions to meeting disability workforce shortages. The Victorian Government has funded NDS, Yooralla and the Workforce Innovation Development Institute (WIDI) to undertake workforce retention projects. As a part of that project, NDS will run workshops by workforce retention experts, establish an Allied Health Workforce Network and develop resources.
NDS is partnering with employers, employees (new or existing) and RMIT on WIDI’s SkiP program, which aims to create sustainable jobs in the disability and aged care sectors. NDS’s role is to promote the program to disability service providers and assist providers to connect into the project.
NDS has been funded through the federal Department of Education, Skills and Employment to deliver the Entry to Care Roles project, which is designed to engage 60 job seekers in pre-employment training and place 40 job seekers in entry-level jobs with key employers. And we are also working on a project to facilitate the development of key resources and tools for supervision within the sector.
Workmate of the Year
Nominations for the 2022 Workmate of the Year award are open. The award recognises and celebrates some of the amazing and hard-working people in disability services. The Workmate of the Year may be full-time, part-time, casual or contractor in any role in disability services. Nominations close Friday 22 July 2022. For further details, visit National Disability Practitioners
NDS continues to advocate to government on behalf of the sector. NDS CEO Laurie Leigh has written to the new Minister for the NDIS Bill Shorten seeking a meeting to discuss the implementation of the policy commitments made by the ALP during the election campaign and other current disability policy issues.
We continue our close contact with the Victorian Government to ensure messages on COVID-19 and flu are clear and appropriate for the sector and I am representing NDS on the government’s Social Services Regulation Reform Taskforce. NDS has been consulted for changes to the Victorian Disability Amendment Bill and we participate in the Victorian NDIS Community Advisory Council to raise issues impacting people with disabilities and the sector in Victoria.
Providers are being urged to support early notification of positive rapid antigen tests (RAT) by people with disabilities, to ensure they get access to critical support and anti-viral treatments if needed. DFFH provides an easy-to-follow flow chart for reporting positive cases for individual cases and outbreaks for providers.
Safer and Stronger
The Safer and Stronger project funded by the Victorian Government to support the sector through COVID-19, concludes at the end of this month. At the beginning, I don’t think any of us would have thought it would be needed for this long. It has been a privilege to work so closely with providers through the pandemic, to witness the collaboration, innovation, resilience, and strength of service providers to get through.
Safer and Stronger has been able to deliver great support during these tough years, and our final project report will highlight some of the achievements, including:
- 125 Communities of practice, webinars, and meetings
- NDS Victoria COVID-19 news updates read 50,000 times
- NDS Victoria newsletters were sent to 3,800 subscribers
- The NDS-AMAZE social scripts have been downloaded 7,000 times
- 25 podcasts have been played 15,000 times
Away from NDS, there are other items of news we receive, about issues and events happening in the disability sector, that I thought I would share with you this month.
Compelling new research published by La Trobe University and the Summer Foundation shows that Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) can reduce support costs and the need for younger people to live in aged care.
The Ethnic Communities' Council of Victoria (ECCV) forum on 24 May 2022 highlighted persisting issues related to people with disability from culturally diverse backgrounds. In particular, their increased susceptibility and vulnerability in a crisis. It brought together disability advocates, mental health specialists, and people with lived experience.
Projects that are encouraging social inclusion and social participation for people with disability can apply for grants under the next State Trustees Australia Foundation Community Inclusion Grant Round. Single one-year grants of up to $20,000 are available. Applications can be lodged from 18 July to 12 August 2022, with successful applicants informed on 11 November. Organisations registered as a charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission and endorsed with charity tax concessions are eligible. Visit www.statetrustees.com.au for more information about project criteria.