NDIS-funded services exempted from Long Service Benefits Portability Act
- The Bill has passed both Houses and is now awaiting Royal Assent.
- Amendments to the Bill which were passed exclude NDIS-funded services from the scope of the scheme.
- Other amendments moved the commencement date of the scheme from 1 April 2019 to 1 July 2019, and exclude licensed children's services from the scheme.
- NDS's suggested amendments to exclude disability and community mental health services not funded by the NDIS were not agreed to by the Government.
The Long Service Benefits Portability Bill 2018 has passed both houses of the Victorian Parliament, with amendments that
exclude NDIS-funded disability and community mental health services from the
scheme. The commencement date of the scheme has also been pushed back to 1 July
The Bill establishes an Authority to which all in-scope services will be required to pay a quarterly levy. The levy is expected to be 1.5 per cent (and no greater than 3 per cent) of their employees' ordinary pay. Employees may then approach the Authority after seven years' service to access the benefit, which, in the community services sector, will be paid out as ‘cash’ rather than leave.
NDS and its members has argued for disability services to be exempted from the Bill for a number of reasons, including: the transition to the NDIS and nationally-set prices; the cost to providers of the initiative, with additional administrative costs and an impact on cash flow; the complexity of the proposal as applied to the community services sector; and the lack of evidence that a portable long service benefit is an effective workforce intervention.
NDS was successful in achieving “the exclusion of activities that are funded by the NDIS ... unless such an activity, or class of activity, is prescribed to be community service work”, by working with its members, other peak bodies and sympathetic MPs on all sides of the Parliament. Despite this, the Bill has a number of other implications for disability and community mental health providers.
While NDS welcomes the exclusion of NDIS-funded services from the scope of the scheme, we are disappointed that amendments excluding disability and community health services not funded by the NDIS were not passed. As a result, it is NDS' understanding that workers providing services to people who are not NDIS-eligible, workers providing disability employment services, and workers providing services not funded under the NDIS (including clinical mental health services in community service settings) will be covered by the scheme.
Other concerns include that it will be possible for the Minister for Industrial Relations to prescribe particular activities currently outside the scope of the scheme, to be considered ‘community services work’ for the purpose of bringing them into the scheme's scope. It will also be possible for the Minister to prescribe particular activities currently inside the scope of the scheme, to not be ‘community services work’ for the purpose of pushing them outside the scope of the scheme. NDS does not have any indication as to what the basis would be for the Minister to make a decision to deem a particular activity inside or outside the scope of the scheme.
The government is yet to confirm whether – and if so, how much – it will contribute to disability and community health providers to transition to the scheme, insofar as the activities being performed by their workers are picked up by the scheme. NDS will work with government to ensure that disability services inside the scope of the scheme are able to achieve budget neutrality.
NDS also notes that in debate over the Bill in the Upper House, Government Ministers and MPs indicated their intention to bring NDIS-funded disability services into scope in the future.
NDS is tremendously grateful to its members for their support in ensuring the sector's concerns about the Long Service Benefits Portability Scheme were made known to Victorian MPs.
While the amendments finally made to the Bill before it was passed are
welcome, NDS will use the time between now and
1 July 2019 to work with our members to address a range of critical issues,
including appropriate transition funding, not
addressed by the Bill.
The Bill, as well as amendments circulated and agreed to, can be accessed here.