NDIS Capacity Building Project Update – June 2016

In this edition of the NDIS Mental Health Network update read about:

  • the new NDIS price guide
  • an NDIS Benchmarking study
  • NDIS Webinar – Capability Sourcing Update to Industry
  • Richmond Wellbeing NDIS workshops for mental health consumers and carers
  • a call for volunteers for the Carers Australia NDIS Peer Conversation Partners project
  • Department of Social Services Workshops for providers of its mental health programs
  • a Productivity Commission Review of the NDIS
  • an NDIA Mental Health Sector Reference Group meeting
  • consultation opportunity – Specialist Disability Accommodation Paper on Pricing and Payments
  • NDIS Market Position Statements
  • Mental Health Australia’s submissions on the ILC Commissioning Framework and Mental Health Australia’s submission to the NDIA on the Personal Care and Community Participation Price Review
  • the latest transcript from the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS
  • an update on the NDIS Capacity Building Project papers.


NDIS Price Guide

This month, the NDIA released the updated price guide for 2016-17 (click here). This follows the NDIA’s recent review of Personal Care and Community Participation. You can see the discussion paper on the NDIS website (click here) and Mental Health Australia’s submission on our website (click here – more detail is provided about our submission later in this update).

Most prices are increasing by either 2% or 3.9%.  The NDIA has stated that these price rises reflect:

  • 2% for the Wage Price Index (WPI); and
  • An additional 1.9% (to bring the price increase to 3.9%) for those items covered by the Equal Remuneration Order (ERO).

While we welcome these increases, they do not address the fundamental concerns that we, and the broader sector, have expressed.

As you may be aware, the NDIA has previously announced that current ‘transitional’ prices are higher than what they have determined to be “efficient” prices, with the intention that prices ‘glide’ towards what the NDIA considers the efficient price.  As part of this price determination, the NDIA has decided to extend the transition period. We welcome this recognition by the NDIA that:

Following a detailed review, from which the NDIA acknowledges the transition challenges facing providers in or entering the NDIS, the NDIA has decided that the transitionary period should be extended to provide for a “buffer” over the estimated efficient prices for three years of Scheme transition. For Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and Queensland, this means that prices for personal care and community participation supports will increase by 3.9% in 2016/17, rather than the 1.9% increase that would have occurred under a glide path approach. The price increase consists of an additional 2.0% increase to reflect growth in the WPI over the past year, and a 1.9% increase to allow continued implementation of the ERO. The eastern states are now projected to reach efficient levels in 2018/19, which is an extension of one year from the NDIA projection that was announced on 1 August 2015. Other jurisdictions will reach efficient levels one year later, in 2019/20.

Details of the new proposed transition prices compared to ‘efficient’ prices is available on the NDIS website (click here).

The NDIA has also identified a series of pricing reviews that will be undertaken over the next 12 months.  In summary, those areas are:

  • Rules, price structures and price levels for community participation and Supported Independent Living, to ensure providers are able to recover reasonable costs and to improve the extent to which participant plans reflect the individual needs of participants
  • Benchmarking of provider performance, practices and costs to provide a robust evidence base for decision making
  • Revising key cost assumptions that underpin prices, including the consistency of how these assumptions are applied across support categories that draw on a common disability support services workforce
  • Further development of funding and price arrangements for Indigenous participants.

We welcome this, as some of these reviews relate specifically to the issues that we raised in our submission.

In order to support our submissions to these reviews, we would encourage providers to consider and gather data on their key cost drivers, including:

  • What award and level staff are employed under
  • Average client-facing time
  • Average sick leave taken per year
  • Corporate overhead costs
  • Supervision ratios
  • Training costs and training hours per employee (as a percentage of payroll)
  • Cost of capital.

These are the factors that the NDIA currently uses as part of their Reasonable Cost Model, which is available on the NDIS website (click here), so we anticipate that it will be important for us to be able to provide specific evidence about these factors, when they do conduct the review.  We will write to you again when these reviews commence, to ask if you are willing to provide that data to us.

NDIS Benchmarking Study

Since the roll out of the NDIS commenced, mental health providers have consistently raised concerns about the match between the prices paid by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) for psychosocial support work and the reality of delivering that work by suitably qualified personnel. Some of these concerns are captured in Mental Health Australia’s recent submission to the NDIA’s Personal Care and Community Support 2016-17 Price Review (explained in more detail below).

More recently we have been working with the NDIA on the development of a price benchmarking project. If you’re not familiar with benchmarking, it is a process whereby a range of organisations provide information about their processes, activities and performance. Once the data is compiled organisations can receive a report which compares the data they inputted against aggregate de-identified data for the relevant sector. The NDIA have engaged Boston Consulting Group to scope this project. We think there is potential for this tool to help provide significant intelligence for both the NDIA, to improve price setting, and the sector, to identify real-world cost drivers for NDIS providers.  The project is still in its early stages, and we will keep you informed as it progresses. 

NDIS Webinar – Capability Sourcing Update to Industry

The NDIS Capability Sourcing Update to Industry webinar taking place on Monday 20 June will provide an update to the industry regarding the NDIS commissioning framework and pipeline activities.

Panel experts will also discuss the “NDIS Partners in the Community” program, including what it will mean to be a partner in the program in providing Local Area Coordination or Early Childhood Early Intervention services for NDIS.

The webinar will provide detail around the role of these two services, including projected roll-out timeframes. There will be an opportunity for attendees to ask panel members questions about the program. Attendance at this webinar is by registration.

Time and date: Monday 20 June, 4.15pm - 5.30pm AEST

Register at: http://www.ndis.gov.au/event/ndis-update-industry

Richmond Wellbeing delivering NDIS peer workshops nationally

Since our last newsletter, Richmond Wellbeing has commenced delivery of NDIS peer education and train-the-trainer workshops to build the capacity of mental health consumers and carers to engage with the NDIS. The workshops schedule includes:

  • June: QLD, NSW, NT
  • July: ACT, QLD, SA, VIC
  • August: NSW, TAS.

To find out more about the workshops, subscribe to the Richmond Wellbeing Mailing List (click here) or visit Richmond Wellbeing’s ‘Sharing the NDIS Message’ page (click here).

Call for Volunteers – Carers Australia Peer Conversation Partners

Carers Australia is working with carers who have successfully made the transition to the NDIS and can provide insight into how the system works through the Peer Conversation Project.  The Project supports carers of people eligible for, but not yet enrolled in, the NDIS by linking them with carers who already care for someone receiving supports from the NDIS. Where possible, Carers Australia matches and links carers based on their care situations.

Carers Australia is looking to train more Peer Conversation Partners with experience in psychosocial disability, as the specific needs in this area are unique.

As a volunteer, Carers Australia can offer mental health carers the opportunity to help other carers nationally, in similar caring situations and build on the resources we offer carers around Australia.

If you are interested in hearing more about this opportunity and becoming a volunteer Peer Conversation Partner, please contact: Carers.NDIS@carersaustralia.com.au or call (02) 6122 9918.

DSS Workshops

DSS is running workshops designed to assist team leaders and front-line managers of DSS mental health programs to support people they work with to engage with the NDIS. The programs include Personal Helpers and Mentors, Mental Health Respite: Carer Support, Respite Support for Carers of Young People with Severe and Profound Disability and Young Carer Respite and Information Services. Workshops have already been held for NSW, ACT and QLD providers and next week workshops will be held for VIC, TAS, SA and NT providers. 

At each of the workshops, Mental Health Australia is presenting on progress against its NDIS Capacity Building project as well as answering questions from providers about the NDIS. So far the workshops have reinforced the importance of staff at all levels, in all providers, carefully considering what the NDIS will mean for them, their organisation, their consumers, and their consumers’ families and carers.

DSS is contacting providers delivering services under these programs directly about these events.

Productivity Commission Review of NDIS

In 2013, when state and territories committed to the rollout of the NDIS, they also agreed that the Productivity Commission (PC) would undertake a review of the NDIS in 2017. They agreed that the PC would undertake an “independent review of scheme costs…[including] the sustainability of scheme costs… cost pressures (including wages pressures)… and whether there has been any impact on mainstream services.” The precise terms of reference are to be developed by the Disability Reform Council.

This review will be a crucial opportunity for the sector to influence the long-term trajectory of the NDIS. The PC should be able to comprehensively analyse issues around eligibility, cohort size, pricing and workforce.

In May, Mental Health Australia, Community Mental Health Australia and all eight state and territory peaks wrote a joint letter to all 18 members of the Disability Reform Council calling on them to ensure that the PC consider a range of issues relating to the interaction between mental health and the NDIS.

NDIA Mental Health Sector Reference Group news

On Friday 10 June 2016, Mental Health Australia attended the latest meeting of the NDIA Mental Health Sector Reference Group. This is a key forum for the NGO sector, mental health consumers and carers and government to share intelligence about the NDIS. We will circulate the meeting communique once it is available. The communique from the previous meeting, which occurred in March 2016 is available on the NDIS website (click here).

NDIS Market Position Statements

Since our last newsletter the NDIA has released Market Position Statements for Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. These are available on the NDIS website (click here). The statements are designed to facilitate a “vibrant and competitive market for services and supports.” They provide key data in relation to supply and demand within the disability market in areas where the NDIS is operating.

Mental Health Australia submission – NDIS Personal Care and Community Participation Price Review

In April, Mental Health Australia provided a submission to the NDIA in relation to its price review of Personal Care and Community Participation. Since rollout of the NDIS commenced in launch sites, mental health providers have raised concerns about the match between the hourly prices paid by the NDIA for psychosocial support work and the reality of delivering that work by suitably qualified personnel. Some providers have described their work in launch sites as ‘loss-leading’, undertaken under the assumption that it will be eventually become apparent to the NDIA that its pricing structures need revisiting, and acknowledging that this one of a myriad of implementation challenges.

Less optimistically, some mental health providers envisage a ‘race to the bottom’, where a less skilled workforce becomes a competitive advantage and choice for participants is eroded over time, as providers become unable to support more highly trained workers under the terms set by the NDIA. 

Our submission addressed a range of issues, including: support co-ordination; the current pace of change; funding for innovation, co-ordination, core capacity requirements, ICT, training, supervision and support and translators & interpreters. We also rejected the NDIA’s assertion that the NGO sector has had little incentive to improve its efficiency, both historically and in the recent past.

Please read the full submission on our website (click here).

Mental Health Australia submission to – NDIS ILC Commissioning Framework

Mental Health Australia made two submissions on the draft Commissioning Framework for Information, Linkages and Capacity Building. 

The first submission focussed on the details of the ILC Commissioning Framework, and its implications for people with psychosocial disability. It noted the continued lack of information on continuity of support, numbers of people expected to need ILC support, and other vital information needed for the sector, consumers and carers; and the importance of outreach, including identifying and supporting potential participants from Indigenous, CALD, homeless and other disadvantaged backgrounds, into the NDIS.

The second submission focused on the issues around preparing the sector for the proposed outcomes-based commissioning being proposed by the NDIA.

Please (click here) to read the submissions. 

Joint Parliamentary Committee on the NDIS

On 6 April 2016 the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the NDIS held a hearing on Townsville. The committee heard from prospective NDIS service providers, participants and registered plan management providers as well as the NDIA and Queensland Government officials.

The full transcript can be accessed on the Australian Parliament website (click here).

NDIS Capacity Building Project Papers

Some of you have been involved in our NDIS Capacity Building Project, including work on three papers: Supported Decision Making, Psychosocial Disability and the NDIS; Mental Health Carers and the NDIS; and Developing the Workforce: Community Managed Mental Health Sector National Disability Insurance Scheme Workforce Development Scoping Paper.

It has been some time since you provided input and I wanted to keep you updated on the status of this work. We have finalised the papers, but our Sector Development Fund contract requires they be approved at ministerial level before we can release them. While we don’t anticipate a problem with the content of any of the papers, they haven’t yet been approved by the Minister. Since we’re now in caretaker mode; that means it could be some time yet before we’re able to publish. We’ll keep you updated as the situation changes.

Please share your NDIS story

Mental Health Australia is very interested in hearing about your experiences with the NDIS, whether you are a person experiencing psychosocial disability, a carer of someone with a psychosocial disability or a service provider.  Your experiences help us understand how the NDIS rollout is working on the ground and provide informed and timely feedback to government. So please share your story with us by emailing info@mhaustralia.org

Keep in touch

If you have any questions about the above please email Emma Coughlan at info@mhaustralia.org

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NDIS, NDIS Project Update, NDIS Capacity Building Project, NDIS Mental Health Network Update