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Issue #1701      September 9, 2015

States should delay signing NDIS: union

The Health Services Union (HSU) has urged state governments not to sign the NDIS Bilateral Agreements until appropriate quality and safeguarding mechanisms are in place for people with disabilities and serious workforce issues are addressed.

Presenting to the ongoing Commonwealth Senate Inquiry into Violence, Abuse and Neglect in Disability Services, HSU national president Lloyd Williams said funding, training and accreditation were major unresolved issues that relate directly the prevalence and frequency of abuse.

“We’re very concerned about the current headlong rush into the full implementation of the NDIS given the accounts of abuse against clients across a number of states. Whilst the various inquiries will make their findings and recommendations, it’s impossible to separate the issues of violence, abuse and neglect against people with disabilities from the systemic workforce issues bedevilling the sector.”

Currently under the NDIS working arrangements there are no minimum qualifications required for workers, unless they are a registered health practitioner under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme.

This means that tens of thousands of disability support workers, tasked with providing complex care and assistance to people with disabilities, are not required to have any minimum training once the NDIS rolls out in full.

There are a lot of words around NDIS “best practice” and “quality assurance”, but the two key aspects of minimum qualifications and national accreditation standards are not currently a requirement and they need to be.

“The whole system also needs to be adequately funded, not driven by the ideological belief that a market-driven system will magically deliver cheaper services without compromising quality care,” said Mr Williams.

He said that the current so-called “efficient price” doesn’t come close to covering the true cost of quality care and it means even less money will be available for training and quality assurances processes.

“We must have these issues addressed within the Bilateral Agreements before they are signed. This is the moment of leverage by state governments to ensure that the NDIS delivers on its promise that people with disabilities and their families will get the care and support they have been denied for too long.

“Everyone supports the NDIS but it must be done properly. Just as the kerosene baths brought about minimum quality requirements in the aged care sector, this must also be the case for the disability services sector.”

These issues are set against a backdrop of impending supply-and-demand challenges. Last month the NDIA released its Market, Sector and Workforce Strategy, which re-stated the looming capacity issues facing the sector. The disability sector workforce will need to more than double in size, from around 74,000 FTE (full-time equivalent) currently to more than 160,000 by 2019-20.

“In these circumstances, where there will be a huge new influx of untrained workers, it’s not hard to see very high and increasing levels of risk. Workforce training and accreditation is the elephant in the NDIS Garden of Eden that nobody wants to talk about. There needs to be talk and action on this now.

“States should be using the signing of the Bilateral Agreements to push for minimum qualifications, a national accreditation system and be satisfied that there is funding available to train the expanding workforce.”

Next article – Australia goes deeper into criminal war against Syria

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