Speech by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

National Disability Services, Victorian State Conference

Location: Melbourne

I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we are meeting, and to pay my respects to their elders past and present.

And to acknowledge all of you here today and the hard work you are doing.

In just over two weeks’ time, we will see the much anticipated launch of DisabilityCare Australia.

As I’m sure you all know, here in Victoria the launch takes place in the Barwon area.

From there, we will roll out the scheme across the state, until the whole of Victoria is covered by 2019.

And we’ve reached similar agreements with nearly all the states and territories. Only WA is yet to come on board.

Which means Australians with significant and permanent disability can now feel secure in the knowledge that their needs will be met.

That they will have choice and control over the care and support they receive.

Their families and carers can feel secure that their sons and daughters with significant and permanent disability will be provided for when they are no longer able to look after them.

The peace of mind, so long and so often sought, is within our grasp.

We are at this point because dedicated Australians, many of whom I know are here today, have argued their case so passionately and effectively.

So that within two years of the Productivity Commission handing down its report in 2011 with a recommendation for a national disability insurance scheme, we are delivering DisabilityCare Australia.

I want to thank everyone who has given the idea of a national disability insurance scheme such outstanding support, everyone who has lent their expertise, everyone who has kept focussed and determined to get it right for people with disability.

Last month, we legislated for a strong and stable funding source for DisabilityCare Australia, with an increase to the Medicare levy.

Given that anyone of us at any time could acquire a disability, the Government has taken the view that this is a fair thing to do.

We are in effect taking out insurance for every Australian, that we’ll all contribute to.

In the May budget, we announced an additional $14.3 billion over seven years to roll out DisabilityCare Australia across the country.

People with significant and permanent disability and those who care for them can now be assured that support will be there for them, as the Prime Minister said, election after election, decade after decade, generation after generation.

The need for funding security has been a major plea we’ve heard from people with disability, their families, their carers, providers and advocates.

And we have listened and agreed. So that this scheme is sustainable into the long term.

So that certainty is there, where before there was none.

DisabilityCare staff are on the ground in all four launch sites that start this July, and they’ve been working hard with local people and services to prepare for the launch.

Because we know that as we make DisabilityCare a reality on the ground, the service sector represented by many of you here today will be a vital component.

A strong, prepared and innovative disability sector is critical to our success.

We recognise the challenges involved for you as service providers and for the disability workforce.

As we build a new environment in which people with disability will be able to choose their providers and how they access supports, based on their own individualised plans.

We recognise that while this is exciting and much-needed, it can also be confronting.

Over the coming years, there will be a fundamental shift in the way disability services will be delivered.

The change won’t happen all at once on 1 July this year, but our intention is for the reform to roll out over the next seven years so it’s fully delivered by 2019.

Among the challenges we face in making that change is workforce capacity. We will need to almost double the disability care workforce over the next seven years.

We have been working closely with our Sector and Workforce Expert Group, which includes representatives from National Disability Services.

And DisabilityCare Australia is currently working with the sector to develop a comprehensive workforce development strategy, including helping to build the capacity of community based services as they prepare to become part of the scheme.

To give extra support to providers, the Government has also set up the Sector Development Fund with an investment of more than $122 million.

This fund includes resources to help you, as service providers, to prepare for this new world.

So you can implement any new business practices or models you need to work in the DisabilityCare environment.

So that you are kept informed of transition arrangements and can make the changes you need to over time.

And so you can be part of the emphasis that will be placed on innovation and initiative.

We know that National Disability Services (NDS) is already doing a lot to help all its members prepare for the introduction of DisabilityCare.

And we want to make sure NDS has the resources and capacity to keep doing this work.

So I’m really pleased to announce today that the Government is providing more than $2 million to National Disability Services through our Sector Development Fund.

Our funding will enable NDS to do two things:

Firstly, embed its CareCareers promotion and recruitment program in all the DisabilityCare launch sites.

And secondly, offer its NGO Readiness Assessment Tool to assist all registered DisabilityCare service providers in the launch sites.

These projects were originally a collaboration between NDS and the NSW Government. Our investment will mean we can expand that effort into other states and territories to support the transition to DisabilityCare.

Through career advice, marketing and advertising, the NDS CareCareers program will help recruit and retain workers into the disability support workforce.

And by providing training opportunities, workshops in high schools, and work experience, as well as being a high-profile presence at expos and public forums, it will help inspire students to consider a career in the disability sector.

This will assist service providers continue to meet the demand for their services as DisabilityCare rolls out.

On top of this, National Disability Service’s NGO Readiness Assessment Tool will help service providers in the launch sites assess what they need to do as they make the transition to DisabilityCare.

In parallel with the expansion of CareCareers and the Readiness Assessment Tool, National Disability Services will keep working closely with service providers in the launch sites to help with their specific staffing and business transition requirements.

Of course, I know it is not the only change facing providers of services to people with disability.

Just last year, former Parliamentary Secretary for Disability & Carers, Senator Jan McLucas, launched the Vision for Supported Employment.

This Vision clearly outlines where we see employment going into the future and reaffirms our belief that Australian Disability Enterprises have an important role to play in that future.

It is the product of extensive work, detailed work, with NDS and with ADEs around the country.

It sets out how we transition from the workplaces we know today, to workplaces of the future. And it couldn’t be more timely.

I know one of the many changes those of you here from ADEs face are those presented by the recent High Court decision in relation to the use of the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool.

This has created some uncertainty, and I know this is of concern to many of you.

We want to meet the challenge of balancing the rights of employees to fair wages with the delivery of high quality employment support.

This is a complex issue and there are many and varied views about how supported employment should be delivered into the future.

We will consult with employees, Australian Disability Enterprises and other advocates as we work through this, and we will release a discussion paper to seek input to help inform our thinking.

It will need to line up with the vision for supported employment so that the contribution of people with disability is recognised and appropriately rewarded, which is what we all want to see.

As part of the Government’s vision for supported employment, and in recognition of the work before us as we make this important transition, I am pleased to today announce an extra $4 million to benefit Australian Disability Enterprises and supported employees.

This funding will include:

  • $10,000 for each Australian Disability Enterprise to help them purchase expert industrial relations advice on how best to manage the changing environment into the future;
  • $5000 to assist with updating policies and procedures to make sure that Australian Disability Enterprises are well placed to meet the new Disability Service Standards;
  • $750,000 to expand the number of supported employees who can access case management and retirement planning and assistance, and to reduce the eligibility age to 54 in recognition of the very real challenges that many people with disability experience in relation to early onset ageing

An additional $400,000 will be available for Australian Disability Enterprises that are interested in exploring opportunities to become social enterprises or whom have started to plan how they might transition. This is all part of our work to build a stronger disability sector right across Australia.

We have also put $10 million into the Practical Design Fund for projects to identify practical solutions to disability workforce challenges.

So that grass roots programs can be designed to help people and organisations prepare for new ways of accessing and delivering disability and other related supports.

Here in Victoria, for example, Independent Disability Services have developed an Individual Service Agreement in Easy English to support people with disability and their families to exercise choice and control.

This agreement will help people with disability to negotiate with service providers, to make sure they receive the support they want, in a way that suits them.

Once it’s completed the agreement explains what the participant can expect of the service provider, and what the service provider can expect of that person.

There can be a description of the service and support the service provider will provide, including what the service is, how the service will work, the cost of the service and any rules that apply.

So rather than providing the principle of choice alone – we are working with people with disability, with providers – to put choice into practice. To make choice more than a tick a box exercise.

A lot of groundwork has been done in Victoria.

DisabilityCare Australia will be working with 5,000 participants over its first year in the Barwon area.

The way that people enter the scheme has been agreed.

The intake will be gradual to ensure that everyone who meets the access requirements of the scheme is properly supported and receives the right services for their individual needs.

The priority groups for the first month are people who are currently on the Disability Support Register and the early intervention waitlists.

Just over two hundred people will enter the scheme in the Barwon launch site in the first month after launch.

And I know National Disability Services is doing an immense amount of work through the GRAND network’s monthly meetings that you chair.

Your specific focus on launch preparedness is an invaluable way of exchanging information and resolving issues at the local level.

I understand that recent forums in Colac and Geelong were attended by over 550 people representing participants, families/carers, providers and community organisations.

This shows the level of interest and anticipation here in Victoria’s launch site, and the fantastic commitment.

The forums are proving the detailed practical knowledge that is so important to help people understand how to interact with the new scheme.

The forums provided details on eligibility, how to contact DisabilityCare Australia, phasing of clients into the scheme, IT systems and payment systems.

I understand that DisabilityCare Australia is just about to start sending existing service providers in launch sites their registration forms for completion.

So I expect many of you will be receiving those forms over the next few days and I encourage you to keep talking to your local DisabilityCare staff if you have any questions about how to complete the registration process.

In addition, DisabilityCare Australia staff have presented at numerous meetings in the Barwon area with individual providers and other parts of the sector

Local staff have been recruited for the regional office for the Barwon launch.

I am very pleased that about 14 per cent of these staff identify as being a person with disability.

People with disabilities were engaged as expert panel members throughout the recruitment process.

These staff will be on the frontline from 1 July – helping people transition into the scheme.

After all, we are not just making a few tweaks.

We’re completely reforming the system.

And we expect this will mean an increase in demand for disability sector services.

This is because DisabilityCare participants will have access to a greater range of services and because more people will become eligible for assistance.

Work in the sector should also become more rewarding under DisabilityCare.

Providers will be able to be more flexible, responsive and innovative and workers will be able to offer a more diverse range of supports.

DisabilityCare will work closely with the sector and with state and territory governments to ensure the number and diversity of providers can be expanded.

And that providers are well placed to support people at the local level.

Importantly, we have been working to ensure a smooth move from the present block funding and service centred model to one in which people with disabilities and their carers have choice and control.

I want to thank you all for the part you will be playing in building DisabilityCare Australia.

This is the most fundamental social policy reform since the introduction of Medicare.

One built and funded to stand the test of time.

And all the best as you work with us to make the scheme a reality on the ground.

It will be a challenging time.

But it will also be a time that delivers a better future for all Australians.

Thank you.