Speech by The Hon Jane Prentice MP

NDS CEO Conference


Thank you Joan and thank you to Ron Jones the elder of the Wurundjeri people and for his fascinating insight to the history of the Barak family and the Wurundjeri Tribe. I also acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet, and pay my respects to their elders – past and present and emerging.

I would also like to acknowledge:

  • Dr Ken Baker, CEO of NDS;
  • Ms Joan McKenna Kerr, President of NDS, thank you very much;
  • Mr Mark Burrowes, President of Scope;
  • Professor David Gilchrist, Director, Curtin University Not-for-Profit Initiative; and
  • Mr David Bowen, CEO of the NDIA, will be joining you a little later.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to speak at your 2016 National Disability Services CEO Meeting.

As I have said many times, this is a transformational time for the disability sector. In July of this year the National Disability Insurance Scheme began the three year transition to full scheme. In fact I think I remember saying at your last event what a momentous time because it was the day before the federal election.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime reform, and will empower people with permanent and significant disability by giving them choice and control over the services and supports they receive. As we all know this also means a big shift for providers and the workforce, with the need to accept new pressures, to embrace new opportunities, and new challenges to work through together. As a key voice in the sector, NDS plays a vital role as the NDIS continues to roll-out.

Today I would like speak about:

  • the NDIS roll-out so far
  • the opportunities it presents for participants and service providers
  • and the support available from Government to help the sector seize those opportunities.

I will also touch on the other reforms occurring in the disability sector, including:

  • the ongoing commitment to the National Disability Strategy (2010-2020);
  • the establishment of the National Disability and Carers Advisory Council;
  • proposed service reforms for Disability Employment Services (DES); and
  • the Carer Gateway and development of an Integrated Plan for Carer Support Services.

As Assistant Minister for Disability Services, I am optimistic about the roll-out of the biggest reform of disability services in Australia’s history. The NDIS is major reform. It is also reform that will be life-changing for so many Australians with disability, and their carers and their families.

At full scheme – in just a few years’ time – about 460,000 people will have individually tailored and funded packages.

There is no doubt that the road to full scheme can appear daunting, and I acknowledge the great efforts your organisations have made in embracing the change.

There have been some bumps in the road as the scheme rolls out, and there will no doubt be many more to come in a scheme of this size and complexity. But we must stay focused on the final destination, keeping in mind the reasons for this important reform.

As we have seen in trial sites across the country, the NDIS is already helping thousands of people with disability, their families and carers.

The scheme provides participants with the support they need to do everyday tasks, so they can participate in their community and in social and economic life. 

Now with the roll-out underway, thousands more people are getting access to supports and services of their choosing.

The most recent NDIS Quarterly Report tells us that more than $3 billion has already been committed to help people living with disability under the NDIS.

Between July and September of this year, the Scheme grew by almost 11,000 people, with more than 7,400 participants receiving an approved NDIS plan and more than 3,500 children to be referred through the NDIS Early Childhood Early Intervention program.

So in total, as at the end of September this year, more than 40,000 Australians have NDIS plans, or are in the process of accessing the NDIS Early Childhood Early Intervention.

Satisfaction with the scheme remains high – recent participant surveys show that 85 per cent of people’s experience was rated as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

By the end of this year, the NDIA expects the number of people in the Scheme to reach almost 60,000.

On the provider front, nearly 3,700 organisations have registered as service providers under the scheme.  We should not underestimate what a massive achievement this is.

The NDIS is not just transforming the lives of participants; it also has opportunities and challenges for providers – as many of you would appreciate.

Since becoming the Assistant Minister earlier this year, I have had discussions with providers across the country and I am conscious of the impact of such a large reform.

You are all partners, central to the success of the NDIS. As the leaders of your organisations, you and your Boards hold the reins of your business.   Only you can decide how you want to reshape business to take advantage of the NDIS opportunities.

You know your clients – you know your staff – and you know your business.  You are firmly in the driver’s seat.

Governments are here to assist and support – and we are working closely with NDS and other organisations to create practical tools to help you and your clients with the transition. 

The NDIS presents great opportunities for providers to expand their services. The scheme will increase demand for tens of thousands of new jobs across Australia, creating opportunities for workers and businesses that will employ them.

But it will take time for the market to grow and to develop. I also recognise that it is a significant shake up of the way many of you have operated in the past.

Our journey through the transition period is unprecedented. 

The expertise, relationships and collaborative spirit of the sector is a huge asset to us all.

The way you work together – staying focused on the wellbeing of your clients, and supporting each other through resource sharing and referrals – is a credit to the sector as a whole.

As the NDIS rolls out, the demand for extra services means more funding flows into the disability services sector.

Service providers are embracing the opportunity to expand services, grow business, partner with other organisations, increase productivity, and plan for the future.

As you reconfigure your businesses, we want to support your efforts to adapt and take advantage of the NDIS.

As governments, we want to give you as much clarity as possible about the road ahead. I know government agencies don’t always get it right – the problems with the NDIS portal are a notable example – but as we work through those bumps in the road, we must stay focused on the final destination.

We will continue to strive to give you early visibility of policy settings and processes.

While it is not always possible to co-design everything we do, we do recognise the value of involving key users in the development of new systems and ways of working. We know it can be challenging, and the Government is committed to working through it with you.  I continue to encourage the NDIA to improve their engagement with your Sector.

Government agencies will continue to monitor pricing, and the transition of program block-funding to the NDIS. I know the recent problems with the MyPlace Portal have not helped, but following an independent review, things are getting back on track.

However, invariably new systems bring with them new regulations and new red tape, at a time when we are trying to achieve less, not more. So please give me feedback as to any regulations and red tape that you feel are not necessary. We want to support the sector and streamline processes so you can deliver your programs and actually support the clients and do the business that you want to do and not become an agency for government bureaucracy.

Over the course of the NDIS roll-out, the disability support workforce is expected to more than double, from 73,600 full time equivalent workers at July 2013 to about 162,000 workers by full scheme in 2020. The Government is conscious that the NDIS will depend on a strong and effective disability market, sector and workforce.

Significant funding is already flowing into the sector through the Commonwealth’s NDIS Sector Development Fund.   With other supports provided by State, Territory and Local Governments, providers are assisted to adapt to this new model of service delivery.

The Sector Development Fund aims to help individuals and organisations ensure there is an efficient response and innovative market to meet the diverse needs of people in the scheme

The fund is also there to ensure people with disability are able to effectively exercise choice and control which in time will reshape the market.

To date, 65 projects totalling $94 million have been funded through the Sector Development Fund. This includes more than $10 million provided to NDS since 2012 for projects to improve provider readiness and build capacity. 

One of these projects is the Innovative Workforce Fund that Minister Porter and I announced in early October, which provides $5 million to identify innovative ways of building and managing the NDIS workforce. 

$1 million of the fund will be allocated to the research and development of different workforce models, while the remaining $4 million will be available for innovative workforce related projects over the next two years.  NDS will administer the grants under this project.

Initiatives must fall within four key areas:

  • Redesign of support worker roles and the testing of new work roles, for example, strategies to improve access to allied health related supports;
  • Secondly, streamlined administrative practices in areas such as human resources, recruitment and staff retention;
  • Thirdly, use of technology in workforce practices; and
  • Fourth, workforce development in rural and remote areas – including development for Indigenous workers and strategies that build capacity to attract and build the workforce in thin markets.

These initiatives will stimulate and disseminate new, more efficient and effective ways for existing providers to engage, develop and commission the workforce to better meet the needs of NDIS participants. 

The resources and knowledge developed through Sector Development Fund projects, including those projects under the Innovative Workforce Fund, are intended to be shared across the broader disability sector.  I encourage providers to consider applying for grants under the Innovative Workforce Fund once the fund is open for applications. However you can register your interest now at the innovative workforce website at NDS.org .au and I encourage you to do so because this is an area that we need to attract the most innovative ideas to solve some of our more difficult issues.

Other Sector Development Fund initiatives include NDS’s Carecareers, ProjectABLE and provider readiness activities.

These initiatives encourage potential recruits, including school leavers, to consider a career in the disability workforce and help providers adapt their business models to the NDIS consumer choice model. I am very interested in ways we can engage with people before they leave school to ensure they get on the right pathway.

We have always known the disability services market would need to grow and change significantly over the course of the three year transition.

This is a good thing – once you put choice and control in the hands of people with disability, they have got every right to seek out different services or similar ones that may be delivered differently to suit their needs.

But as providers navigate that change, and the sector matches supply to evolving demand, governments have a supporting role to play.

Responsibility for the way individual businesses operate rests with management teams and Boards. However, at a systems level, responsibility for the disability market, sector and workforce development is shared between industry, the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments, and the NDIA.

During transition, the Department of Social Services has the lead role in addressing national policy issues relating to market, sector and workforce, as part of its ‘market oversight’ role.

The NDIA will actively monitor and analyse the growth of the disability services market as part of their role as ‘market steward’.  Where necessary, the NDIA will intervene when markets are thin, to ensure NDIS participants can access quality support services. 

The NDIS Market Approach (Statement of Opportunities and Intent) provides the market with additional clarity on the Agency’s approach to its market stewardship role. The Market Position Statements from the NDIA include information for the sector about opportunities and consumer demand.

Over time, the NDIA will look at producing other resources to help in this space, including provider benchmarking and the NDIS eMarket and once again this is an opportunity for you to provide feedback because you are the people working at the coal face who knows what we need to support your organisation.

In addition, various workshops run by the NDIA, have been, and will continue to be, held around the country so that organisations can receive up-to-date information about the transition process and share their views, experiences and strategies with other service providers.

The NDIS is just one part of the Government’s work to reform the disability sector. We are committed to improving the lives of all people with disability, not just the 10 per cent of people with disability who are eligible for the NDIS.

The National Disability Strategy provides a 10-year national policy framework that underpins the efforts of all levels of government to improve the lives of people with disability. The Strategy looks beyond the provision of disability-specific supports to ensure that broader community and mainstream services and facilities, that are part of everyday Australian life, are available and fully accessible for people with disability.

As some of you may be aware, last week, Minister Porter and I released the Strategy’s Second Implementation Plan, Driving Action 2015 – 2018.

This plan reaffirms all governments’ commitments to improving outcomes for people with disability across the strategy’s six outcome areas. These include:

  • Inclusive and accessible communities
  • Rights protection, justice and legislation
  • Economic security
  • Personal and community support
  • Learning and skills
  • Health and wellbeing

The implementation plan also outlines new priority actions, they are:

  1. Influencing the mainstream support system to periodic review of COAG national agreements and partnerships:
  2. Improving the evidence base, or example better research, identifiers and data sets;
  3. Developing , reviewing and implementing  State and Territory and local Government disability plans and initiatives;
  4. Involving people with disability in the development and implementation of Government policies and programs not just disability specific  programs; and
  5. There will be a particular focus on inventing change through areas of national cooperation, for example
    • continued implementation of the NDIS,
    • improving employment outcomes for people with disability
    • improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability, Ron should be very happy with that, and
    • promoting the overall intent of the strategy itself.

I look forward to progressing these priorities in the coming years.

The newly established National Disability and Carers Advisory Council will play an important role in driving the reinvigoration of the Strategy. The Council brings together leaders from business and the disability and carer sectors, who will provide advice on proposed policies and legislation affecting people with disability, carers and the sector that serves them.

The Council will ensure the more than 4 million Australians with disability who are not eligible for the NDIS receive the services they need and do not fall through the cracks.

I will co-chair the Council together with Keran Howe. I’m sure many of you know Keran, who of course, is well known advocate in the disability sector in her role as Executive Director of Women with Disabilities Victoria.

One of the priorities of the Council will be reforming disability employment.

As many of you will be aware, last month, Minister Porter and I released the new Disability Employment Services (DES) 2018 discussion paper.

This paper is the next stage of our ongoing discussion with the sector about the future of disability employment services.

With only just over half of people with disability participating in work, we know there is a lot more that needs to be done. 

This is something I feel strongly about.

A new model for disability employment will begin in March 2018. Now while this is still almost sixteen months away, the Government has been working to develop options for reform. Following extensive consultation with stakeholders and the general public, we have identified key themes for improving services.

We need to ensure that future services:

  • give participants more information, choice and control;
  • enable service providers to deliver high quality services, I particularly want to see them mentor people into jobs for the longer term and particularly those with difficulty and intellectual disability  and
  • better engage with and support employers, who I find at the moment are a little gun shy about the political correctness sector and are very nervous about what if they do something wrong. So we need to work closely with employers to give them assurance that we are there to support them and that people with disability make great employees.

The Department of Social Services has developed these themes into policy proposals that aim to achieve improved outcomes for people with disability.

The discussion sets out a vision for a possible future DES program, but we want to hear from our interested stakeholders before we set anything in concrete.

Submissions can be made until 16 December and I want to assure you that this process will not be the end of the discussion with the sector about disability employment, or my own discussions with stakeholders.

And whilst 16 December is only next week I do encourage you to put in even an initial submission and note you have more information to follow, but please we have had an excellent response so far and I would really appreciate any more feedback you wish to give us.

You can view the discussion paper and make a submission through the Department of Social Services’ consultation portal – engage.dss.gov.au.

And next week NDCAC meets for the first time and one of the working groups we hope to establish will be for disability employment.

I have spoken about the range of reforms underway to support people with disability to ensure they have the same access to opportunities other Australians have. But I also want to briefly mention the work we are doing to support carers.

People who become carers are extraordinary individuals who make countless personal sacrifices – and the Government recognises the vital role they play and the significant challenges they face.

As part of our ongoing commitment to supporting unpaid carers, the development of an Integrated Plan for Carer Support Services was announced in the 2015-16 Budget.

The first phase of the Plan commenced in December 2015 with the implementation of Carer Gateway which gives carers access to information about support available to them through a website, national telephone service and interactive service finder.

And once again, the stakeholder meetings I have held all around the country – it is quite concerning that so many people – so many carers – are not aware of that support, that gateway and the offer of assistance. So I would encourage you to promote those services and opportunities to the carers in your areas.

The second phase of the Plan involves developing a new integrated carer support service system through a co-design process.  The draft model aims to help carers access and receive support earlier in their caring journey and on a more proactive basis.

The draft service delivery model was released for public consultation last month on the engage.dss.gov.au website. 

I am delighted to note that in its first week of consultation, the website had more than 2000 hits I think showing the need in the carer sector.

Feedback can be provided to the Department of Social Services up until 16 December 2016 and I look forward to your submissions if you haven’t already done so.

I look forward to receiving the feedback from the submissions on both DES Reform and the Integrated Plan for Carer Support Services later this month.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is fair to say that there is a lot happening in the disability sector at the moment – and that’s why I think there is such a great turn up today for the NDS CEO Meeting.

I know this has an impact on you all, and on your staff and clients. I commend the positive and constructive approach the sector is taking, spearheaded by NDS. We want your input to these reforms, and we recognise you as a vital partner in making them a reality.

Underpinning all of these changes is the goal of helping as many people as possible to live ordinary lives – the kind of lives that many Australians take for granted.

Understandably much of the focus is on the NDIS right now. We know how important this reform is, and also how complex it is.

We have laid a strong foundation for the scheme, but we know there is a long way to go. This is a big change for all involved, and it will take time for the market to grow and meet participant demand.

We are doing a lot to support the market and workforce through the transition. But the Government and NDIA will continue to closely monitor the situation, and provide support where it is needed.

Change, particularly of this scale, always comes with challenges, but as I said at the start of my speech, we must not lose sight of the end result.

Thank you for the invitation to speak here today.  I look forward to continue working with you, as we strive to create a fairer and more inclusive society, which better supports and empowers people with disability.  

And with only 20 sleeps to go, I wish you a wonderful Christmas season to your family and friends and please try and take some time to relax to be ready for the New Year.