Speech by The Hon Stuart Robert MP

The NDIS Plan – Market Innovation and Improved Technology



Good morning everyone.

Thank you to National Disability Services and acting CEO David Moody for organising this event and inviting me to speak to you, the providers who work so hard to deliver life-changing supports for people with disability.

There is great collective knowledge in this room that will enable valuable learnings around this year’s theme of ‘Foresight for Leaders’. I trust these two days will be instructive and informative for all of you.

I’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the invaluable leadership of the NDIA by Vicki Rundle since April this year. Her leadership, dedication and commitment has been remarkable and I thank her sincerely for all she has done.

And a special word of welcome to Martin Hoffman who began as the CEO of the NDIA on 4 November after a nationwide search. Martin has a long and distinguished history of senior leadership roles in service delivery in both the public and private sectors.

Martin has the dedication, vision, and expertise to make a real difference in delivering the full benefits of the NDIS to participants.

His experience and leadership will help the NDIA deliver strong digital transformation and customer service projects that are integral to the future of the NDIS.

The NDIS Plan

As many of you would be aware, last week I announced the Government’s plan to deliver the last 20 per cent of the NDIS and put it onto a business as usual even keel for the long term.

I have frequently said we are about 80 per cent there, with 20 per cent left to go. And the last 20 per cent is often the hardest.

It will take the hard work and dedication of all Australians working together to ensure the NDIS delivers for people with disability, their families and carers.

At the centre of this effort will be the significant contribution of the leaders and staff of providers – the people in this room – who will require the foresight to deliver new and innovative services that meet the increasing demands of participants as they exercise choice and control.

The plan I outlined last week was developed after listening directly from NDIS participants and their families, advocates and providers, as well as my state and territory colleagues on the Disability Reform Council. It will guide us over the next 12 to 24 months and beyond.

We will take a flexible yet determined approach to implementation, guided always by people with disability, their families, carers and other stakeholders along the way.

This includes the invaluable input of providers large and small, who helped fight for the NDIS, and who I know feel they have a lot to contribute to its success.

The Government’s NDIS plan has six core swim lanes:

  1. Quicker access and quality decision making
  2. Increased engagement and collaboration
  3. Market innovation and improved technology
  4. A financially sustainable scheme
  5. Equitable and consistent decisions; and
  6. Improve long term outcomes.

Delivering on this plan will set the runway to deliver a world leading NDIS to an estimated 500,000 participants over the next five years.

There are a range of initiatives across the six swim lanes that will have a benefit to providers.

For example, as part of our commitment to quicker access and decision making considerable effort and attention is being placed on resolving long standing issues in the delivery of assistive technology and home modifications.

Already the number of quotes requiring action by the NDIA has fallen from 14,500 at the end of May 2019 to approximately 5,000 at the end of September.

As part of our commitment to ensure a financially sustainable scheme, I have asked the COAG Disability Reform Council to meet every 90 days until we resolve all of the significant interface issues between the NDIS and mainstream services systems.

We have already made significant progress, be it the inclusion of disability related health supports in NDIS packages, resolving responsibilities for children with disability living in accommodation outside the family home, agreeing to the establishment of justice liaison officers or working together to better integrate the NDIS with mainstream mental health systems.

The insurance program using independent functional assessments, paid for by the NDIA, will ensure we can deliver consistent and equitable decisions, as well as support increased plan flexibility and even longer plan durations aligned with life events.

And finally our commitment to improving the long term outcomes for participants, which I know is a shared goal with providers, will increase employment and independent living opportunities for NDIS participants.

The full plan and my speech is available on the NDIS website and I’d encourage you to have a read of the plan yourself to see where we are heading.

But today, I’d like to elaborate on the swim lane of market innovation and improved technology.

This stream will have a significant impact on the NDIS market and will be of significant interest to NDIS providers.

The NDIS Market

The NDIS provider market now has 13,434 active providers at 30 September 2019 which is a 6% increase for the quarter.

Victoria experienced an 18% increase in active providers in the last quarter to 30 September, with Tasmania experiencing a 16% increase, Queensland a 12% increase, WA an 11% increase and South Australia a 10% increase.

Encouragingly the highest level of growth in active providers was in the assistive technology space, with a 45% increase in providers registered for vision equipment, a 39% increase in hearing equipment and a 32% increase in communication and information equipment.

Everyone in this room knows the NDIS is changing lives – but now we need to step up and innovate in areas of service delivery and product offering.

We need to grow a robust national workforce, develop up-to-date business systems and ensure NDIS participants have access to new, flexible, innovative and tailored supports.

So today, I would like to focus on four key areas that will help grow the market and deliver on our commitment to innovation and improved technology, including:

  1. Market data
  2. Pricing
  3. Digital Market Strategy and APIs
  4. Supporting market development

Market Data

On 30 July, I announced the Government’s commitment to a new transparency agenda for the NDIS.

Over the past 6 years we have and will continue to collect an enormous and valuable data set on NDIS participants and the market for their supports.

We have already released two rounds of NDIS data as part of this new transparency agenda with our next release scheduled for December.

In July, we commenced with the release of downloadable data cubes on participants and their budgets. In late September, this data was expanded to include information on active providers, utilisation and market share distribution.

And we will continue to add to this data set in line with appropriate privacy protections, and update it on a quarterly basis in the same rhythm we have for the COAG Quarterly Report.

The release of this data will assist with informing and stimulating conversations about the disability sector and marketplace.

Of most interest to this group is ‘The NDIS Market Report,’ which is the latest in a series of publicly shared reports released by the NDIA and is part of the NDIA’s commitment to sharing specialist data to assist stakeholders to understand market trends.

This specific data will help the broader disability services sector identify challenges and opportunities for the market to continue to grow and ensure participants are receiving the supports they need.

The report considers 64 of the 80 NDIS regions nationally, which have at least nine months of Scheme experience, and looks at three key indicators for monitoring the NDIS market including:

  • choice and control,
  • plan utilisation and
  • market concentration.

The Market Report compares a number of market indicators across geographical regions and participant characteristics, and it shows the NDIS market is experiencing encouraging growth across most regions.

It is critical for our participants that we have a healthy, competitive and innovative market. This report also allows us to identify potential areas where support provision may be comparatively higher or lower than the national benchmark.

The NDIA is confident the released data will provide insight for the wider market and help identify opportunities and make decisions such as entering the Scheme or expanding their services.

I encourage you all to engage with the NDIS Market Report available on the NDIS website along with recently released:

  • participant outcomes and the outcomes of families and carers report
  • deep dive reports into psychosocial disability,
  • a new interactive map and tool on the NDIS website which allows users to search and select data by specific region, disability type, age group and support and provider types.

NDIS Pricing

A key part of growing the market is building confidence and providing certainty for providers.

Pricing and market setting are a key part of building confidence and certainty.

Setting price limits is a difficult balancing act.

On the one hand, people with disability need to be able to obtain reasonable value for money.

On the other hand, you need to enable providers to operate sustainably and within a market of adequate size, quality and return.

So, leading into the current financial year, the NDIA made significant changes to the price limits of many supports.

The suite of pricing changes implemented from 1 July will result in $1.6 billion of additional funding being available to providers this financial year.

The increases were the culmination of implementing the recommendations of the Independent Pricing Review aimed at transitioning the NDIS market to cope with significant demand growth, improving efficiency and quality of care and reaching our longer-term goal of price deregulation.

These changes are one of most significant since the inception of the NDIS and an opportunity we want providers to maximise.

As you would all be aware, these price changes included:

  • Substantial increases in the base prices for therapy, attendant care and community participation supports.
  • A new Temporary Transformation Payment for providers of attendant care and community participation to assist providers transform their businesses to operate in a competitive market. The new conditional loading is 7.5 per cent in 2019‒20, reducing by 1.5 per cent each year thereafter.
  • Allowing therapy providers to claim for travel, cancellations and non-face-to-face time for therapy assistant activities.
  • Clarifying the approach to charging for cancellations and that providers can claim for non-face-to-face direct care-related activities as hours of support against the relevant support item.
  • Increasing the amount of time providers can claim for travel up to 30 minutes between appointments within city areas and up to 60 minutes in regional areas. This is an increase from 20 and 45 minutes, respectively.
  • Increasing the remote and very remote loadings on price limits from 20 per cent to 40 per cent, and from 25 per cent to 50 per cent respectively.

These increases in price limits provide an opportunity for providers to innovate and grow, but also provide more opportunities for an open market.

The NDIA will continue to work to improve transparency and engagement around NDIS price settings, having already released the NDIS Pricing Strategy, the Cost Model for Disability Support Workers, and the outcomes of the WA Market Review and Therapy Pricing Review.

This improved transparency and engagement will include the public release of the rationale for key pricing decisions, broader engagement with governments, industry experts and providers, and special measures to support participants in remote communities where use of standard price control arrangements may be insufficient to attract supply.

2020-21 Annual Price Review

So, on the back of this, I’m pleased to announce today the commencement of the NDIA’s Annual Price review for 2020-21.

This year’s Review will examine whether the existing price control framework and other pricing related policies under the NDIS continue to be appropriate, or whether modifications are required.

We must work together in the development of more intelligent price controls, ultimately working towards a deregulated market.

This year, focus will be on the price control frameworks for:

  • core supports around support workers and group-based supports
  • plan management supports
  • and capacity building supports including:
    • how price limits for capacity building supports should be indexed or determined annually
    • whether different price limits might be appropriate for different times in the day, or days of the week,
    • options to allow therapists and other capacity building providers to recover the costs of consumables provided to participants as part of a support.

As part of the Annual Price Review, the TTP benchmarking work will contribute to the review of the assumptions in the recently published Cost Model for Disability Support Workers.

Geographical classification will be reviewed to determine if modifications are required to the NDIA’s implementation of the Modified Monash Model – and whether a loading should be applied in outer regional areas to account for the higher cost of service delivery.

The review will also look at options to improve the flexibility for participants to purchase supports to meet their goals, and reduce administrative cost for providers.

Today, the NDIA has released an issues paper that sets out the Review’s Terms of Reference and calls for your submissions.

Throughout the process, the NDIA will be consulting with stakeholders and will convene working groups to review the themes outlined for the Review.

Providers, as well as participants, their families and carers, community, peak bodies and other sector representatives will have the opportunity to provide input into the Review.

The NDIA will collate feedback from these activities and will develop a draft report of findings; you will then again have an opportunity to provide your feedback.

As the last step in the process, recommendations for proposed pricing changes will be presented to the NDIA’s Pricing Reference Group for advice and then, through the CEO, to the Board for approval.

Since my appointment I have heard your feedback loud and clear, and so as part of this process I have asked the NDIA to ensure that any changes to the NDIS Price Guide and Support catalogue, in terms of support items and policy changes, are announced and published at least one month prior to implementation on 1 July 2020.

We need your involvement in this review and we’re committed to providing you with more timely information on pricing so you have the confidence to grow your business to meet the needs of NDIS participants.

Digital Market Strategy and APIs

The NDIA is also trialling, developing and implementing a range of activities to build market growth, a robust workforce, and state-of-the-art business systems.

We want to reduce the administrative and regulatory burden NDIS provider face on a daily basis and provide you with information so you can confidently grow your business to meet participant needs.

The NDIA is working to enable a new Digital Market Service.

This new initiative will facilitate, encourage and support the development of a vibrant digital market capable of delivering solutions and platforms that make it easier for providers to enter the market and grow.

It will provide participants greater access to a broader range of providers, making it easier for them to identify which one may be best suited to their individual needs.

And it will improve the transparency of the market, drive greater competition and hence more efficient pricing, and provide data to enable market evolution and competition.

From early next year, the NDIA will commence pilot offerings to enable specific features and functionality in a digital market service with further details to be announced shortly.

Related to this initiative is the development of Application Programming Interfaces or APIs.

APIs will enable seamless and secure integration of the NDIA Business System with providers and other relevant parties.

Put simply APIs will be software applications and tools to make the payment processes for both participants and providers simpler and in real-time.

Once implemented it will significantly reduce the administrative cost of transacting with the NDIS.

The initial focus has been on supporting the key business processes for providers, with a final proof of concept expected before the end of the year.

The benefits for providers will be developing high quality NDIS systems that reduce the burden for NDIS providers and the technological infrastructure to facilitate efficient transactions and sharing of information.

Supporting market development

Given the scale and pace of reforms to the disability support sector, the Government recognises a need to support business and workforce development while the market transitions and matures.

The Government has already invested heavily to assist market transition.

We have provided $33 million to support the Boosting Local Care Workforce Program. The Program’s website, including the NDIS Demand Map, provides information to help providers to grow.

We have deployed 25 Regional Coordinators and eight Specialist Coordinators to raise awareness of employment opportunities, produce and distribute market intelligence and recommend strategies to address workforce challenges.

And finally, we are providing grants of up to $20,000 to help businesses transition to NDIS through the Transition Assistance Funding initiative. $5.6 million for 280 grants were announced in August, and additional $8.8 million in grants are currently under consideration and will be announced soon.

The Morrison government is providing this funding so providers can purchase tailored business supports, including professional services, software or customer management systems upgrades and other infrastructure to assist providers to succeed in the NDIS’s consumer-driven model.

We are also investing $45 million through the Jobs and Market Fund for projects of collective benefit to grow the provider market and workforce.

In August, sixteen organisations collectively received $10 million in funding to help to address under-supplied markets as part of the first round of grants.

This includes almost $1 million to National Disability Services WA for their Workable WA – Grow the Workforce, Strengthen the Market project.

The project is designed to attract school-leavers to the disability sector and develop a Skills Passport to help NDIS providers and self-managed participants find competent, skilled staff.

Further rounds of the Jobs and Market Fund will be announced soon and I would encourage NDS and all members here to seek out these opportunities to help you adjust to the NDIS environment, grow your business, and innovate in areas of service delivery and product offering.

The opportunities within the disability sector are immense – with the NDIS expected to contribute to the creation of up to 90,000 full-time equivalent workers across Australia in the next five years.

The Jobs and Market Fund is supporting the development of a capability framework for NDIS workers and, by the middle of next year, a National NDIS Workforce Strategy in collaboration with the states and territories. No options are off the table to meet this workforce challenge.

There is also still a way to grow the market, particularly in regional and remote areas, to offer genuine choice for NDIS participants.

Consultation and analysis is currently underway to identify options to develop thin markets, including rural and remote areas and services for Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse participants and we will have more to say about that shortly.


Over the next two days there will be a lot of talk about the NDIS, the providers and participants.

I am a great believer in the power of the NDIS and the partnership approach needed to deliver every day for people with disability.

You have seen the plan I have announced to ensure the NDIS can be the best it can be, for participants, families, carers and of course, providers.

Let’s make it the best it can be.

Thank you and enjoy the next two days.