The disability services industry is agitating for the state government to start early negotiations with the Commonwealth over the choice of disability services model for Western Australia, as funding flaws in the National Disability Insurance Scheme emerge.
WA is currently the only state trialling two separate schemes, the NDIS model and My Way, which is based on existing programs that have come about following significant state investment.
Nulsen Disability Services chief executive Gordon Trewern told Business News recent Senate hearing reports about how well My Way was working were compelling.
He and other disability services industry leaders have argued the My Way trial delivers better outcomes and is more cost efficient than the NDIS because decisions are made locally, and individualised funding frameworks are utilised.
“We must remember that WA is recognised as the lead in disability across the nation and for decades has developed many of the initiatives that are now only being put into place by NDIS,” Mr Trewern said.
Despite widespread recognition of My Way’s success, including by WA Disability Services Minister Helen Morton and the Local Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the state needs to secure Commonwealth funding – and the NDIS is the major vehicle for that.
National Disability Services WA manager Julie Waylen, whose peak body represents the majority of sector providers in WA, told Business News she did not think a showdown between My Way and NDIS was necessary.
“There are elements from both that we can learn from,” she said.
However, as the two-year trials of both models continue in WA (with an estimated end date of mid-2016) concerns about NDIS are increasing.
He said its one-size-fits-all approach failed to pay providers the true cost to deliver services, despite implementation of the scheme likely to blow out beyond initial estimates of $22 billion.
Mr Trewern warned if the NDIS were rolled out and continued to pay less for services than the cost of delivery, 40 per cent of WA’s disability service providers (about 50) could be forced to shut up shop.
“Service providers are trying to reduce their costs to fit in with it and it’s just not working,” he said.
“We know in the eastern seaboard there are organisations that have sold assets to fund the shortfall.”
Messrs Trewern and Gilchrist warned their main concern with this scenario was the fallout for people using disability services, and their families and carers.
“(This) will leave a lot of people high and dry,” Mr Gilchrist said.
He said if disability services providers had to close, plans to keep trained staff had to be put in place to ensure people who relied on services could still access them.