02/12/2014 - 09:43

Managing the shift to NDIS

02/12/2014 - 09:43


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The disability services sector is gearing up for a brave new world as new players seek to join the market.

Managing the shift to NDIS
BENEFITS: Tony Vis says the NDIS will bring for-profit players to the WA market and improve service delivery. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The disability services sector is gearing up for a brave new world as new players seek to join the market.

The state’s leading disability service providers say customers are their main focus as they prepare to compete with for-profit organisations expected to enter the sector.

Not-for-profit providers such as Activ Foundation, Rocky Bay, Nulsen and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of WA are gearing up to provide services under a significantly changed model as the National Disability Insurance Scheme comes into effect.

The next challenge is tipped to be competing with new organisations looking for a cut of the growing allocation of federal funding to disability care.

Two separate trials of the new model are currently running in Western Australia.

The federal government’s scheme began in the Perth hills in July with a gradual roll out across the region in progress.

Meanwhile, the state government has been trialling its version of disability care – called My Way – with 1,400 service recipients in the lower South West region.

A further 2,700 will be added to the trial in 2015 when the Cockburn-Kwinana region is rolled into the trial.

The focus of both schemes is to give service recipients control over what services they receive and from whom, with government funding allocated directly to the individuals involved.

It’s a significant shift from the current model, under which the government allocates an organisation funding to provide services to people with disabilities, without those people being given much choice over who provides the services needed.

The federal government has also committed to quadrupling the total funding it provides for disability services.

By the time the NDIS is fully rolled out in 2020, total funding will have increased from $3 billion per year to just under $12 billion.

Activ Foundation chief executive Tony Vis told Business News the organisation was dependant on increasing its reputation with customers to remain viable.

“People have to think a little bit differently in terms of customer satisfaction, how to market to those people who don’t currently receive services and how we retain current customers,” Mr Vis said.

“It’s all about ensuring quality and at the right price.”

After four months providing services under three different models, Mr Vis said it had become apparent the organisation needed to invest in order to be prepared.

“What we have understood is that if we are to become ready for the NDIS, we have to invest in our change management,” he said.

“As difficult or challenging as that may be in terms of working in three spheres, we see it as positive in terms of having services in the two trial sites because it allows us to learn.”

MS Society chief executive Marcus Stafford said he welcomed the expected entrance of for-profit providers.

“Competition is good within a market; it’s good for the customer, it sharpens the organisation and it makes everybody focused on delivering the best product,” Mr Stafford told Business News.

“I don’t care who the competitors are or where they come from, our role as a not-for-profit social band must be to offer the most benefit we can to vulnerable people with disabilities.

“The winners have to be the people with disabilities; the more competition the more products and the better it is for them.”

During Mr Stafford’s decade of leading the society its turnover has increased from around $5 million to $33 million.

About $14 million of that annual revenue in 2013-14 came through government grants.

Like Activ Foundation, the MS Society has increased investment in the business.

Mr Stafford said he anticipated a number of organisations would likely fail during the transition to the NDIS model as they struggled with adapting to the competitive marketplace.

“Ultimately, if a percentage of organisations don’t make the cut it’s for no reason other than they weren’t able to compete with the best product in that market,” he said.

Mr Stafford is also involved with a range of committees advising the state government and industry on disability care.

He said that afforded him insights into whether a nationally or locally managed model would work best.

“My experience of operating within government is the closer you are to decision making the better the outcome,” Mr Stafford said.

“I believe it would be a great mistake if we gave away the tremendous system that people long before my time have fought hard for in WA, to be absorbed into some centralised, amorphous ineffective beast where I think Western Australians with disabilities will ultimately be worse off.”


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