No winners from NDIS delay

South Australians with disability and their families have every right to feel frustrated at the significant delays now occurring with the rollout of NDIS in South Australia – with about 6000 people impacted because the scheme won’t be fully transitioned by June 30 as previously promised.

The National Disability Insurance Agency has said the delay has come about to ensure proper planning is in place, with more than 15,000 South Australian participants already having their plans approved. That’s cold comfort for those who have been waiting for many years for the NDIS, only to find out that they now have to wait even longer – by as much as nine months.

While there was always bound to be teething problems, there are a number of critical issues that must be addressed as a priority – including a lack of Local Area Coordinators, payment delay issues for providers, and the providing of last resort arrangements for people who are unable to access services due to geographic isolation or other complex circumstances.

The delay brings with it some serious implications for service providers. A number are having to foot the bill for services they have already provided due to ongoing issues with lost or slow payments by the National Disability Insurance Agency.

There’s no doubt that the NDIS brings major advantages for people with disability, and indeed the broader disability sector, but there is a heavy burden placed on service providers to fill the gap and bear the cost of unfunded services, as well as the cost of having effective systems and administrative support in place.

Adding to the emerging problems, we now have predictions that as many as 150 people working in SA’s mental health sector face unemployment because of the funding delays – at a time when South Australia is already experiencing high levels of unemployment.

This delay puts more stress on families and carers, and greater pressure on the already overworked health system, because people will be forced to present at emergency departments for assistance. Even worse, vulnerable people in the community who are at risk of self-harm and suicide won’t have support when they need it the most.

The recent independent pricing review commissioned by the NDIA demonstrates that the NDIS has come at a cost. The Disability Sector is now more competitive than ever before, and local providers have very justified concerns that pricing has been set too low for them to operate at the same level they were at before the NDIS was introduced because it doesn’t cover the actual labour costs of a skilled and stable workforce, or the infrastructure needed to provide quality support.

As SA’s largest non-Government Disability Support Provider, Minda has undertaken significant planning to ensure a sustainable operating model is in place so we can continue to support South Australians with disability, but other local employers may be left with no other option than to close their doors, send workers to an unemployment line, and leave people without any support.

No one wins if this is allowed to occur.