Sep 30, 2021

Unregulated: The dangers posed by NDIS outlaws

Unregulated: The dangers posed by NDIS outlaws

COVID has had a negative impact on many jobs, but the demand for staff in the disability sector has never been higher. 

The main reason for the workforce shortage is that the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) roughly doubled the amount of funding in the system, which means clients with disabilities have more money now for more support services.  

Demand exceeds supply and the job ads tell the story.  

Competition for staff has never been keener, and it’s great to see high standards being set for any registered provider. 

But the new gig economy has also seen some new market entrants arrive that operate outside these traditional channels. 

At the agency where I work in Melbourne’s south-east, we employ 200+ frontline support coaches who work with our 500 clients on a range of additional needs.

Nearly all the people we support have an intellectual impairment and need help with decision making, self-care and daily living.

Each client has an NDIS Plan and our support coaches help them pursue their life goals, which might be to live independently, get a job, learn new skills or just be the best they can be. 

Along with the frontline coaches, we also employ a team of professionals to arrange training, complete internal audits and safety checks and do back-office functions – necessary tasks a registered provider would need to complete, to meet and uphold the high standards set by the NDIS to keep vulnerable people safe. 

Some of these new providers are platforms that operate similarly to how Uber functions for ride-share services. Like Uber, the platforms don’t directly employ their workforce in the same way as traditional providers. 

Their platform is just a place on the internet where buyers and sellers of services can meet. The buyer in this scenario is the person with a disability needing support. 

The seller is a carer who simply posts their availability. The platform then helps the buyer and seller connect and handles the booking, invoicing and payment.

Another new option emerging is carers working alone as independent contractors. If you self-manage your NDIS Plan, as I do for my family member, then you can engage anyone with an ABN. Private ABN workers are not registered with the NDIA (National Disability Agency) and not audited by them.

There are no minimum requirements for training, police checks or work experience in the field. 

One of the few exceptions here is a family member. For example, my daughter’s grandparents, who have been unpaid carers for decades, are unable to be engaged by us, using our NDIS funding. I understand the concern about potential family rorting, but it’s a little ironic that this known and trusted solution is barred, yet I am free to employ any stranger with an ABN. 

More choice is usually good, but this new world order for disability support raises some interesting questions: 

  • Do people engaging a private ABN holder understand that this independent contractor is not a registered provider and what that lack of registration means? 
  • How will the NDIA regulate or audit these growing unregistered private ABN holders to ensure there is no abuse occurring? 
  • With some platforms engaging carers as independent contractors and others engaging them as casual employees, who has the duty of care if something goes wrong? 
  • What about the financial incentive this creates for support staff who work with a provider or a platform to simply exit and work solo and unregistered as an ABN holder? Is this the brave new gig economy at work offering more solutions, or is it a disaster waiting to happen? 

The idea of more choice and control for people with disability is at the heart of the NDIS and it’s great to see innovation and new models of support.

Balancing choice and control against risk and safety will be key to the NDIS being successful long term.

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      1. Hey CZ – i agree with you that pay rates are important and some staff will prefer to go solo and the best part of that is more choice for people with disability. Thats all good. I just think it would be safer and better if everyone providing supports – whether they are with a provider, a platform or solo – was required to comply with the same quality checks and accreditation. That way people with disabilities and carers can mix and match their support choices freely knowing everyone is covered by the same system of safety checks. Keen to hear your thoughts on this.

  1. The only thing that is undeniable in regards to the NDIS is that it doesn’t present anything like value for the extravegant dollars no matter who is providing the service.
    Just another poorly conceived notion by government that has failed in every previous aspect of providing care…this is just more extravegant than the previous models.
    It looks like the government used Home care as an example of incompetence and extravegence…and doubled it!
    Add to that the absolute duplicity when the government told us that no NDIS residents would be living in a nursing home!! Yes they are, living in the exact same room in the exact same facility but now under the NDIS act rather than the aged care Act!! Liars!

  2. As a support worker, this is nothing but a business and an opportunity to make a heap of money because the industry is unregulated. Under the guise of ‘providing a service” business or portals are being set up to act as a conduit between participants and vetted carers. But here’s the clincher. Whilst the participant has all the funding by government, the carer get’s paid way below what they should be getting. The carer is making someone very wealthy. It’s almost mafia like. When I know that the hourly rate is close to $57 on average on a weekeday and I get paid $35 per hour, for having a portal to access work…I find it hard to justify the difference. That can amount to $800 a week I lose if I worked 40 hours. Why not take it out of both parties so it’s fair. Or charge an annual fee for the service? One company was valued at $40million in August 2021. That’s 40million that they have taken away from workers. Nice.

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