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:
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.