NSW NDIS set to draw big healthcare businesses into disability sector

A NSW government move to hand over all of its disability support to the private sector could attract large health-care providers like Australian Unity but some of the sweeteners to bring them in might undermine key features of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Not all service providers are happy about the way the transfer has been structured and, in the short term, there are questions about whether it facilitates the customer-driven market at the heart of the NDIS.

Because of its sheer size, worth about $500 million a year, NSW is the largest player in the new disability service market being created by the NDIS, which is based on a model in which individual customers can purchase services of their choice from a range of providers rather than be stuck with an allocated provider who delivers all services.

The NSW government now directly provides around 40 per cent of specialist disability services in the state, supporting more than 10,000 clients and employing 6000 staff.
It argues that transferring these operations to the non-government sector – a process it intends completing by June 30, 2018 – will support the transition to the NDIS because it will help generate a vibrant services market which will give people with disability greater choice.

But the process highlights just how complex establishing this massive new market can be.

As part of the transfer, the management of assets – notably housing for the disabled – is being kept separate from services. Service providers are bidding to manage the properties.

They have all been bound to confidentiality agreements so cannot discuss the bidding process.

However, the Financial Review has been told by several sources that the process was restructured a few weeks ago in a way which small to medium size existing service providers say effectively cuts them out of bidding, both because of the regional breakdown of the properties and the need to supply substantial deposits.

Skilled workforce
A further sign of the complexities involved in the transition is a package of terms and conditions for transferring staff, designed to ensure the retention of a skilled workforce and continuity of services, which some providers argue make it prohibitive for them to lodge an expression of interest in providing services.

It seems almost certain that some large service providers, like Australian Unity, will be able to use the opportunity to move into the sector, a development welcomed by many as part of a needed restructuring after the NDIS, but regarded with alarm by some existing providers.

As a sweetener for those bidding to run the properties, the winning bids will be given a guarantee that they can also provide all the support services to the residents of these houses for the first two years, an arrangement which seems at odds with the consumer-choice model of the NDIS.

The state government insists the plan follows intense discussions with both service providers and disability groups and that proven track records, staff capability, local knowledge, a commitment to family input, and financial stability will all be crucial markers for the new market.

NSW Disability Services Minister John Ajaka says that if the “government continued to dominate the disability services market, it would limit people’s choice, stifle innovation and hinder the growth of the non-government service providers”.
Read more: http://www.afr.com/news/nsw-ndis-set-to-draw-big-healthcare-businesses-into-disability-sector-20161115-gspwje#ixzz4QBC7sxpU 

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