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Frontline: NDIS and Aged Care news you need to know (13 Feb 2023)


NDIS ‘world first’ reforms working: report

THE “world-first” reform of disability services and funding continues to play a vital role in supporting hundreds of thousands of Australians with disability – as well as their families and carers.

That’s according to the National Disability Insurance Scheme’s Quarterly Report.

It shows that, as of 31 December 2022, the NDIS was supporting 573,342 participants across the country.

This includes more than 42,000 Australians who identify as First Nations people – an increase of more than 18 per cent (6,647 participants) in the past 12 months.

The CEO of the scheme’s funding arm, the National Disability Insurance Agency, Rebecca Falkingham welcomed the improving numbers of First Nations participants but acknowledged the agency must do more to continue to build trust among First Nations communities in the Scheme.

She said: “A key part of the success of the NDIS is ensuring those who need additional support can access those services earlier, which can lead to improved outcomes later in life.

“This report tracks the scheme’s performance, and in addition to showing us areas that need greater attention, it also highlights the tangible, positive outcomes we’re seeing.”

She said the NDIA had In the recent quarter taken decisive steps to reduce the time it takes to safely discharge NDIS participants from hospital when they are medically ready to do so

Work continues on meeting the new performance targets, and encouragingly the average time taken for participants to be discharged with an approved NDIS plan has reduced.

As of 31 December 2022, the average number of days for an NDIS participant to be discharged from hospital once medically ready to do so was 33 days.

The Quarterly Report also includes data from the recent Participant and Families and Carers Outcomes reports.

Key highlights reveal relative increases in several key outcome areas when compared to the first reporting period:
  • For young participants (aged 0 to starting school age): 68% of parents/carers say their child can make friends outside of the family – a 33% relative increase.
  • For participants aged 0 to 14 years: 88% of parents say their child fits better into everyday family life after five years – a 19% relative increase.
  • For participants 15 years and over: 78% reported being able to choose how to spend their spare time – a 34% relative increase.
  • For families and carers: 55% of families/carers are in paid employment – a 21% relative increase.
“We are striving to ensure we have an NDIS that works for everyone. We will continue working to implement measures that directly improve the lives of our participants,” Ms Falkingham said.

“We also look forward to the Federal Government’s Review of the NDIS whereby we can hear directly from the entire disability community as to what we all aspire to and how we’re going to get there.”

Ministers unite to set priorities

In the first meeting of the Disability Reform Ministerial Council – transformed from the Disability Reform Ministers Meeting – Disability Ministers from all over Australia converged in Canberra to set collective priorities aimed at improving the lives of people with disability.

As a Ministerial Council, the DRMC will now report directly to National Cabinet, signifying the importance the Australian Government is placing on matters affecting people with disability.

NDIS Minister Bill Shorten said the meeting was of national importance and proof that state and territory governments are working together with people with disability to improve outcomes.

He said: “It was good to see progress on key items of work that are improving outcomes for people with disability, including reducing hospital discharge delays.

“Together with State and Territory Ministers, we have mapped out our priorities for the next year, and discussed how we can work together to make real, tangible differences in the lives of people with disability around the country.”

Ministers agreed to several priorities for the year, including improving outcomes and building evidence base; closing market gaps and ensuring access to quality and safe services; accessible communities; ensuring the NDIS and mainstream system work well together; and delivering the NDIS Review.

Welcoming special guest Dylan Alcott to the meeting. Mr Alcott shared reflections on his time as Australian of the Year and presented on his work in the sector. Mr Shorten said Mr Alcott’s work continues to put a national spotlight on disability rights.

This year has been ground-breaking, from delivering the Get Skilled Access and Accenture NDIS 2.0 paper to launching the disability employment website The Field.

Ministers endorsed the report from the 2022 Australia’s Disability Strategy Forum, which provided an opportunity for people with disability to discuss and shape the implementation of the Strategy.

Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth said the Albanese Labor Government was focused on the many ways the lives of people living with disability could be improved – from employment to the support frameworks for early childhood development.

Working alongside State and Territory Disability Ministers via DRMC, silos in policy development could be minimised, Ms Rishworth said.

She said: “There are 4.4 million Australians living with disability – that’s one in six of us – and it’s important the supports we provide as Governments are embedded right across society.

“The Albanese Government is committed to creating a better life for Australians with disability, and the Disability Reform Ministerial Council helps us share this commitment with all States and Territories.

“At a Commonwealth level we’re committed to supporting employers to understand and work with people with disability to create inclusive workplace cultures that allow people with disability to thrive.

“We’re also doing things like working on a National Autism Strategy and embedding supports for young people living with disability into our Commonwealth Early Years Strategy.”

Ministers also endorsed the work plan for the Australia’s Disability Strategy Advisory Council, which has a critical role in the implementation and monitoring of the Strategy, paving a clear way forward for the Strategy’s important work.

The next Disability Reform Ministerial Council will be held in March 2023.

Reduced time in hospital for NDIS participants

A new report from the Australian Medical Association (AMA) shows the Labor Government has already saved state health systems up to $548.8 million, directly.

This is the result from an operational plan to cut the days NDIS eligible patients are waiting to go home or into suitable accommodation.

Minister for the NDIS and Government Services, Bill Shorten, has worked closely with state and territory disability ministers on the operational plan designed to slash the times people on, or eligible for, the NDIS are stuck in hospital when they could be home.

The AMA praised the work being done, saying continuing to reduce hospital exit block, as the report described the issue, could save the Australian health system up to $1.32 billion annually.

In just five months to November 2022, the AMA report noted the average wait days have been slashed nationally from 160 to 33 days, saving between $205 million and $548.8 million since the operational plan was put in place.

The plan is a collaboration between the Commonwealth and state and territory governments.

The report found exit blocks diminished available beds for patients who needed to be in hospital, lengthened ambulance ramping times, and increased waiting times for emergency department services and essential elective surgery.

“Hospital bed exit blocks are an avoidable cost to the state health system, and since we were elected in May the Albanese Government hasn’t wasted a moment to reduce this waste,” Mr Shorten said.

“Languishing in the wrong setting is not only detrimental to the wellbeing of the person with disability but is a shocking cost for state hospital systems. There are no winners.

“Before the May election, the average waiting time of NDIS participants medically fit for discharge but stuck in hospital was 160 nights, costing around $1,107 to $2,963 per day.”

Since coming into office, Mr Shorten said he has focussed on working with the states and territories and the NDIA to ensure safe and timely hospital discharge for NDIS participants.”

“Already we’re seeing results. The backlog of home and living decisions has also been cleared. Decisions that previously took an average of 60-plus days, now take five to seven days.”

High Intensity Support Skills Descriptors information updated

The High Intensity Support Skills Descriptors provide guidance for NDIS providers and auditors by describing the skills and knowledge that workers must have when supporting participants with high intensity daily personal activities.

NDIS providers must ensure their workers have the necessary skills to support participants with these activities.

The High Intensity Support Skills Descriptors review has:
  • Updated the content of the skills descriptors in line with contemporary practice and expert advice.
  • Updated the format and language of the skills descriptors to align with the contemporary language and participant focus adopted in the Framework.
The updated High Intensity Support Skills Descriptors and FAQ document are available on the NDIS Commission website.

Aged Care News

Overview of the Pilot Program

To ensure the new Aged Care Standards are measurable, relevant and foster a culture of continuous improvement, the Aged Care Quality and Safety will run a pilot program to test how the new standards apply in practice.

The Department of Health and Aged Care is in the final stages of its review of the Aged Care Quality Standards in partnership with the Commission.

The aims of the pilot program include: :
  • Determining how the draft strengthened Standards can be effectively implemented in a variety of services
  • Understanding the changes needed to the way the Commission assesses provider compliance with the new Standards. This will mean testing a new approach to auditing and assessment across different service types
  • The use of graded assessment to differentiate performance between providers
  • Identifying what kinds of support providers will need to understand and meet the new Standards such as resources and training for staff and governance persons
  • Addressing the need to support older Australians receiving care and services to understand what they should expect under the new Standards and how the Standards relate to their rights to safe and quality aged care.

Who will be included?

The pilot program will run across a variety of service types and sizes to ensure that it is truly representative of the way the new Standards will work in practice.

The Commission has engaged Ernst and Young Partnership Australia to assist in the Pilot Program, who will be in touch soon with those providers who have been selected to participate.

The Pilot Program is expected to begin shortly, though no specific dates or timelines have been announced.

The Commission has advised that aged care services selected to take part in the program will be contacted about their participation.

Facilities interested in participating can send contact details and information about their service to

Make the wealthy pay: non-profit groups urge

Catholic Health Australia (CHA) has called on the Federal Government to include housing wealth in means testing and to allow providers to set their own daily fees. – which means wealthier older Australians will pay more for some of their aged care services.

The conversation about aged care costs and questions about the sustainability of the sector are ongoing, while most providers continue to operate under severe financial pressure.

Seventy percent of aged care facilities ran at a loss in the third quarter of 2022.

The sector continues to have a steadily declining financial performance despite a wide range of aged care reforms and funding being put in place last year.

It has been made clear that extra funding and long-term reform are the only options to fix it.

A huge injection of money is needed to ensure there are enough aged care services for all older Australians – but CHA has joined other economic experts in saying that not all of this should come from taxpayers when wealthy Australians who receive care can afford to contribute more.

CHA Chief Executive, Pat Garcia, said it was fair to charge wealthier older people more for their care.

With the median value of an Australian home averaging about $1 million and the outdated means test cap of under $200,000, Mr Garcia said the Government is turning a blind eye to a huge amount of money.

“Aged care homes are straining under the weight of inflation and COVID-19 costs while facing long-term financial headwinds as our nation ages,” he said.

“The sector needs huge investment and there are two places it could come from: Government coffers or increased user contributions from those who can afford to pay.

“Taxpayers already provide approximately 75% of funding for residential aged care, and this contribution has grown at roughly double the pace of consumer contributions over the last decade.

“If we are to continue to care for our older Australians, then it is fair that we have to dig deep into our accumulated wealth now and not sheet the bill home to future generations.”

The latest StewartBrown Aged Care Financial Performance Survey Sector Report backed the idea of wealthier older Australians paying more for their aged care accommodation and extra services.

About 65% of older people in aged care have significant assets and in the new system, those clients would be reassessed and be made to fully pay for accommodation and extra hotel-like services such as cleaning.

But advocates have said implementing this system would need to happen alongside the improvement of the quality of our aged care services.

Council on the Ageing (COTA) CEO Patricia Sparrow has long advocated for changing the current means test assessment criteria to fall in line with this system.

But that it would also need to ensure every older person receives the same level of care and access to services, regardless of how much they contribute.

Ms Sparrow said: “Older Australians with the financial means to pay more for aged care should do so, but the quality of the care provided and the ability of older people to use the services they are paying for must be improved.

“Any changes to the current payment system must avoid creating a two-tier experience in the aged care system – as this will disproportionately impact lower-income Australians and their ability to access quality care.

“The Federal Government will need to continue to subsidise care for those who can’t afford to pay ensuring there is a strong safety net.”

It is not confirmed if this system will be implemented in the aged care sector, but those involved in lobbying for the change hope to hear from the Federal Government soon with their solution. ite.

ACCPA State conferences lined up

Do we really know how to adjust in order to remain competitive and financially sustainable, and have we positioned ourselves to drive the highest level of excellence in care? Those are questions the aged care sector need to address.

It is recognised that the most important step towards remaining viable is to understand how to successfully adapt to a new environment – which is why the 2023 ACCPA State Conferences, ‘Driving Quality Care’, are aimed at equipping leaders with the skills and insight they need to navigate new regulations, new expectations and to embrace the new normal and not just survive but thrive.

At the ‘Driving Quality Care’ conferences, you’ll find out the current state of play and gain insight into the impact of new reforms.

You’ll discover what innovation means for your organisation and why it will be essential for moving forward. You’ll be able to determine what excellent care looks like for you and what you need to do now, to deliver it.

With outstanding speakers, panel sessions and provider showcases, we’re looking forward to helping you be your best. Don’t miss this outstanding opportunity for your leaders to learn how to optimise your organisation and drive quality care.

Queensland (Gold Coast): April 18-20,
NSW (Hilton, Sydney): May 29-31
Victoria (The Pullman, Albert Park): June 13-15
Western Australia (Crown): 28-30 June

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