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Frontline: NDIS and Aged Care news you need to know (18 Nov 2022)


Cloudy outlook for disability sector: provider survey

A new survey has revealed a concerning economic outlook for the nation’s disability sector, with a growing number of providers predicting losses for the coming financial year. However, the survey, conducted by peak body National Disability Services, also showed providers were more optimistic this year on the direction of NDIS reforms, with the NDIS Review a crucial opportunity for change. The State of the Disability Sector Survey 2022, commissioned by NDS and analysed by the University of Sydney, revealed that 36 per cent of providers anticipate making a loss/deficit in 2022-23, up from 23 per cent in 2021-22. NDS CEO, Laurie Leigh, says the sector are astute predictors of profit and loss. “The fact that many more providers are expecting to make a loss this year is particularly concerning. Providers are very accurate in predicting their financial outcomes for the coming year. Predictions of losses made in last year’s survey were consistent with the rate of losses reported by providers in 2021-22,” said Ms Leigh. In contrast, disability service providers were optimistic about the federal government’s NDIS reforms. Forty-three per cent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that NDIS policy reforms were heading in the right direction. “The NDIS Review is a crucial opportunity for sector reform. Cutting red tape and making the NDIS simpler and more efficient is essential to support growth and ensure that high-quality services can be provided to the people with disability who need them,” Laurie Leigh said. Yet the sector is fatigued by change. The survey found the majority of leadership teams were absorbed with dealing with NDIS changes, and respondents reported their staff were exhausted by ongoing changes in the NDIS and other policy areas. “Solutions need to simplify and streamline the system, not complicate it further, and reform should be progressively implemented to maintain momentum,” said Ms Leigh. She also called on the federal government to improve NDIS price modelling. “The price increases in June were a catch-up payment after many years of underpayment on the cost model. Wage pressures and rising costs are constant and require improvement in the pricing.”

VALID changes for the times

VALID – the Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with Disabilities – has made a number of changes to its constitution to reflect the changing times and needs.

The new constitution, passed at a Special General Meeting, retains VALID’s name, purposes and other key features including a majority of the governance body having to be people with a disability, or family members / carers of people with a disability.

However, it will now be run by a Board instead of a Committee of Management, have only nine members of the Board (instead of up to 16 Committee members) and new terms (3 years) and limits (maximum of 9 years) for elected Board members.

The previous five office bearer positions will be simplified to just two – Chair and Deputy Chair. The new Constitution also changes the member categories to governing members (Board members) and associate members (individuals and organisations supporting VALID’s aims).

VALID’s 2022 AGM will now be held on Friday 9 December at 11.00am, according to the new Constitution.

More First Nation people accessing NDIS

First Nations Australians living with disability are accessing the NDIS in greater numbers, according to the latest NDIS Quarterly Report, which shows that of the 23,137 new participants to enter the Scheme in the quarter, 9.4 per cent (2,169) identified as First Nations peoples.

As of 30 September 2022, the NDIS was providing disability support to 40,842 First Nations participants, up from 34,378 at the same time last year – an increase of more than 18 per cent.

Minister for the NDIS, Bill Shorten, and Senator Malarndirri McCarthy said they were pleased to see the number of First Nations participants increase, pointing to the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA)’s continued focus on ensuring First Nations peoples with disability can more easily access support.

Increasing the number of First Nations staff working at the NDIA is also a priority for the Australian Government.

In the 2022 APS Census, three per cent of NDIA staff identified as First Nations people.

Senator McCarthy was guest speaker at the NDIA’s First Nations Employee Network (FNEN) Conference, held for the first time since COVID.

The focus of the conference was for almost 50 First Nations NDIA staff to come together to reconnect and to collaborate on how the Agency can increase the number of First Nations people in their workforce.

The NDIA, informed by the NDIS Review, will start a co-design process to develop a new First Nations Strategy with the aim of improving outcomes for First Nations people living with a disability.

The NDIS Quarterly Report shows there are now more than 550,000 Australians with disability receiving life changing support from the world leading Scheme.

Aged Care News

Sector in crisis with looming worker walk-out

Three in four aged care workers plan to quit within the next six months if they don’t receive a bigger pay rise, bringing the sector already in crisis on the verge of collapse, a survey has revealed. The Health Services Union has released the shocking findings of its aged care snapshot at the Fair Work Commission in Sydney. The commission awarded an interim 15 per cent pay rise to direct care employees two weeks ago, but the union says the increase isn’t high enough and continues to call for a 25 per cent increase across the sector’s workforce. Aged care workers can be paid as little as $22 an hour. More than 90 per cent of the almost 2000 workers surveyed said securing the full 25 per cent pay increase was “extremely important” for them.

What do Home Care Package fee caps mean?

Home Care Package (HCP) recipients will pay less for their administration and management fees after the Government announced it will cap prices from the beginning of 2023.

Home Care Package care and package management fees will be capped from the start of 2023.

The decision means more money is going directly towards care services and support, with some HCP clients seeing 60 percent of their package fees going towards costly management fees.

So what do these changes mean and how will they benefit aged consumers?

There are a number of fees that participants may have paid previously that they will either pay less of or not at all.

HCP fortnightly care management charges will be capped up to $70.42 (Level 1), $123.87 (Level 2), $269.56 (Level 3) and $408.63 (Level 4).

Package management fees will be capped at $52.82 (Level 1), $92.90 (Level 2), $202.17 (Level 3) and $306.47 (Level 4).

The Government views these caps as a lid on prices, rather than the amount that home care providers should be aiming to charge clients. The prices will increase with the basic subsidy each year.

Capped management fees are not the only HCP changes announced by the Government, with the following to all be implemented from 1 January, 2023:
  • Care management prices will be capped at 20 percent of the package level
  • Package management prices will be capped at 15 percent of the package level
  • Providers will no longer be able to charge for package management in a calendar month (excluding the first month of care) if no services other than care management are provided
  • Providers cannot charge separately for third-party services, such as subcontracted staff or equipment purchased elsewhere
  • Providers cannot charge exit amounts if a client moves to a new provider or no longer needs care
Minister for Aged Care, Anika Wells, says the Government is keeping their promise to older Australians.

“Aged care funding should be spent on the care of older Australians and these changes will make pricing fairer so there are no surprises on the bill and more dollars for your care,” says Minister Wells.

Aged care advocates call it a win for older Australians while peak bodies like the Council on the Ageing (COTA) and Aged and Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA), have also welcomed the Government’s HCP price caps.

COTA Chief Executive, Ian Yates, says older Australians will benefit from the changes as more of their money will go directly to the delivery of their care and support services.

“Quality home care is vital for older Australians and this announcement is an important step in improving care and boosting accountability and transparency in the sector,” says Mr Yates.

“Older Australians deserve to have their Home Care Package funds going directly to the care they need and deserve – not being used up on things like higher-than-average profits or inefficient management and administration.

“Older Australians have long advocated for this improvement and it’s fantastic that the Labor Government is delivering early on its Election commitment to implement this practical reform.”

Mr Yates says the Government must continue to monitor providers to ensure they do not increase fees for clients elsewhere, including hourly service fees.

“The issue isn’t just about price gouging or excess profits, it’s also about inefficiencies in how some providers operate,” says Mr Yates.

“We need full pricing transparency, and it must be compulsory for every provider, with penalties for non-compliance. Too many providers are still ignoring this obligation.”

However, Minister Wells says more than 37,000 people will benefit from the removal of exit charges, making it easier to shop around for competitively priced services.

“This means more package funds will be available to meet the care needs of older Australians,” sheb says.

The reduction of fees may keep some care recipients at home for longer, according to National Seniors Australia Chief Executive Officer, Professor John McCallum.

“High demand means there is no incentive to keep costs competitive,” says Professor McCallum.

“Some older Australians have been paying up to 50 percent of their Home Care Package as administration and management fees. That’s not affordable or sustainable and is simply wrong.

“Excessive fees can restrict people’s access to services which can not only compromise their wellbeing and safety at home but also lead to premature entry into residential aged care.”

Professor McCallum says National Seniors Australia will continue to provide feedback to the Government to ensure these changes do benefit older Australians.

Providers will have to act fast on price changes

Providers must provide 14 days’ notice of any changes to their pricing, with a strict January 1, 2023 deadline.

HCP providers must inform their clients no later than 18 December in regard to decreased care and package management prices or the removal of third-party service and exit charges.

If providers opt to increase any care and package management fees to reflect the new maximum prices, they must contact clients directly to discuss this and ensure it is mutually agreed upon.

ACCPA Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Tom Symondson, says the organisation will provide all necessary support to providers to deliver a seamless experience for home care recipients.

“While most home care providers will not be captured by these changes, as they already charge less than the caps, these reforms will give older people who stay at home the confidence of knowing that the bulk of their HCP is going towards meeting their own personal needs,” he says.

“These caps also recognise the important role of the providers and allow them enough leeway to pay for the delivery of these important services.”

He says his association will work with providers to ensure a smooth implementation of the new arrangements and limit the potential for disruption and confusion for consumers despite the very short time frame.”

Meanwhile, Mr Symondson says ACCPA will communicate concerns around the “very challenging deadline” to the Government to support providers.

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