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Frontline: NDIS and Aged Care news you need to know (21 Oct 2022)

NDIS News

1. Government facing massive class action

A class action tipped to be on the same scale as the Centrelink robo debt debacle set to be launched for the alleged unlawful exclusion of over 65s from the national disability insurance scheme.

The case, proposed by Mitry lawyers, could see the Commonwealth on the hook for an estimated $800m a year for denying support to seriously and permanently disabled people based on their age.

Proponents point to the average $111,000 a year spent on an NDIS plan for seniors who qualified before age 64 – compared to $56,000 for the equivalent aged-care scheme. This, they claim, is a form of “pecuniary loss” suffered by those who applied at aged 65 and over.

Rick Mitry, the partner of Mitry lawyers, told Guardian Australia the firm had only begun advertising the proposed class action, with 70 or 80 people “keen – or some would say desperate – to join” the case it aims to launch by year’s end.

“These people are really suffering,” Mitry said. “They cannot understand why over the age of 65, at which age you need it the most, they wipe you out.

“If you have an accident at 64, you’re entitled [to the NDIS] but if the accident happens a few months later – you’re out.”

NDIS, established by the Labor government in 2013, only applies to people aged 64 and under at the time they applied for support. Those aged 65 and over are eligible for other programs.

The Mitry Lawyers class action argues that the age bar was inconsistent with the convention on the rights of people with disabilities. It could render it unconstitutional because the Commonwealth relied on the external affairs power to enact the NDIS.

In addition, the staggered state-by-state rollout of the NDIS could have also breached the constitution’s ban on discrimination based on state of residency, it argues.

Mitry Lawyers is in discussions with a commercial litigation funder to pay for the case, with a deal expected in weeks after conditions about the number of participants are satisfied.

A spokesperson for the Department of Social Services said the NDIS is “one part of a broader system of disability support”.

“People over the age of 65 are able to access support through the aged-care system,” the spokesperson said.

2. Faster NDIS payments

The National Disability Insurance Authority has recently concluded a Request for Tender (RFT) to build a new Claims at Point of Support (C-POS) channel, giving participants and providers a faster, more secure way to make their NDIS claims.

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia was successful and will partner with the NDIA to create a better option for managing claims, without the need for participants to pay up front using their own funds.

It will make NDIS claims faster by reducing the administrative workload for participants and providers as well as helping make self-managed plans more accessible. It will also support ongoing efforts to reduce fraud in the NDIS.

However, the new system will not replace the way providers and participants make claims but will be in addition to current claims channels.

The NDIA will work with participants, providers and the disability sector during the design process. More information about consultation opportunities will be available in the coming weeks.

3. Faster, easier access to minor home modification funding

NDIS Minister Bill Shorten has announced new measures to give participants faster and easier access to minor home modifications.

He said home and living supports remained a focus of the Government and was a key issue discussed at recent meetings with state and territory disability ministers.

“Participants and their families and carers have told us the process to get these minor home mods is too complicated and too long. It is just common sense to look at what we’re doing to see how we can make it easier,” Mr Shorten said.

“This new process will mean less red-tape for NDIS participants and their families, and faster access to minor works they need done to allow them to live safely and more independently in their homes.”

“The process will be more transparent and will make it easier for the NDIA to progress these requests, meaning participants won’t have to worry about delays with chasing up quotes, and can instead get on with modifying their home and living their lives.”

Eligible NDIS participants will no longer need to go through protracted NDIA processes for minor, non-structural modifications that cost under $20,000.

When the NDIA agrees on the modifications required, the funds will then be available for participants to find a suitable provider to complete the modifications within the budget.

The NDIA will also publish on its website the funding it will provide for a range of minor home modifications – based on market rates in the different locations where participants live. This will help NDIS participants to find the best deal with provide.

4. New guide

The NDIA has launched a new guide on Understanding Supports: Social and Community Participation as part of a series of resources for participants, families and carers to learn about evidence-based supports.

The guide is for adults on the autism spectrum, with an intellectual and/or psychosocial disability. It provides information to help participants think about their social and participation goals, and who they can speak to for support working towards these goals.

It aims to help participants learn about supports they may be able to access to build their confidence and social skills. It also provides information about different activities they might enjoy that support them to feel and stay connected to their community.

The guide was developed by the NDIA’s Research and Evaluation Branch, which will continue to release more guides on different topics moving forward.

Aged Care News

5. Massive shortfall in care workers tipped

Australia faces a shortfall of more than 200,000 full-time care workers by 2050 as demand doubles within a generation. And a predicted gap in the workforce is tipped to emerge earlier than expected because of the Covid pandemic.

These findings are included in a care workforce labour market study overseen by the national skills commissioner, Adam Boyton, which the Morrison government had commissioned, but refused to release after it was completed in September 2021.

The report, released by the minister for skills, Brendan O’Connor, forecasts a shortfall of about 100,000 care workers across the aged, disability and mental health care sectors by 2027-28, blowing out to 212,000 by 2050.

The workforce required to meet demand over this period is expected to grow to about 531,600, significantly outpacing the forecasted supply of 320,200 full-time workers.

The gap of approximately 211,400 full-time positions is even larger on a headcount basis, with the country on track to be 285,800 workers short by 2050.

Aged care consultants agree that another worrying factor is the wages level, which deters many from entering the sector.

The report said that while there is great variability in the wages earned in the caring economy, 95% of the care and support workforce earned below the Australian average.

The largest occupation group – personal care and support workers – had the lowest weekly earnings – $523 below the Australian average wage.

Allied health professionals had the second lowest weekly earnings, $268 below the Australian average.

The only occupation group with weekly earnings higher than the Australian average was health and welfare managers, who earned $754 above the average wage.

“The current macro-economic backdrop of a much tighter than expected labour market means that the forecast gaps would be both larger than anticipated; and would emerge even more quickly than noted in the study,” Mr Boyton said in an update.

6. New conduct code for providers

Aged care workers and providers will need to comply with a new set of conduct rules from 1 December 2022.

To be known as the Code of Conduct for Aged Care (Code), it is part of the Australian Governments’ Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2022 in response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s recommendations.

It’s one of the nine measures to improve accountability and transparency and is expected to be part of several initiatives to increase protections for consumers from workers who pose an unacceptable risk of harm.

Violation of the code could lead to workers and providers being banned from working in the sector.

Those who seek to become an aged care provider will need to understand the new code, which forms part of the quality and safety standards.

7. Markets and forecasting in home care

The home care market is one of the largest growing markets in the community, with Baby Boomers heading to their peak with retirement and increasing dependence due to decreasing physical and for many, cognitive capacity.

This market is expected to grow over the next 30 years as the general population live longer, thanks to developments in medical science.

But for many, with no universally effective ability to slow down the development of dementia will see numbers of persons developing dementia increasing as well.

In addition to growing numbers of elderly in our community, growth in the disability sector has also occurred. Growth is not only related to the availability of funding, many who develop neurological diseases as adults, such as Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis are now receiving funded support through NDIS.

Combined, the aged and disability markets are unlikely to reduce in number and demands for services are unlikely to fall.

Barry

Barry brings over 10 years of experience as a senior manager and consultant in the aged care, home care and disability services sectors. Prior to joining the industry, Barry has worked for and consulted major corporations, SMEs and government agencies in Australia and overseas for more than 40 years in senior management roles.

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