Doorstop interview, NDIA Braddon Office Canberra

E&OE 

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: Good afternoon, everybody. It's great to be here at the National Disability Insurance Agency's Canberra base, with Alicia Payne, Member for Canberra and Member of the Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS. Also with me, I've got Kylie and Wayne, they're involved with a service called Sharing Places, and that delivers disability services to NDIS participants. 

Today, I'm pleased to announce that the Board of the National Disability Insurance Scheme has approved the Annual Price increase for financial year 2020 to 2023 of 9 per cent (of NDIS supports delivered by disability support workers).

This is a big amount of extra resources. It reflects the Fair Work Commission decision, which comes into effect on the 1 of July. So it's a 4.6 per cent increase for disability support workers, and also reflects the half a per cent increase in superannuation, the increase of the Superannuation Guarantee Levy.

This price rises also takes account of the cost of maintaining COVID systems. Because people disability and the people that work with them and their families, they're not out of the COVID woods yet. Even as we speak to be about 5,000 people in the disability sector who report COVID cases right now. 

In addition, there is some extra funding available for the cost of implementing changes to the award, which will mean that disability care workers will be remunerated much more fairly than they previously have been. 

Furthermore, I'm pleased to announce that the government and the Agency is able to allocate an additional $514 million to registered service providers, in part recognising the cost they've had in transitioning their services to individual based funding. But also for, ongoing before in the sector, to help restrain the growth in costs, but also to identify productivity improvements in the delivery of National Disability Insurance Services. It's good news for people disability, it's good news for the workforce it’s good news for service providers, it’s good news for registered service providers who are embarking upon a path about workplace productivity and improvement. And the government understands that if we want to get improvements, we have to be part of the change we see. We're happy to take questions.

DAN JERVIS-BARDY, CANBERRA TIMES: Can we just talk about the implications for the budget, the bottom line? We know that the budget forecast it said for this current financial year that the Scheme will cost about $29 billion? Does this decision have any implications for the bottom line in the next financial year?

SHORTEN: No, I'm pleased to say that. I mean, we will have to wait till the accounts are signed off at the end of the month for this year. But there is a reasonable chance that the forecast cost of the Scheme won't quite be as high as what was put down in the March budget of the old Morrison Government. So there'll be some I think modest improvements to the bottom line. 

In terms of going forward, this is a package designed to work with service providers to encourage the workforce to remain in the industry and to make sure that people are receiving quality services. For financial year for 2022-23, this won't increase the bottom-line projection.

JERVIS-BARDY: You mentioned in the press release that the $514 million, there'll be a sort of audit and assurance process that will sit alongside that. You've been very keen to crack down on fraud within the Scheme. Can you go into more detail about how that audit process will work and is there legitimate concerns that this money could be misused or not used to cover actually incurred expenses?

SHORTEN: Australian taxpayers are willing to fund a National Disability Insurance Scheme. But they, and the people, the participants in the Scheme, both have the reasonable expectation that money will be spent efficiently, effectively, empathetically and equitably. 

We want to make sure that what the taxpayer is paying for, the service on behalf of the participant, the participant actually receives. So we want to make sure that registered providers who are embarking on the process of ensuring a quality workforce, sorting out their rosters, making sure that services are delivered in a quality manner and in a safe manner, they've got the modest financial support they need to ensure the systems that the taxpayer expect and people disability deserve is actually being delivered. 

So if we're going to provide some additional funding for National Disability Service providers than we expect that they keep their part of the bargain, which they have been doing so far, and deliver quality services.

In terms of pricing, my view is that we want to crack down on fake invoices, on rorts, on things being claimed which shouldn't be paid for, which the taxpayer and people with disability pay for but are not receiving or expecting. So I'm confident that this is the start of a reform conversation.

The other thing I must stress is that when we do things, we intend to have people disability involved in every stage of our decision making.

JERVIS-BARDY: It's been very hard to attract and retain people in the disability workforce. How important is this decision to be able to, to keep people in the sector and make sure the participants have the support that they require?

SHORTEN: What this decision means for the 270,000 people who work in disability care, is that they're going to see a wage rise. And what it means is that the people who use the services of disability workers, that's people with disability, the government's going to make sure that their packages are able to pay people properly, without the person with disability seeing a reduction in services. 

Government is a partner in the provision of the National Disability Insurance System. It's a scheme designed for profoundly and severely impaired Australians so that they have choice and control in their lives. We want to make sure that the people who are delivering the services, the workforce, are properly remunerated, at an attractive rate so that we can attract more people into working in disability and make sure those who are working in there, have a decent standard of living.

JERVIS-BARDY: Going to turn attention to another topic that was agreed to at the disability ministers meeting last Friday. So understand that the state and territories, along with yourself has agreed to develop a strategy to speed up discharge rates for NDIS participants that are stuck in hospital. There's 1,100, estimated or so, what's the timeframe for getting those participants, some of whom have been in hospital for years, for getting them into suitable housing? Can you set a clear and definitive timeframe for when you can clear that 1,100?

SHORTEN: I’m appalled that there are people eligible for NDIS payments, who are still in hospital beds, hundreds of days after they've been deemed eligible. That's not fair on the health system. And it's not fair on the person with the disability. What I want to do is reduce waiting times. We've asked, the state ministers are important partners for me, so I've asked them to meet me monthly face to face. At the next meeting on July the 22nd, I've asked them to bring a list of everyone who they think is in the hospital who's eligible for NDIS. 

By the same token, I've asked NDIA, the agency, to tell me why we can't, when we find out someone's eligible, someone go and visit them within four days, and that we aim to move them to transitional housing, which is appropriate within 30 days. And maybe those timelines are not feasible. But I've asked the Agency to tell me why we couldn't do it in that timeline. If there's good reasons, well, then we'll just have to work out the knots and the kinks in the system. But I think that this is how we make the NDIS work. And my message to the states will be clear, we want to clear your bed block. And then I'm hoping that the states step up more with education funding and community mental health funding. 

JERVIS-BARDY: Just back to the budget forecast. You mentioned there might be marginal increases, what are the factors that have contributed to that?

SHORTEN: I’d like to say because I think the scheme was you know, being run efficiently. That's not what I think. I think because of COVID, some people haven’t been able to allocate, to spend the packages to the amount, which I think was forecast. That doesn't mean people's packages are going to be cut by the amount they haven’t expended. But it does mean that we've outlaid less money than was expected. And so that is a saving, and that's positive. 

But my message to people with disability is this has allowed us to engage in proper reform. I want to pay people properly to work in the sector. I want the people who are the clients, the people with disabilities, to be able to afford to pay people properly. 

JERVIS-BARDY: So that marginal improvement is actually being used…

SHORTEN: No…

JERVIS-BARDY: And are we Talking $10 million 100 million dollars a billion

SHORTEN: If I give you an estimate now and then it changes… probably better not better off not giving you the estimate now. But it's in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars I hope.

JERVIS-BARDY: Is there anything you'd like to mention on any of this, Alicia, about what it might mean for Canberra, in terms of support for disability support workers here in the ACT?

ALICIA PAYNE MP, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: It's a wonderful thing that's going to attract more staff. It's going to reduce turnover and perhaps most importantly, it's going to improve outcomes for people with disability. And I just want to say too that, coming today with the Minister and meeting with the public servants here at the NDIA, it’s incredibly inspiring to see Minister talking about how important public servants are and that in spite of their good work and not seeing the NDIS do deliver on what was promised and I'm incredibly excited that with a Labor Government as Minister, that's going to change.

SHORTEN: Alright, thanks guys, thank you.