5 Things You need to know

From the February NDIS Quarterly report, courtesy of DCS

THINGS ARE TAKING LESS TIME

The big takeaway that the NDIA and Minister want you to get from this Report is that things are speeding up. All sorts of things really. But, most interestingly:

  • The average wait time for children to get their first plan has reduced from 54 days to 44 days this quarter. This might not sound very impressive, but it’s actually light years ahead of the 104 day average wait time recorded 6 months ago.
  • The average wait time for access requests is 4 days, compared to 42 days at the end of June 2019. The legislation requires the Agency to make a decision in 21 days. So at first glance, it looks like they are killing it. But presenting the average wait time might be a bit misleading. Many people testing their eligibility will have near automatic access because they have conditions that are on List A, or are transitioning from defined state or territory programs. Those applications would not take long to approve, bringing down the average wait time. What we’d really love to know is the percentage of applications taking longer than 21 days to reach a decision.
  • First time plans were approved within an average of 77 days this quarter, compared to 133 days in June 2019. Again, an excellent improvement with a long way still to go.

So, to summarise, this Scheme ain’t too quick. But it is getting quicker. 

PLAN BUDGET INCREASE

Apparently, the longer people spend in the NDIS, the larger their plan packages become. Often quite significantly larger too. For people who have been in the Scheme for 5 years, their plan budgets started at an average of $64K and went up to an average of $102K. This is kind of awkward for the whole “increasing capacity to reduce lifetime costs” message behind the NDIS, but it does make some sense. The more experience people have with the Scheme, the more equipped they will be to communicate their needs and goals in the NDIS-language we all know and love. They will also become more likely to begin requesting funding for SDA and Assistive Technology, which can push up package sizes. Plan utilisation also goes up with time, but we knew this. However, putting these statistics together, means that next time you hear someone say “use it or lose it” about somebody’s funding, you can point out that statistically speaking, this is not the case.

ALL ABOUT THE GOALS 

As you no doubt know, Participant goals are a pretty big deal in the NDIS. They inform the types and levels of funding a person can be allocated. But until now, there has been very little published information about the types of goals Participants are writing and how they are tracking towards meeting them.

In the latest Report, we got some of that data. Specifically, we learnt that:

  • 79% of plans have a goal relating to daily life.
  • 56% of plans have a goal relating to social and community activities.
  • 37% of plans have a goal relating to health and wellbeing.
  • 28% of Participants over the age of 15 have a goal relating to where they live.
  • 30% of Participants over the age of 15 have a goal relating to work.

There is also some interesting information on goals for different disability cohorts. Including:

  • People with psychosocial disability and Acquired Brain Injuries (ABIs) are the only cohorts to have goals relating to social and community activities more frequently than daily life goals.
  • People with ABI (21%), Down Syndrome (24%), intellectual disability (30%), psychosocial disability (29%) and visual impairment (25%) are the most likely to have goals relating to work.

As for the measurement of goal attainment, there is no information yet. But we might not have to wait long. The Report mentions that the NDIA is currently trialing a Goal Attainment Framework in a single service delivery area in NSW (they don’t say which area, for some unknown reason). The Framework is meant to support Participants to develop goals that are ‘clear, realistic and measurable.’ At the end of a selected time period, people can score how they have tracked against their goals.

Until we see the Framework, it is hard to know how we should feel about it. Given that most of us only have to think about our life goals on New Year’s Eve, it is safe to say that many people will need a framework to support them to think about their goals. But, of course, goals need to be personal. Therefore, it is important that the Framework does not lead or limit people in picking their goals. The Report says that the Framework will begin rolling out nationally in Q4 of 19/20. Which really isn’t very long at all. In the meantime, keep kicking goals I guess?

THIN MARKETS

The Report mentions that at the latest Disability Reform Council (DRC) meeting, the Council agreed that the “one-size-fits-all” approach to delivering the NDIS might not work for certain geographic locations, particular disability cohorts or some support types. This was confirmed in more or less the same words by the DRC’s recent press release. They mention that initial projects will soon begin, in APY Lands, North Queensland, the Top End, Wentworth and Walgett in New South Wales, Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia, and Tasmania. Along with projects to deepen the behavioural support market in Victoria and ACT.

The level of vagueness here is so extreme that it is almost physically painful. This information could mean absolutely nothing, or absolutely everything, depending on what they mean by one-size-does-not-fit-all. To put it in context, the Tune Review recently recommended that the Agency be given power to intervene with “alternative funding models” in thin markets. So this might be the Agency and DRC signalling a return to block funding in some circumstances. But don’t get alarmed/excited/anxious just yet. Because they could also just be saying, in a frustratingly ambiguous way, that they are just planning to do the same sort of stuff they have always done, only hopefully better? There is just not enough information.

DIVERSITY 

This Quarter, we have also been given a new insight into how the Scheme is tracking for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The proportion of Participants from these cohorts has remained quite steady, with 6.1% of Participants being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, and 8.9% being people who identify as CALD. But the Agency has also released two data deep dive reports that tell us more about these cohorts. We’ve picked out some of the most interesting facts.

CALD:

  • There is some indication that CALD people are facing linguistic and cultural barriers to accessing the NDIS. 21% of CALD people who apply for access to the Scheme are found ineligible, compared to 14% of non-CALD people. Which makes it perhaps not surprising that the proportion of CALD people in the NDIS is significantly lower than expected.
  • But, once (and if), CALD people get into the NDIS, the picture starts to look a bit rosier. CALD Participants have 2% larger average plan payments compared to non-CALD Participants. They are also utilising slightly more of their plans (68% compared to 66%).
  • Only 3% of CALD Participants have SIL funding in their plan, compared to 8% of non-CALD Participants. Which makes the fact that CALD Participants have slightly larger plan payments on average, even more interesting.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People:

  • The Indigenous NDIS population is younger than the non-Indigenous one. 65% of Indigenous Participants are between 0 to 24, compared to 54% of non-Indigenous Participation. The proportion over the age of 35 is lower.
  • Indigenous Participants are utilising less of their plans. Utilisation rates are 60% for Indigenous Participants, compared to 67% for non-Indigenous Participants. This might have something to do with the high percentage of Indigenous Participants living in very remote areas (11%).
  • The number of Indigenous Participants is lower than expected across all age ranges.

You can find the full Quarterly Report here, along with state specific information.

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