HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [9.51 pm]: Today the National Disability Services released its annual “State of the Disability Sector Report”. It is a very important snapshot of the disability services sector, including the results of a survey of 667 disability service providers across Australia. It provides a picture of some of those areas that service providers are finding particularly challenging.
Although I know that there are some welcome improvements from last year’s report, financial stability in the sector, unfortunately, remains fragile. The report stated that just 49 per cent of providers surveyed reported making a profit of three per cent or more and 76 per cent of our disability service providers are worried that they will not be able to provide NDIS services at the current prices. They also identified other ongoing issues with service provision. Only 13 per cent of those surveyed thought that the NDIS processes and administration are working well; 75 per cent say that unpaid assistance given to people to help to navigate the NDIS is distracting from their core business of service provision; and 76 per cent of providers have received requests for services in the past 12 months that, concerningly, they were simply not able to provide. That is a significant increase on the 69 per cent that we saw this time last year.
We are seeing that when capacity is constrained, people are turned away. These are often the very complex cases that carry higher administrative costs. In South Australia, people are spending on average only 60¢ or less for every dollar that has been allocated to them as part of their plans, and even less in some areas. There is a concern that people may not be using all their funding simply because they are having trouble locating or connecting to supports or, worse, the supports simply do not exist within their region. We know that that situation is occurring here in Western Australia as well. The report notes that ongoing difficulties are still being experienced by carers and families seeking support and housing, particularly those people who have children with challenging behaviours. The report acknowledges instances when participants requiring positive behaviour support plans did not receive adequate funding to have those plans developed or were not able to access the support contained in their plan. It is of significant concern that the report notes —
Signs are emerging of serious market failure risks with the implementation of the NDIS in WA. These risks will increase over the next two years unless there is a stronger market stewardship approach to ensure the supply of services into the future. There is also an urgent need to establish a suitable structure to address emergency and crisis need.
That is a direct quote from the report. We know the market cannot respond to everyone’s needs unless there is going to be some sort of government intervention. Thin markets exist when there are gaps between the disability support needs of individuals and those services that are ultimately available on the market. We are finding a range of different causes of thin markets. The obvious ones that we would be aware of are the problems for regional and rural Western Australians, but there are also particular challenges with certain support types, especially specialised supports with insufficient supply or with particularly low demand. There is a real ongoing problem with supports for people with complex needs, such as early childhood, behaviour intervention, and specialist disability accommodation. There continue to be problems with suitable services for Aboriginal participants and also participants from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. It will be absolutely critical to ensure that appropriate measures are in place so that people are able to receive supports irrespective of gaps occurring in the market.
Timing of the release of the NDIS report coincides with similar issues being raised with me consistently, and which I continually raise in this place, from both individuals and stakeholder groups. People are in crisis simply because they are not able to source the specialist care they need. I am particularly working—members would be aware of this—with people with very complex psychosocial disabilities. We know that adequately supporting individuals with complex behaviour support needs can be expensive, but we also know that the cost of not providing the supports is going to be huge and falls back on the community and other government agencies. For the people that I am assisting, it is falling back on government agencies such as Health and, increasingly, Justice. I am talking only about a small number of people—probably 20 to 30 people at the most in the entire state. As I have said before, I acknowledge and appreciate the Minister for Disability Services’ response to individual cases I continue to raise with him, but note it is an issue that needs to be addressed on a broader level rather than continually trying to address it on a case-by-case basis.
Objectives of the NDIS include to enable people with disability to exercise choice and control in the pursuit of their goals and the planning and delivery of their supports, but clearly we are failing to do this for some people. This principle cannot apply only to people who happen to be easy to support and work with. It is essential we continue to closely scrutinise the rollout of the NDIS, and pay attention to individuals’ experiences and to reports such as the “State of the Disability Sector Report”. Quite clearly, we have service gaps that need to be addressed and I expect that the true extent of these gaps is only slowly becoming apparent. It is essential these areas are addressed as they arise.