The number of NDIS providers has more than tripled in two years with 16,755 providers currently registered across Australia, the NDIS annual report shows.
The report says more than 8,000 new providers joined the NDIS market in 2018. Of the current providers, 44 per cent were individual or sole traders, up four per cent from last year.
There were fewer than 5,000 registered providers in 2016.
“This reflects the fact that many Australian businesses are taking advantage of the great opportunity the NDIS presents within the Australian economy” NDIS CEO Rob De Luca wrote in the report.
The biggest growth in providers was in specialised disability accommodation (168 per cent). There was also growth in interpreting and translation services, innovative community participation and vision equipment.
The report said a series of initiatives had been announced for providers including the Information, Linkages and Capacity Building ILC policy to connect people with disability in their community, and efforts were being made to support the growing market.
Loss of confidence
However the report came as Australia’s peak body for non-government disability providers, National Disability Services, found the NDIS is placing intense pressure on service providers as well as presenting them with opportunities for growth.
NDS’s annual survey of over 500 providers found confidence in the NDIS had weakened and the organisation has called for improved pricing, better market information and a national workforce strategy in its 2018 annual report.
“The pressure on service providers … has arisen not only from the scale and complexity of the reform, but also from under-developed NDIS systems and processes,” president Joan McKenna-Kerr and and former chief executive Ken Baker write.
It also comes ahead of the release of the NDS State of the Sector report, which is also expected to paint a less than rosy picture when it is released in coming days.
Community Care Review understands the report has found low levels of collaboration in the sector, major concerns over how the NDIS is working with providers and administrative burdens that outweighing costings, as well as concerns about the ability to uphold quality of care if the situation doesn’t change.
NDIS continues to grow
The fifth annual NDIS report showed 86,705 new participants entered the scheme in 2018, taking the total number of Australians in it to 183,965 as of June 2018. An expected 460,00 are projected to be covered by the scheme by 2020.
The scheme is projected to cost about $22 billion by 2020, representing 0.9 per cent of GDP. However this is estimated to blow out to 1.4 per cent of GDP by 2030.
“The best estimate of the cost of a well managed NDIS remains within $22 billion in the first year of full scheme,” the report states.
However it said the participation in the NDIS of an unexpectedly high number of children, particularly those with high functioning autism, was an unanticipated budget pressure.
The report said while $7.7 billion in supports was committed to participants during 2017-18, not all of them were being used, contributing to an operating surplus of $957 million.
“If the utilisation of committed supports within the scheme increases over time as expected, cost pressure could emerge in the absence of the proposed management action,” it says.
Roll out almost complete
The scheme is now fully operational in all of NSW, South Australia and the ACT. Western Australia entered the scheme this year.
The agency responsible for delivering the scheme, the National Disability Agency, plans to hire 750 staff in the next 12 months and expects to have 3,400 by 2021.
Chairman Dr Helen Nugent said 2018 was a critical year for the NDIS with “solid attainments” but also emerging challenges.
She said 180,000 new people need to be assessed and given a plan and the NDIA needs to review more than 200,000 existing plans. Delivering the speed of the rollout had also been “challenging”.
However the report noted that 88 per cent of participants rated their planning experience as good or very good.
The report noted a number of milestones for the NDIS in 2018, including the entry of WA into the scheme, the transition of NSW and South Australia out of existing supports and preparation for the launch of the Nation Quality and Safeguards Commission.
Read more: $7 million boost for WA disability project
Read more: NDIS offers opportunities for aged care
Read more: Calls for better NDIS market management