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Workforce development biggest challenge for NDIS roll-out

20 Jan 2014, by Informa Insights

Brendan Goodger
Brendan Goodger

The roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has been announced as the greatest change to Australian social policy in a generation. The move to consumer-directed model of care will inevitably bring about major and changes and challenges for service providers. Dr Brendan Goodger, Policy and Research Manager at the Community Service & Health Industry Skills Council* talked to us about how the introduction of the scheme is likely to impact on the workforce and what needs to be done to meet the demands of staff training and retention.

IIR Healthcare: What do you see as the biggest challenges for service providers as consumer-directed models of care are implemented under the NDIS?

Dr Brendan Goodger: In a word, the biggest challenge facing providers implementing consumer-directed care is ‘workforce’. Where will workers come from? How will they be trained? What work will they do? How will the work be managed?

Within the next six years, Australia will need an additional 90,000 disability care and support workers undertaking job roles that are yet to be accurately defined. In practical terms, this will require immediate identification and endorsement of the job role and supporting vocational qualifications, a national recruitment campaign with a strong focus in rural and remote areas, approximately $50,000,000 per year in new training and additional monies in retraining, and clarification of processes and procedures for managing a workforce that will be delivering services in individuals’ homes.

The workforce must also be able to deliver high quality care in the most efficient way and able to function within a ‘community-based’ decentralised model of care.

The majority of health and community care providers are charitable or not-for-profit organisations funded by government. This means that any increases in workforce development or up-skilling will come from government funding in one form or another. The cost of training – actual and in staff time away from duties – is probative for most and is greatly impacting on the capacity of the industry to drive reform. But the costs to society of not investing in workforce development may end up being far greater.

Within the next six years, Australia will need an additional 90,000 disability care and support workers.  Image source:
Within the next six years, Australia will need an additional 90,000 disability care and support workers.
Image source:

There are two other issues not often discussed that are side-effects of an increasing demand for disability care workers and that’s the impact on aged care provision, and workers’ personal carer roles.

Aged care workers receive a lower hourly rate than that being offered to disability care workers, but this sector is also seeing a dramatic increase for services (475,000 aged care workers are needed by 2050 at a potential total training cost of $2.5 billion). This may potentially lead to significant retention issues for aged care providers losing workers to the disability care sector.

The community services and health industry supports providers in child care, aged care, disability care, healthcare, mental health support, allied health support, youth work and complimentary healthcare. But as an industry itself, its workers are also subject to the same issues and impacts facing the rest of the country: an ageing workforce, service closures, training quality, recruitment challenges. By 2030, 65 per cent of all current community services and health workers will be reaching retirement age – by 2050, and they will be high-need aged. No other industry faces the challenge of having its workforce add to its service demands.

IIR Healthcare: What mechanisms need to successfully tackle these challenges?

Dr Brendan Goodger: Service providers need to have a dedicated workforce development plan which outlines their business needs; workforce requirements; current skill levels and future skill needs; and future learning needs. If they don’t, they may fail to meet client expectations and deliver below-par care, and their business might suffer as a result.

They should work with other local service and industry education providers through regional initiatives as such partnerships encourage resource sharing and cost reduction.

Providers must also better design position descriptions to align with ‘on-the-job’ requirements and qualifications. Mismatches are all too common resulting in recruitment and retention challenges.

Finally, workforce projections for the NDIS must be made available and updated regularly at a national, state and ideally regional level to enable service providers to forward plan and develop workforce plans.

IIR Healthcare: What role can advocacy groups play in shaping the reform process?

Dr Brendan Goodger: Advocacy groups play a critical role in providing an alternative policy window to government policy makers and highlighting areas where the reform process is creating inequity or sustainability challenges.

There is also strength in numbers and in the power of singing from the same song-sheet. That’s why national and regional advocacy coalitions, made up of organisations that share specific goals, are more likely to achieve coherent policy reform than policy initiatives aimed at the interest of a particular advocacy group.

IIR Healthcare: In your opinion, what is the best way for work productivity to be optimised? What are the key benefits this will bring to providers?

Dr Brendan Goodger: All providers should have a workforce development plan. Such a plan will assist with recruitment and retention strategies, and ensure that resources are allocated efficiently.

It is also critical that all workforce development activities be evaluated to ensure that they are working. The days of writing a workforce development plan without evaluation are, hopefully, gone!!

National Diability SummitAgain, position descriptions must better match actual ‘on-the-job’ requirements and qualifications. This encourages and allows for workforce planning. It ensures business sustainability as service providers become more competitive in securing the right workers – which are in limited supply – for the right job.

Matching position descriptions to job requirements and qualifications will also possibly enhance a provider’s profitability as it improves their reputation as an employer of choice that engages staff and delivers high quality client care.

IIR Healthcare: You are speaking at the National Disability Summit in March in Melbourne. What are you hoping to get out of the event? Are there any particular presentations or discussions you are particularly looking forward to?

Dr Brendan Goodger: I am really looking forward to the engaging in discussions on the vital nature of workforce to the disability sector. It’s so important that the sector and nation pay attention to the workforce considerations associated with the NDIS. Detailed discussions and planning to address workforce issues, now, will pave the way for successful disability policy reform for Australia’s future.

I’m also excited about hearing examples of best practice and good workforce development planning in action from speakers and conference attendees. Most of all, I’m eager to hear from compassionate well-trained staff who are motivated by supporting clients and care-givers, who are at the heart or our care system.

*Dr Brendan Goodger will deliver a presentation at the National Disability Summit, to be held on the 17-18 March in Melbourne. The topic of his talk is “Paving a Future Direction for Disability Policy Reform in Australia” and will address many of the challenges mentioned in this interview. For more information about the conference and to register, please visit the National Disability Summit website.

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