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Media release: Improving the NDIS is possible with better access to data, greater local level pricing discretion and restoring local area coordinator roles

There is a need for sufficient and appropriate data so that researchers can identify and address gaps in NDIS services. We need to relieve burden on providers and participants navigating a complex scheme, says leading NDIS researcher.

There are three easy wins for the NDIS that will solve a whole lot of problems for providers, advocates and participants, according to leading researcher Associate Professor Gemma Carey.

Associate Professor Carey, who has dedicated her career to the NDIS, led a webinar on the NDIS yesterday as part of the Centre for Social Impact’s impact2020 series.

Carey says that whilst there is a real belief in the scheme and things are moving in the right direction, staffing caps and outsourcing of crucial resources have created an administrative burden that defers accountability, increases load on an underfunded provider network and creates inequity and increased risk to its participants.

“There’s a few easy wins that could be changed that would address a whole bunch of issues straight away. If we could turn Local Area Coordinators (LACs) back into LACs, that would solve a whole bunch of issues,” she said. 

The coordinators hold a position blueprinted to be the glue in the system at the local level. They are meant to connect people with services and services with services to generate innovation. The LAC role has been outsourced and diverted to a primarily planning role.

“Accountability for LACs now sits in a really instrumentalist way within the contracts between the NDIA and the individual organisations. So, this is an issue when a key feature of the scheme that was about helping it run smoothly and there is no ownership of that anymore,” she said.

Carey also says it would be an easy win if we could change the way pricing is done to give more discretion at a local level, that would solve a lot of those local market problems.

“We have consistently found that providers aren’t coping well with the pricing arrangements and I would say that is exacerbated by the amount of uncosted administrative work that they are doing helping people understand and get what they need from the scheme,” she said.

“Centrally set prices and targets are really problematic. They don’t account for variations in contexts where there are really different needs and service costs. In the UK, local pricing discretion has allowed for adjustments to be made when things cost more, for local innovation or bridging an organisation that needs to reorientate.”

Carey stated that the last of the easy wins that would solve many issues would include freer access to data so researchers “would be able to run an analysis of where the problems are happening for different groups and different populations and feed that back in so it can be acted upon”.

“While we have very limited access to data, we spend a lot of time recreating the wheel trying to get a sense of what’s going on for different protocols in the scheme,” she said.

“It’s always very hard to know what's going on in the agency (NDIA) from the outside. But if there is a concern around equity, I think that would need to be reflected in the release of data that helps us see the inequity. Because if we can’t see it, how do any of us get in there and make arguments to have it changed?”

To register for an impact2020 webinar and for more information about the summit program and presenters visit www.impact2020.online/program.

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