Amergin NDIS & Aged Care: What We Can Expect From 2019

We would like to welcome back our valued clients, friends and partners to another year that promises much excitement and change.

Taking a quick look back to 2018, it’s not hard to see why many organisations in the community sector are drawing a line in the sand and hoping 2019 will bring more favourable winds to push their ships towards better certainty and success. So, what can we expect in the next 12 months?

Well, even with a new disability system still in its infancy and an aged care sector at the centre of a Royal Commission, the light is starting to show at the end of the tunnel. How, you say?

Just like a bushfire can wipe out everything in single day, when you visit the same place a few months’ later, you’ll see regeneration; animals returning; and whole new ecosystems developing. Let’s take a closer look at what I’m talking about…

NDIS

There are two major signs that this monumental disability reform that began rolling out in 2016 is finally starting to lose its training wheels as it heads towards a self-regulated marketplace beyond 2020:

  1. The participants and providers themselves are starting to get it – how it works; where the opportunities are; what still needs work; and very importantly, that you can’t go into business and survive in this industry without having a solid foundation. These two groups are the foundation of the system, which means the government needs to keep helping them to more easily navigate the system.
  2. The new ‘parent’ for service providers, called the NDIS Commission (currently overseeing South Australia and New South Wales) is responsible for bringing the other states under the same roof. With Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, the ACT and the Northern Territory all about to make the same transition from 1 July, 2019, the Commission will have the oversight and control to guide the market where it needs to go.

Aged Care

Yes, the Royal Commission began in January 2019 and, let’s face it, we already know what’s coming. It won’t be pretty and will almost certainly hang a curtain of shame over Australia for years to come. This year we will see the true extent of what’s happened and how we have failed a generation of our most experienced, respected, knowledgeable, longest-living residents of this great country.

However, with failure comes learning. When the last ember has burnt, we know regeneration will follow. Maybe not tomorrow or the next day – but soon. This is an opportunity for us to acknowledge the past then recreate the future we want.

So, what’s Amergin’s focus for 2019? Quite simply, we want to continue doing what we’ve been doing since the beginning – help every organisation across the community sector be their very best, no matter how unpredictable the environment they operate in.

Our approach is very much about helping you understand so you know why it’s important (versus ‘here are the answers to the exam questions’). And this is important if you want to establish (and maintain) a strong foundation for the future. With innovative services like amerginhub transforming the landscape, we are making this a reality of every organisation operating across the country; and there’s much more to come.

We look forward to continuing our journey with you over the next 12-months and helping you take your organisation to the next level – wherever you are on your journey.

The Importance of Compliance … in GIFs

When was the last time you reviewed your Policies and Procedures… or even looked at them? Do you even have them?!

Cue the excuses: ‘I have a business to run!’ ‘I don’t have time!’ ‘We’re trying to deliver good quality services, not get bogged down in onerous paperwork!’ ‘It’s just too hard!’.

…Throw any excuse my way and I can guarantee I’ve heard it.

Unfortunately, excuses won’t protect you from the repercussions of a client being seriously harmed, a staff member being badly injured while on the job, a major privacy breach, financial fraud – or just straight out closure.

If you’re in this business to make a difference and want to be here for the long term, you have no choice but to keep up with your compliance requirements. It’s a responsibility you owe to your business, your staff, and most importantly, your clients. And it will make you a better provider, which can only be good for business.

Your Policies and Procedures and the checks and balances you use to make sure you adhere to them make up your Quality Management System – or QMS. As the name suggests, a QMS is the foundation of how you run a quality and safe business. And it doesn’t just cover NDIS or Aged Care legislation, it’s about managing every aspect of your business and how it operates. Because of this scope, your QMS should be reviewed and updated regularly, based on changes in industry and (local, state and federal) legislative requirements. It’s a BIG deal.

So, if you haven’t looked at your QMS lately, pull it down from the top shelf and dust it off, or hit Ctrl+F on the laptop. Put the time – and resources – into checking for updates frequently. They’ll quickly add up. Waiting until a few weeks before you’re audited – or better yet, waiting until your audit – then panicking that you’re not prepared, is no fun for anyone.

And trust me, you don’t want to find out at audit – or even worse, through a serious incident – that you’re not across your responsibilities.

There are a range of ways you can keep on top of changes in your compliance requirements, including subscribing to:

  • Federal and State legislation updates;
  • the NDIS newsletter;
  • NDIS Commission updates;
  • Department of Health updates;
  • State Government Department disability and/or aged care updates;
  • the Aged Care Quality Agency newsletter;
  • the Fair Work Ombudsman newsletter; and
  • State work health and safety updates.

Of course, amerginhub provides all this and more in one place. But, you also have to implement the changes.

Luckily, we can help you with that too. Just give us more than a week’s notice.

So, what are you waiting for?

Aged Care Package Boost, Introduction of Quality and Safety Committee and Royal Commission update

December 2018 saw a boost of positivity towards the Aged Care sector with the Australian Government announcing an investment of $287 million dollars in order to provide an additional 10,000 Home Care Packages.

This funding is expected to increase the number of Level 3 and Level 4 high care packages to become available from Dec/Jan through to June 2019. It is also hoped that this will alleviate some of the pressure of the current wait list and boost the support available to those currently in receipt of Level 1 and 2 Packages waiting for higher care.


The new Aged Care Quality and Safety Committee have commenced operations as of 1 January 2019 to replace the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency and the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner.

Their role is to protect and enhance the safety, health, well-being and quality of life of clients receiving aged care. Through independent accreditation, assessments and monitoring aged care services (subsidised by the Australian Government) they aim to promote high quality care and services to safeguard clients receiving funded care.

Through engagement with and education for consumers and providers, they will work to ensure trust, empowerment and compliance with the quality standards. This is also promoted by the focus of the government to combine the auditing and complains management functionalities to support better engagement with consumers and providers and promote transparency.

It is also important to note that from 1 January 2020 the aged care provider applications and compliance functions will transfer across from the Department of Health to the new quality and safety committee.


Australia’s Aged Care Royal Commission has commenced its first Public Sitting on 19th January, to hear Commissioner Briggs’ and Tracey’s initial thoughts on how the Commission will operate.

Statements were also heard from Senior Council members on the future of the inquiry, and initial responses from the 83 largest Aged Care Providers asked to detail information about their services late December 2018.

The Royal Commission process initially commenced with 100 large aged care providers (residential and aged care) in Australia being asked to answer questions about how they treat their residents/clients, the quality of care they provide and any significant issues that have been raised as concerns over the past 5 years.

Patterns have already been noted in relation to residential care concerns, elder abuse, mismanagement of medication, issues of food safety and overuse of psychotropic medications and will be investigated further as part of the commission.

The Commissions first significant hearing will be on 11th February and public hearings, together with roundtable and community consultations will continue across each State and Territory through 2019, into 2020.

Dependable Care Open Day

Today, Amergin Director Tony Dempsey had the pleasure of attending the Open Day for (now approved NDIS provider) Dependable Care.

The event was attended by Federal Minister, Ged Kearney and Victorian Minister, Robin Scott who were both present for the unveiling of additional facilities and services. Tony was able to discuss the challenges facing the sector and in particular the providers who work hard to deliver such important services to communities right around Australia.

Dependable Care deliver accomodation and other support services for people across Melbourne. The event was a great opportunity to meet the amazing staff and the incredible people they support every day.

Why ‘Generic’ Policies and Procedures Will Not Cut It

If you have, or are considering, purchasing standardised policies and procedures for your organisation, it is unlikely you will pass government certification (audit). Here are three reasons why:

  1. The ‘cookie cutter’ approach

Policies and procedures must reflect the individuality of the organisation’s they govern; and every organisation is fundamentally different, whether it be the types of services you offer, the way you offer them or even where you offer them. These documents form the fundamental basis of how you operate and for your staff to be able to follow them they need to be tailored and relevant to how you actually operate.

  1. Government legislative changes

State and Federal governments continually review and update legislation to serve an ever-changing Australian society. In 2018 alone, the Victorian State Government has passed at least four major legislation changes (related to disability services). Each of these changes have considerably impacted the State Government’s minimum requirements with respect to NDIS policies and procedures.

  1. Responsibilities

It’s not enough to set out a policy and process. Your Policies and Procedures must clearly set out lines of reporting and who is responsible for what action in any given circumstance. This is incredibly important when dealing with high risk matters such as critical incidents. It also needs to be clear for any client or other stakeholder reading them, who in the organisation they can contact regarding particular matters.

While not many organisations look forward to an audit, they play a crucial role for the regulating body (the Government) – providing transparency on how a business operates, ensuring they are delivering services appropriately and ethically; and, the service provider – to guide their operations and help them identify gaps so they can improve their service delivery in accordance with a broader understanding of ‘best practice’.

In industries like aged care and disability services (the NDIS), providers are dealing with vulnerable people. Audits ensure that you, the service provider, are best equipped to deliver your services, mitigate risks, and improve your services to help you thrive.

Our team invests many hours keeping up-to-date with the state and government legislation that has the potential to impact your organisation. We continue to work alongside auditing bodies to further understand provider compliance requirements and importantly, make sure your documentation is well-received by auditors and meets all compliance expectations.

We know it can be time consuming and costly investing in tailored policies and procedures to govern your organisation. However, also consider the cost and delay of having to pay for them twice because the first ones weren’t adequate…

To find out more about your compliance requirements and getting support in your business, join amerginhub free!

Launching Australia’s most ’empowerful’ provider support platform

Today, we launch amerginhub – an online support platform that will change the way you think and operate.

With increasing demands placed on NDIS and Aged Care providers, it’s becoming harder to not only operate a quality care service but also manage the additional layers needed to be competitive, viable and compliant in the long-term. amerginhub opens the door to a growing community of like-minded providers who share the same challenges, while also bringing together essential tools, information and resources to help you more effectively run your organisation.

By working in-line with your organisation’s specific requirements, you’ll be part of a true business partnership that delivers instant access to a wide range of support services, all within a supportive environment.

BENEFITS

  • Collaborate with like-minded organisations and be part of a community who understand and supports you.
  • Save time and money on support staff and resource development.
  • Access best practice training modules and industry-specific education tools.
  • Book one of our specialist team for organisation readiness support or onsite audit preparation.
  • Get complete NDIS and Aged Care Registration Support from start-to-finish.
  • Stay informed with state and federal updates.
  • Always be compliant with our innovative policy and procedures manual update service.
  • Take advantage of exclusive industry partnership offers.

 

Whether you’re a new provider or established organisation, you can join the amerginhub community FREE by clicking here

New NDIS Price Guide: What It Means For Providers

The NDIA has delivered some welcome news to providers following an Independent Pricing Review (IPR) – 10 of which will come into effect from 1 July 2018.

There’s no doubt that yesterday’s news announcing the NDIA’s acceptance of the IPR’s pricing recommendations demonstrates its willingness to take ‘bigger’ steps in the right direction. With capped hourly rates and tight worker-participant ratios making things difficult, many provider services have struggled to survive, let alone prosper. With some key funding increases to come into effect almost immediately (and in much needed areas) many providers will be a little happier leading into the new financial year.

However, there is a strong argument that the NDIS pricing model should take into account deeper considerations. The argument around ‘what hourly rate is adequate to operate a service’ must go beyond simple operational viability and include a broader perspective around the other challenges facing providers. The immediate challenges (and required supports) for disability service providers will generally depend on which of two groups they fit in:

  1. New businesses trying to establish their services. Like any new business, half the battle is getting the service off the ground, let alone building efficient internal processes, employing staff  and ultimately being able to compete effectively. Conservative profits can make it particularly hard for these services to survive long-term as they build their client bases.
  2. Established, larger non-government organisations trying to transition from existing ‘block funding models’ to the new world of participant-managed funding. Many organisations have simply had to close down with no clear way to survive once the money runs out. Those who are pushing through are having to diversify their services, invest heavily in marketing to reposition themselves and look for ways to build internal capacity.

While the 2018/19 NDIS Price Guide has taken into account operational margins, there’s been little provision to support services across both groups and help them manage these challenges. And, as the NDIS market grows with ever-increasing numbers of participants and service providers, the Federal Government continues to juggle the Scheme’s affordability while trying to build a long-term, self-sustaining marketplace for the future – and this has proven much more difficult, particularly given the fast pace of the rollout.

While there are no immediate solutions, the Government’s ‘guarantee’ of the Scheme means the only way to move is forward and the Scheme, its participants and providers will need to find a way through.

Below are the 10 changes to come into effect from 1 July, 2018.

Regional Travel

The Independent Pricing Review (IPR) highlighted the difficulty that participants (who do not live in a metropolitan area, but are not considered remote) may have with accessing supports.

  • Providers will now be able to charge up to 45 minutes of travel time in rural areas with more specific arrangements for remote areas to be implemented in the not too distant future.

Group Supports

The IPR highlighted the inconsistency between charges for high intensity or complex requirements for group based supports in a centre compared to other core supports.

  • New price limits will be introduced for both standard and high intensity community-based group supports, to allow for support ratios of 1:4 and 1:5 (i.e. worker:participant ratio).
  • A capital allowance will be included in the price limits for centre-based group care.

Short Term Accommodation

The IPR report recommended the NDIA address the update made to price limits for STA to ensure they reflect the costs of delivering the service.

  • A new price limit will be added for STA to allow for a 1:3 support worker to participant ratio.

Temporary Support Overhead

The IPR recognised the time and effort it takes for providers to establish efficient systems and processes to support the roll out of the NDIS.

  • 2.5 per cent loading will be added to standard intensity attendant care supports, helping to support providers transition their business to the NDIS funding model.

Cancellation policy for core supports

The IPR highlighted the inefficiencies that last minute cancellations cause for providers.

  • Providers will now be able to charge 90 per cent of the service booking price for short notice cancellations, up to a maximum of 12 cancellations per year for core supports and 6 hours per year for therapy.

Group supports (community based) / Group supports (centre based)

The IPR report suggested the current price limits for group supports did not allow for sufficient flexibility in group care arrangements.

  • New  price options to support 1:4 and 1:5 support worker to participant ratios for both standard and high intensity rates will be added to the 2018/19 NDIA Price Guide.

Therapy assistant (level 1)

The IPR suggested an increase to the price limit and the inclusion of a second tier of the therapy assistant rate would result in improved participant outcomes. 

  • The hourly rate for therapy assistants (Level 1) will be increased to align with the rate for a standard level support worker.

Therapy travel

The IPR report found that participants living in regional areas may find it difficult to access therapy supports.

  • The NDIA will now remove the $1,000 cap for therapist travel.
  • Therapists can now claim for travel up to 45 minutes when visiting participants in regional areas, and up to 20 minutes for all other areas.

Cancellation policy for therapy

The IPR highlighted the inefficiencies that last minute cancellations cause for therapists.

  • Therapists will now have the option to charge 90 per cent of the service fee for a participant who cancels an appointment at short notice.

Reports requested by NDIA

The IPR report acknowledged the out of pocket time and resources for providers when supplying reports that are requested by NDIA.

  • To acknowledge this providers will now be able to claim for:
    • Reports requested at the commencement of a plan which identify goals and objectives
    • Reports requested at plan review to measure progress against those goals
    • Any other report as stipulated within participant plans.

 

For the full 2018/2019 Price Guide – click here

Amergin Director Presenting at 2018 National Mental Health Forum

We’re very excited to be attending this week’s National Mental Health Forum in Sydney with Amergin’s very own, Christine Dempsey delivering her presentation on ‘Developing strategies to remain sustainable under the NDIS’.

Christine is one of Australia’s foremost experts on the Australian disability services sector, primarily the NDIS. Christine will be providing key strategies to help CEOs, Directors and other Executives transition to the Scheme effectively and sustainably.

You can register to attend here.

2018 Federal Budget: What it means for Aged Care and NDIS Providers

As the Australian public continue to digest the impact from the Federal Government’s 2018 Budget Announcement, the overall implications for the disability sector (National Disability Insurance Scheme or NDIS) and aged care sector appear to be quite positive – for providers and participants alike. We’ve tried to cover some key areas that service providers should be aware of.


Aged Care

The Aged Care sector, in particular, will receive a huge financial boost to manage Australia’s ageing population and ever-increasing demand for in-home care services. There is still scepticism as to whether this commitment is only scratching the surface when thinking about the real demands on the sector in the future.

Increased demand for in-home care services

The budget provides $1.6 billion over four years for 14,000 people to stay in their homes rather than nursing homes. The funding boost means close to 74,000 people will be able to access home care packages by mid-2022.

Increased demand for mental health services

For those who are in a nursing home, the Government is promising $83 million to address the drastic shortage of mental health services in residential aged care facilities.

Improving the quality of providers and standard of care they deliver

  • The Government will establish an independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission in January 2019, bringing together the functions of the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency, the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner. This measure is aimed at holding providers more accountable and empowering Australians who use their services.
  • Just over $250m has been allocated to helping to safeguard rights and protect people from abuse.
  • $50m has been allocated to help providers meet new standards.

Access to services by Australia’s Indigenous people

A commitment of over $105m to improve access to aged care facilities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities.


NDIS

The main piece of positive news for the NDIS was more related to the Federal Government’s funding commitment and provides real confidence for disability advocates. It is however still hard to ignore the long-term challenge facing the Scheme where Government services and supports are struggling to keep up due to the fast pace of its rollout. 

Guaranteed funding

In the weeks leading up to the 2018 Budget Announcement, there was significant concern from disability advocates that the scrapping of proposed 0.5 per cent Medicare levy rise to fully fund the NDIS – from last year’s federal budget – was now no longer necessary due to an improved fiscal position. They can now breathe a sigh of relief with Treasurer Scott Morrison announcing in his federal budget speech that the NDIS would be fully funded now and into the future -the NDIS is on track to be fully rolled out by 2020, with 140,000 Aussies now accessing the scheme.

Support services for NDIS Providers

As the NDIS readies itself to transition to a national regulatory framework (NDIS Quality and Safeguards Framework) from 1 July 2018, there were no signs in the Federal Budget of efforts to increase support services and for both providers (and participants). The ever-growing frustration when people call the NDIS’s 1800 number in addition to the lack of communication (particularly through the www.ndis.gov.au website) is frustrating at best.

Increasing the NDIS workforce

An extra $92.1 million will support people who aren’t yet eligible but are transitioning towards the NDIS, and a jobs fund will be launched with an additional $64m to add more NDIS support workers.

 

What are your thoughts on the 2018 Federal Budget for service providers?

The New National NDIS Quality and Safeguards

At the NDIS Provider Forum in Adelaide this week, we heard a lot of detail around  the National Quality and Safeguards Framework that will be coming in to effect from 1 July 2018.

Here are 8 things providers need to know:

  1. The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission (or the Commission) will oversee the implementation of a new quality assurance scheme, to include the new Practice Standards, only for States that have completely rolled out – South Australia and New South Wales will be the first to transition.
  2. Both the new provider ‘registration’ and registered provider ‘transition’ processes under the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Framework are now known.  However, the Practice Standards are still being finalised and expected to be released in April 2018.
  3. Existing providers registration will continue to be recognised and the Commission will initiate renewals against the new standards progressively.
  4. The NDIS Practice Standards will address:
    • Rights and Responsibilities
    • Governance and Operational Management
    • Provision of Supports
    • Support Provision Environment
  5. The providers will have to undergo ‘verification’ and/or certification’, depending on the type of services they’re intending to deliver. The Commission will be responsible for approving all registrations.
  6. A Provisional Licence will be granted for providers applying for, or, adding additional registration groups.
  7. Registration will consist of annual surveillance and 3 yearly recertification. Auditors will make recommendations to the Commission of compliance and for a provisional licence.
  8. Organisations will need to select from a list of recommended auditors will be provided by the Commission. Auditors will be expected to ‘work with and help empower’ providers. The audits themselves will be proportional to the organisations size and service footprint.

 

Amergin is the trusted name to help your business register for the NDIS.
We partner with you from start-to-finish, providing ongoing education, support and advice. Our experienced Team will develop high-quality, tailored documentation – including policies and procedures and self-assessments – so your organisations will comply with the new Practice Standards upon release. We can even help you prepare for audit!

Click here for complete NDIS registration support

Already registered?
While organisations already registered will roll in to the new Framework form the NDIA, the Commission will be contacting organisations to take them through new compliance expectation. For registered providers, Amerginhub is your ongoing compliance resource portal with industry / government updates, useful resources and tools and much more! We can also develop website and deliver tailored NDIS organisation preparedness workshops for your business.