National Roadshow Hits Right Note With Queensland Providers

Amergin’s first of a series of NDIS Certification Workshops has received an overwhelming ‘thumbs up’ by providers operating in Queensland.

With five States and Territories transitioning to the new Quality and Safeguards Framework from 1 July 2019, the Certification Workshops are designed to help new businesses register (or existing businesses renew) under the NDIS Commission, the national regulatory body for NDIS providers.

The Workshops are specifically designed to create a personalised learning environment to help business Directors, Quality Managers and even Support Workers understand the detail that’s hard to find

“Everything was well run, warm welcoming and very informative”
Brisbane Workshop Attendee

Championed by Christine Dempsey (one of Australia’s foremost NDIS experts) the Amergin Team covers the key areas with a particular focus on helping providers understand, tailor and implement their own policies and procedures – while also learning how to keep them up to date.

Christine commented on the value of the workshops saying, “One of the key benefits of attending one of the workshops is that each organisation gets to walk away with their own high-quality policies and procedures”.

Attendees are also treated to a session on how to prepare for Certification Audits by one of our approved NDIS Auditors.

“I feel so much more confident going into audit and knowing what I need to be focusing on as a provider”
Brisbane Workshop Attendee

Christine went on to say, “We have tried to include the high-value parts of our consulting service into one educational workshop. We want providers to leave with the knowledge and confidence to be the best they can be, both now and into the future”.

Book your spot for our Sydney or Melbourne Workshop!

Fraud and the NDIS

You may have seen in the news this month there have been court proceedings around suspected fraud against the NDIS. Also, in March this year a syndicate in NSW allegedly cheated $1.1m from NDIS participants and bought luxury cars with the funds.

Back in July 2018, the Minister for Social Services (Dan Tehan) announced the creation of an the NDIS Fraud Taskforce to prevent and combat fraud against the NDIS and the NDIA. The taskforce has a focus on high risk and serious criminal activity that may be potentially targeting the NDIS Participants.

A Dedicated Fraud Reporting Hotline operated by the NDIA was also established to report any suspicions of fraud committed by Service Providers, Participants or NDIA Staff/Local Area Coordinators.

 

What to Report regarding Participants?

  • Using NDIS plan funds for non-disability supports
  • Claims for services that may also be claimed through the Medicare and the Health System
  • Suspicion of Family, Friends or Carers accessing NDIS funds for their personal use
  • Individuals falsifying their identity and other details to gain access to the Scheme

 

What to Report regarding Service Providers?

  • Falsification of invoices
  • Having unqualified support staff providing services
  • Using NDIA or NDIS branding to mislead Participants
  • Under-servicing a Participant (for example: charging for one hour, but only delivering 40 minutes of support)
  • Altering the dates of supports provided to increase the rate charged to a participants plan (for example: charging a weekend rate on a weekday)
  • Claiming for supports that didn’t occur
  • Charging one-to-one rates for supports delivered in a group
  • Charging unreasonable amounts for travel

 

How do I report Fraud?

By phoning the Fraud Reporting hotline on 1800 650 717 or by emailing [email protected] You can find more information on reporting suspected fraud on the NDIS website.

The NDIS: Still A Leaky Boat?

Another election is over. The campaign banners have been packed away and the barrage of political rhetoric invading our senses over the last few months has all but dissipated.

We still have a Scheme that can be compared to a wooden boat (with a few small leaks) travelling down a river and about to embark on a journey across the high seas. The boat is driven forward by bursts of winds sent by the government trying desperately to fill its sails – but unfortunately those small leaks are starting to cause real problems.

There is good news on the horizon with Prime Minister Scott Morrison making it clear he intends to take speedy action in his new term, focussed on getting the NDIS back on track. This was on the cards before the election: he intervened to prompt increased price caps for providers and introduced a range of provider support grants to subsidise costs associated with registration – all designed to keep providers operating and help grow the market.

Election Outcomes

  • Fresh Faces in Government
    Stuart Robert has assumed the role of Minister for the NDIS and will be charged with delivering on this promise, with Former Labor Leader, Bill Shorten as the Shadow Minister – remembering it was Mr Shorten who drove the Scheme forward in his previous role of Parliamentary Secretary for Disability Services. Senator Anne Ruston will work alongside Mr Robert as Minister for Social Services.
  • Advocates are Optimistic
    Disability advocates are generally happy with the news on both sides of politics, hoping it will renew (and hasten) efforts to make the NDIS as it was intended to be. Acting CEO of NDS, David Moody says he’s looking forward to working with the new cabinet and is delighted there is now a Minister appointed to the NDIS.
  • Renewed Focus
    You can already feel a positive change in the air. A willingness to move forward, put differences aside and work in true bipartisanship to nurture this great social reform that so many Australians now and will depend upon.

Biggest Challenges

We expect the Government to target some of the ‘big leaks’ threatening the Scheme, including:

  • Long waits for services
    During the election campaign, the Morrison government committed to introducing a new NDIS Participant Guarantee to make it quicker for people to enter the scheme or have their plans reviewed. It committed to introducing an NDIS Participant Service Guarantee which would would set timeframes for participants to receive an access decision, and have their plan approved or reviewed.
  • Staff shortages
    Some of the key challenges faced by the NDIA in terms of implementing the Scheme is staff shortages. In 2014, a staffing cap was placed on the NDIA (3,000) to mitigate cost-blowouts. While the Government committed to gradually increasing these numbers to 3,400 by 2020-12, it’s obvious that real progress will only be made if the cap is substantially increased or removed altogether.
  • Diversity
    The NDIS is failing to accommodate diversity with the rates of disability higher in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations (almost 25%), but only 5% of participants of this cultural heritage. Concerningly this is also seen amongst culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) populations more broadly, despite efforts on behalf of the NDIA to foster engagement.
  • Provider Engagement
    The Government needs to see at least another 20,000 providers enter the Scheme to service an expected 460,000 participants in the next two years. The NDIS Commission recognised that many providers are still struggling to run viable business, prompting a Provider Grants Program to help providers access important tools, resources and supports.

The number of NDIS participants has grown to 277,155 this quarter—a 13% increase. A record number of 85,489 participants are receiving support for the first time under the NDIS. Registered provider numbers now total 20,208, which is a 6% increase on the last quarter – according to the latest NDIS Quarterly Report

While there’s lots of work to be done, we can be more confident of a more proactive and collegial response to getting things back on track. If the Government can make an impact on some of the issues hindering the Scheme’s implementation, we will see greater appeal for providers and better services for participants.

More importantly the leaky boat will turn into a reliable strong vessel, protecting its crew and passengers and taking us to lands we’ve only so far heard about.

Amergin presents on ‘everything NDIS’ for counsellors

Everything-NDIS-Tony

Amergin’s General Manager, Tony Dempsey presented to members of the Professional Counselling Association (PCA) for Sydney and the ACT on Saturday 13th of April.

Counsellors (and many other allied health professionals) have unique challenges when trying to navigate the NDIS and understand how they can operate viably as a provider.

While the NDIS broadly covers the requirements of business looking to register and operate in the Scheme, the more detailed information around ‘how does it relate to my business’ is not quite as clear.

Everything-NDIS-Crowd

Adding to what can be a confusing and complex registration process, each allied health profession faces very unique registration and operating challenges. This inadvertently creates a sense of ‘it’s all too hard’ and means those businesses who could be leading in the market are waiting to see what happens.

Tony Dempsey commented on the situation for counsellors, and more broadly allied health professionals, “We speak to businesses every day who are often keen but deterred by the process and other things like the registration and audit costs. It’s not surprising that many are often reluctant to throw their hat in the ring without a clear way to know if it’s the right (and a viable) option for them.”

Over 65% of registered NDIS providers are registered to deliver ‘therapeutic supports’, a registration group aligned with the delivery of allied health services and supports.

Everything-NDIS-Nicole

Amergin partners with the Australian Counselling Association (ACA) who support over 5,000 members across Australia and works closely to deliver tailored and specific information to help their members register and operate in the NDIS.

Guidelines For Disability Royal Commission Announced

Disability-Royal-Commission

This morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the Terms of Reference that will guide a 3-year investigation into abuse, violence, neglect and exploitation of Australians with a disability.

While the announcement of a Royal Commission was expected, the Terms of Reference are important because they outline the detail around how the Commission will be established and importantly, how it will actually work.

Christine Dempsey says, “the Royal Commission is a win for those living or caring for someone with a disability, a win for all Australians, and is another step towards making sure we’re proactively stopping abuse or neglect in our society.”

The Royal Commission will be led by former NSW Supreme Court Judge, Ronald Sackville, but also assisted by 5 other Commissioners. Christine added, “We are really pleased that the Commissioner will be assisted by other Commissioners who have lived experience with a disability”.

Key points about the Royal Commission:

  • the Commissioners are tasked with finding out how these groups can protect people with a disability;
  • it will look at all groups that provide services to people with disability such as the government and large institutions (including NDIS Providers);
  • it will run for 3 years with the final report due April 2022;
  • it will cost $527.9m; and
  • there will be a dedicated website launched in the coming months.

The Terms of Reference have been made public and cover what will be done to:

  • prevent, and better protect, people with disability from experiencing violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation;
  • achieve best practice in reporting and investigating of, and responding to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation; and
  • promote a more inclusive society that supports the independence of people with disability and their right to live free from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.
  • For more information, visit the Department of Social Services website.

Focus on the NDIS Workforce: Price Rises and Grant Opportunities

Bar-web

Scott Morrison, Robert De Luca (CEO NDIA) and Graeme Head (NDIS Commissioner) all walk in to a bar…

Ok so it doesn’t quite work like that but you could be mistaken for thinking a night on the gin and tonics has made for several positive outcomes for NDIS service providers and their workforce.

Just last week the Federal Government announced an increase to price limits for therapy, attendant care and community participation under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), effective 1 July 2019. The media release from the Assistance Minister noted these price increases will inject more than $850 million into the NDIS market in 2019-20, and the new prices include a minimum increase of almost $11 per hour for therapists and up to a 15.4 percent price increase to the base limit for attendant care and community participation.

At the same time the NDIS Commission released a grant opportunity that offers a funding pool of $5.6m in its first round (with more rounds to follow) to attract, retain and optimise the NDIS workforce as the market sets to more than double in the new few years.

The grant coupled with the price increase is definitely a positive step in the right direction to build the disability sector capacity and service provider readiness in the transition.

For more information on the price increase and the grant opportunities please visit amerginhub where our expert consultants have detailed how these developments apply to your business.

Understanding ECEI Requirements

The role you play as one part of a support team

ECEI-Article-2

The NDIS Eligibility checklist:

  • Do you live in Australia and have Australian residency?
  • Do you usually need support from a person because of a permanent and significant disability?
  • Do you need some supports now to reduce your future needs?
  • Are you aged between 7 and 65?

Are you aged between 7 and 65?

What about those in one of our most vulnerable populations?

ECEI-Article

Well you are in luck.

Under the National Disability Insurance Scheme, children under the age of 6 can access early childhood intervention supports to maximise their development. There are also supports available for parents, carers and family of a child with developmental delay or a disability to help them in their daily living with a child or sibling with a disability.

BUT what is Early Intervention?

Early intervention services for children living with disabilities is a comprehensive therapeutic approach that includes several therapy disciplines that assess a child, plan interventions, and develop participant and guardian-centred goals in order to achieve the best outcomes.

It takes a village to raise a child and a transdisciplinary team to provide Early Childhood Early Intervention.

The NDIA has defined the transdisciplinary approach as a team who works collaboratively, shares responsibility, and who sees the family as valued team members.

As a way to coordinate the delivery of services and to manage the links within a transdisciplinary team, families have the option of electing one professional as the main point of contact for families. This person is known as a Key Worker.

What this means for providers registering to provide ECEI under the NDIS.

When providing early childhood supports to NDIS participants service providers need to take a holistic approach with careful consideration of:

The Child – Service providers have a legal and ethical responsibility to ensure that thy have practices and processes in place that focus on creating a safe environment for children to learn and grow.

The Family – Service providers must recognise the importance family holds in a young person’s education and intervention. A family’s strengths, needs and priorities need to be recognised and respected.

Inclusion – Where every possible support should be provided with consideration and inclusion of a child’s daily routine and promote natural learning in a familiar environment.

Collaboration – Service providers must coordinate supports in a collaborative manner utilising the skills and knowledge of a child’s family and other relevant providers. Families have the option of engaging a key worker to scaffold this collaboration.

Capacity Building – Supports are planned and provided with the intention to build a child’s knowledge, skills and abilities in order to support a child’s learning.

Evidence – Informed Practice with an Outcome Based Approach– Service providers need to plan and offer supports that are based on validated practices, the best available research and relevant laws and regulations. As a matter of ongoing reflection, providers must ensure they have well documented assessments and plans that evaluate and report on intervention outcomes in a meaningful way.

As an ECEI provider it is your role to supports families to help children develop the skills they need to take part in daily activities and achieve the best possible outcomes throughout their life. Childhood is an important and influential time in a person’s life, early intervention leads to life time learning.

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.Frederick Douglass

New Grant To Boost Provider Workforce

Earlier this week, the NDIS Commission released a grant opportunity that offers a fund pool of $5.6m in its first round (with more rounds to follow).

The primary focus of the grant is to “attract, retain and optimise the workforce” as the market sets to more than double in the next few years. This means looking at skill development and making the NDIS an attractive proposition for a future workforce that it will need.

Amergin Director, Christine Dempsey says, “the grant will go a long way to promote capacity building for providers while also increasing the workforce in the NDIS. With many providers struggling to stay viable, initiatives like this will provide much needed relief to upskill existing staff or acquire more.”

Individual organisations can apply for up to $20,000 in funding – you can be an existing provider, currently going through the registration process or intending to register over the next 18 months.

The grant goes much further, extending to practical business supports such as professional services like consultancy to help new businesses register and existing providers make the transition to the new NDIS Quality and Safeguards Standards – of which VIC, NSW, TAS, NT and ACT will be doing from 1 July 2019.

Christine continues, “It’s an opportunity for providers look at (and invest in) their internal quality systems and ensure a ‘best practice’ service delivery model early on. With every provider now required to undergo some sort of audit under the new national system, this grant funding could help with important measures like ongoing compliance support”.

“Our expert team at Amergin can also help providers apply for the grant and effectively utilise the funds to enhance business viability and quality of services”.

Priority areas for this round include Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander service providers, providers delivering to remote locations and/or other areas where there are NDIS service gaps.

For more information, go to the Australian Governments’ Grant Connect. Registrants must also complete a Readiness Assessment to qualify.

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?