Change. Some say it’s as good as a holiday; others say it’s akin to psychological torture. Whatever your view, one thing is certain – if you work in the Community Sector, change isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And in my view, this change brings with it challenge, but also optimism.
In the NDIS space, we’re gearing up for a Disability Royal Commission and a review of the NDIS, while managing most states’ and territories’ transition to the national NDIS Quality and Safeguards Framework. The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission is now operating in all states and territories except for WA, and providers across the country are dealing with a mountain of operational changes resulting from a number of internal and external reviews of the NDIA and the Scheme’s operation.
On the Aged Care front, transition to the new Aged Care Quality Standards is consuming government and providers alike, as is responding to the fall out from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
Whilst there have been some insights into innovative and new ways of delivering aged care, sadly the main focus of the most recent hearings continues to reveal confronting stories of neglect. The main areas highlighted are:
- Ratios of staff-to-clients in residential facilities;
- The ‘Earle Haven’ case study in Queensland; and
- The potential breakdown in processes with the consolidation of aged care complaints and now Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.
Amergin, too, is continuously evolving. This week, we have welcomed Grandall and Kelli (who we’ll introduce in more detail in future Agenda editions) to our Consulting team, led by Senior Consultant Sarah. This team will work closely together to continue to deliver quality NDIS and Aged Care Support to our clients. Senior Consultant Aynsley has become our Aged Care Manager, reflecting her wealth of expertise and experience in this area, and the breadth of work she is undertaking in this space on behalf of Amergin.
Existing Consultants Hannah and Lauren have moved into our new Everyday Practice team, which is responsible for implementing our successful NDIS Commission grant under the Support for NDIS Providers program. Hannah and Lauren will be developing a range of resources for the Everyday Practice website in collaboration with our partner Queenslanders with Disability Network(QDN) and Steering Committee members Community Resource Unit (CRU) and Richmond Fellowship Queensland (RFQ). They will also manage the site’s public forums and help desk. In addition, we recently welcomed Developer Jeff, who will support the back-end production and maintenance of the Everyday Practice website, forums and help desk. Don’t forget, you can register to receive updates on Everyday Practice.
Our Marketing Support Officer (and Amergin all-rounder) Ben has received a well-deserved promotion and is responsible for the delivery of a number of important initiatives across Amergin, amerginhub and Everyday Practice. And our Operations Manager Belinda and Accounts Manager Sue continue to provide vital behind-the-scenes support.
In light of these internal changes, we recently revisited our Mission, Vision and Values to ensure they align with the nature of support needed by our clients and the Community Sector more broadly, as well as our own strategic direction. I’m pleased to share them with you:
Amergin’s Vision is to drive change in the community sector, business and government to transform lives.
Amergin’s Mission is to be a Centre of Excellence in community services, with industry experts providing innovative end-to-end service solutions.
Amergin prides itself on and upholds the following values:
Credibility This is personal. We’ve been on the ground and we walk the talk of the community sector. We are passionate about inspiring best practice in community services. Our knowledge is kept up-to-date through our own direct experience, connection with industry and ongoing professional development. We help genuine community sector providers who want to deliver best practice services and make a positive impact in their industry.
Transparency We have integrity. We are upfront and honest. We are clear about what our clients can expect from us, the work we undertake and the advice we give. We provide genuine advice and choice to our clients and set realistic expectations about what we can and cannot do. We are collaborative, working in partnership with our clients so they are empowered to be the best community sector providers they can be.
Quality Amergin is a Centre of Excellence. We work collaboratively with clients, with other staff and with the industries we work in to ensure our knowledge, advice and service delivery is of the highest quality. We take a continuous improvement approach and go above and beyond to ensure all clients receive the best support possible. We are committed to supporting our clients to deliver high quality, best practice services, so in turn, they can transform the lives of the people they support. We are dedicated, committed and people-focused.
2019 was always going to be a big year for the sector, and no doubt, the changes will keep coming. In the face of this, Amergin will continue to adapt and grow, to make the most of new opportunities and to help our clients and the broader community sector ride the continuous waves of change. What won’t change however, is our dedicated focus on educating and empowering Australia’s community sector providers to deliver high quality and safe services to their clients.
Choice and control are at the very foundation of the NDIS. Participants are provided with a funding package based on an assessment & planning process which identifies reasonable and necessary supports needed for them to live their life.
Supports may help participants achieve goals in many different areas of your life including independence, community involvement, education, employment & health & wellbeing.
So why wouldn’t ‘paying for sex’ be a funded service under the NDIS, considering people with disability – whether physical or intellectual – may face challenges in achieving sexual pleasure?
This week, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) granted a woman with multiple sclerosis the right to have a sex therapist paid for under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) following an appeal. While this does not explicitly mean participants can ‘pay for sex workers’, it does mean they can seek the services of a qualified sex therapist.
This raises some questions…
What exactly does a sex therapist do? Professional sex therapy can provide sex education, guidance and counselling to couples and individuals with a disability. They have to obtain a certification, but they do not typically have any physical contact with clients.
Ok… Does this mean the AAT got it wrong by including sex therapy when it doesn’t actually provide a complete resolution to that particular woman’s argument? The AAT have taken the position that by including professional sex therapy, because it’s a recognised ‘professional service’, will be sufficient to recognise the intimacy needs of people living the disability.
So, what happens now? Ultimately, this sets a precedence for further debate around how far the NDIS should go to fund the sexual / intimacy needs of participants in the Scheme.
What does the NDIS think about the ruling? The Minister for the NDIS, Stuart Robert, said that ruling was ‘out of line’ with community expectations and went on to say the National Disability Insurance Agency would appeal the decision.
There’s no doubt the Sex & the NDIS is a taboo subject – whether you think it should or shouldn’t be included, it’s clear this needs to be discussed more openly in a public forum with all stakeholders including participants, providers, advocates and Government.
Last week, Amergin delivered its Melbourne Certification Workshop with both new and existing NDIS providers attending.
Amergin Director, Christine Dempsey said, “Amergin has always been about educating providers about their operational and compliance responsibilities so they can be the best they can be”.
The Certification Workshops are designed to give organisations the right education in terms of what the policies and procedures actually mean, how to apply them to suit individual business requirements and how to keep them updated.
“There’s a growing misconception in the by providers that having documentation that meets the NDIS Practice Standards is enough to businesses through a Certification Audit. The reality is, unless you understand and implement them correctly, you’re not compliant”.
Amergin would like to say thank you to BSI who provided a session on ‘preparing for an NDIS Audit’ and hosted the event.
Amergin will look to deliver more events across Australia so keep an eye out on the Amergin website.
Are you an established, medium to large disability organisation and want to request a workshop for your team? Get in touch with Ben Reed – [email protected] or call us on (07) 3056 0920.
One of Australia’s leading NDIS consultancy services, Amergin, will deliver an innovative new online platform, Everyday Practice, as one of the major recipients of funding under the NDIS Commission’s Support for NDIS Providers Program.
Announced today, Everyday Practice is a free, national education and community resource for all NDIS providers and participants. The program’s primary purpose is to help NDIS providers comply with their day-to-day NDIS obligations (Everyday Practice) through the lens of NDIS participants’ experience.
Amergin Director, Christine Dempsey, said, “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to make a real difference on the ground for providers and participants operating in what can be a confusing and highly challenging environment”.
The objective of Everyday Practice is to bridge the gap between compliance and service delivery in order to substantially increase the quality and safety of supports being delivered to NDIS participants on a day-to-day basis.
Dempsey continued, “The Program also aims to break down barriers between providers and participants and promote positive, collaborative information sharing and knowledge building, to improve the NDIS experience for all stakeholders”.
Amergin is one of Australia’s leading NDIS and Aged Care consultancy services delivering registration, compliance, marketing and educational support to organisations across the country. Amergin was recently nominated for the 2019 Telstra Awards and was in the top ten percent of Queensland businesses entered.
Amergin was one of ten organisations receiving grants this year worth a total of $5.7million under the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission’s new four-year $17.6 million investment in building capacity amongst NDIS providers.
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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
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.
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”.
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?
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.