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7 Details You May Have Missed: NDIS Quarterly Report

Sara picks out the interesting bits of the latest Quarterly Report, to save you flicking through all 554 pages of it!

By Sara Gingold

Updated 15 Apr 202423 Sept 2020

A couple of weeks ago, the government surprised the sector with an early Christmas gift that we wished we could re-gift—its response to the Tune Review recommendations. Amid this whirlwind, you might not have noticed that the latest quarterly report was also released (a gift that we can all appreciate!). It is the last report for the seventh year of the Scheme. Time really does fly when you are having fun.

It is an absolute fact that quarterly reports are full of political spin and rose-coloured vision analysis. Buried amongst them, there is also a truckload of glorious data. But are you going to read a 554-page report which is the size of a Jane Austen novel? Unlikely. So, we have picked out the interesting bits, leaving your Saturday nights free for doing something a little less nerdy.

  

THE PEOPLE

Here is a quick snapshot of the current demographics of NDIS participants:

ROLLOUT COMPLETE

After years of waiting, the NDIS is now finally available everywhere in Australia. I guess it is party time?

Not so fast. There is still a lot more to be done before we can see equal access in each state and territory. As you can observe in the graph below, the percentage of NDIS participants in the population varies by as much as 1% between states (which is a lot of people). Considering that we can probably assume the prevalence of disability is roughly the same across Australia, this suggests that whilst the NDIS is available across the country, in practice, the rollout is far from complete.

As you can see, in WA, the percentage of NDIS participants in the population is low (1.47%), which is probably the result of WA being the last state to join the Scheme. Children under 14 are most likely NDIS participants in SA, which reflects the focus of SA’s NDIS trial on early childhood.

 

NDIS FINANCES

Quarterly reports are the main way we can peek at the finances of the NDIS. Here are some data highlights:

As you can see, plan utilisation rates are still quite low at 70%. Furthermore, the market appears quite concentrated, with 62% of funds going to 10 providers. However, this could partly be attributed to some plan management providers recording the payments they process as revenue, thus making them appear to be receiving more funds than they are.

But if Scheme actuaries are having nightmares, the average plan size is probably the culprit. This data point has been trending steadily upwards for years. This year, it was $50,800, but last financial year, it was $42,400 and the year before that, $38,900. A very small part of this is due to wage increase and inflation, and we can speculate that some of it may be COVID-19 related. But we also know that plan sizes tend to grow the longer people spend in the Scheme.

The Agency is obviously concerned about Scheme sustainability. Heaven knows they talk about it enough. But what is intriguing is the following measures the report says they have put in place to respond to financial pressures:

  • Reform to Supported Independent Living (SIL)
  • Exploring Individualised Living Options (ILO)
  • Instating Independent Functional Assessments

The first two are not a huge shock; we know the Agency is concerned that SIL is leaking money and that ILO is part of the solution. But Independent Functional Assessments? This inclusion may suggest that community concerns about the use of the assessments as a tool to tighten the eligibility criteria and prevent plans from growing are quite valid.

UTILISATION

This report includes information about how different regions are performing regarding plan utilisation. The data are presented in a way which is quite complex, perhaps unnecessarily so. But bear with me as I take you through them. Basically, every region is placed into one of five groups, depending on how many percentage points they are away from the national average utilisation level (70%). The groups are as follows:

  1. More than 10 percentage points below the national average, which, in practice, means utilisation below 60%
  2. Between 5 and 10 percentage points below the national average, indicating utilisation between 60% and 65%
  3. Within 5 percentage points of the national average, indicating utilisation between 65% and 75%
  4. Between 5 and 10 percentage points above the national average, indicating utilisation between 75% and 80%
  5. More than 10 percentage points above the national average, indicating above 80% utilisation

Interestingly, there are no regions listed as having utilisation above 80%, and only one region has a utilisation level between 75% and 80% (Robina, Queensland). It is not clear why Robina is performing so much better than the rest of the country, particularly given that it was not a trial site. 

The report also lists the number of active participants and the annualised budget for the region. We did some analysis to see whether there was a correlation between higher plan utilisation and regions with more active participants and bigger NDIS budgets. The conclusion was that in areas where there are more people and thus more NDIS dollars up for grab, there is more likely to be higher plan utilisation. This is probably because regions with more NDIS participants and a larger annualised budget attract more providers, thus making it easier for everyone to utilise their plan. This is not a hugely shocking conclusion, but it is always nice when the data back up what you already believe.

COVID-19 PAIN POINTS

During the pandemic, the NDIA has been cold calling people with complex support needs to see whether they need any extra support. So far, this quarter, it has successfully contacted 65,844 people, which is about 17% of the Scheme’s participants. It has also released data about common conversation themes that came up, giving us a bit of insight into some of the pain points people with disabilities have been experiencing during the pandemic. They include the following:

  • Eighteen percent of calls discussed plan flexibility, plan extension or plan review (although this may not be COVID-19 related, it is a popular topic at any time of the year).
  • Twelve percent of calls discussed priority home delivery from grocery stores. This makes a lot of sense; it was really difficult to get groceries for a while. 

ACCESS BY DISABILITY TYPE

The report also has some interesting data on the percentage of access requests met by disability cohorts. These are important data to monitor because we know that some disability cohorts report having a more difficult time proving their eligibility for the NDIS. 

We have graphed the data into the following table:

 As you can see, disabilities with the highest success rates for access requests include global developmental delay and development delay. We can assume that most of these are children going through the Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) pathway. But the figure is perhaps misleading, as we know that ECEI partners often only refer children with the most significant disabilities to test their eligibility for the Scheme. Other children are supported by ECEI partners.

The lowest success rate is for disabilities categorised as other, which is about as vague as you can get. It is also interesting to see other physical and other speech/sensory disabilities having quite low entrance rates. Chronic illnesses, such as mine, are often classified as other physical, which explains some of my access dramas. Unsurprisingly, only 69% of people with psychosocial disabilities are granted access to the Scheme.

 

PAYMENT PLATFORM

Some of you might remember that a few months ago, the NDIA put out a tender to the tech community to design its new payment platform. This provoked considerable anxiety amongst plan management providers, as the role plan managers would play once this new system came out was not entirely clear.

This report provides a bit of an update into the progress the project is making. Apparently, there were 44 responses to the tender received, and six were selected to make detailed presentations to the NDIA. They expect the pilot to commence in late 2020 and to finish in early 2021. Afterwards, we can expect a full national rollout.

  

You can find the full quarterly report, including state and territory-specific data, here. Happy reading!

Authors

Sara Gingold

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