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Support for ADEs during the Pandemic

COVID-19 raises many issues for ADEs and supported employees, including what to do about JobKeeper payments, cancellations and other training option. Ann dives into new information published by the Agency that explores these questions.

By Ann Drieberg

Updated 15 Apr 20246 May 2020

If the transition to the NDIS didn’t test the viability of your enterprise, the pandemic is here to help. The NDIS has required ADE’s to establish viable stand-alone enterprises, engaging NDIS participants as both employees and customers. The COVID-19 environment will (if it hasn’t already) highlight the need to understand and engage with each segment of your business, to identify risks and develop a pandemic plan that will ensure viability into the future.

The NDIS recently published information in a FAQ for ADEs. The page provides some guidance and clarification for ADE providers navigating the current pandemic environment. 

The key points are:

  • NDIS employment supports cannot be claimed if you close your ADE
  • However ADE’s can negotiate with supported employees to provide alternate employment supports during the pandemic
  • Participant NDIS Plans cannot fund supported employee wages
  • The new cancellation policy only applies to price-controlled support items (i.e. not Assistance in Specialised Supported Employment DMI levels 1-4 and Support in Employment ADE). However, unexpected short-term absences could be claimed at the weekly DMI level.
  • ADEs are required to notify the NDIS Commission of changes to their services or other events resulting as a result of COVID-19.
  • ADEs can access JobKeeper and other Federal, State and Territory support for employers (and employees).

We will dive a bit deeper into the detail of each of these areas below.

  

NDIS PARTICIPANTS

The NDIS Commission and the NDIS are sending providers a loud and strong message about consulting and engaging with participants when making changes to NDIS services and agreements during the pandemic. The expectation is for providers to use consultation to design an individualised COVID-19 support response.

Maintaining ADE viability can be as simple and complex as engagement. In this context, you will need to engage with participants to discuss how you can continue supporting them during the pandemic. We have heard of organisations who have been successful in maintaining NDIS revenue by using this strategy. And it’s a strategy that we here at DSC recommend you take with you post-pandemic – if for nothing else but to meet your provider obligations under the NDIS Practice Standards.

The NDIS offers some guidance for ADE in ways they can support NDIS participants to reach employment goals during COVID-19. They include:

  • In-home education

This could involve redeploying staff to work with supported employees in their home (face-to-face or virtually) to learn a new employment skill or task, retain employment knowledge and skills, or maybe develop a resume.

  • Online training or skills development

This could be the perfect time to revise those employee development plans and put into action any upskilling, training and development on an individual employee or team level. You could also identify those employment skills and job-specific tasks that could be taught online. What training have you always wanted to offer? Think about whether you can you deliver these yourself or link participants to alternate online training.

  • Employment assistance that maintains the important connection with work and colleagues, learning new skills and ensuring readiness to resume employment.

What soft skills are you developing in employees? Can these be pivoted online and delivered to the group to maintain connection and promote positive employee interactions? 

For those ADE’s still operating, the recent updates to the cancellation policy have limited application for you. The NDIS has confirmed the new arrangements relate to price-controlled support items only. But the NDIS does note “Assistance in Specialised Supported Employment DMI Levels 1-4/ Support in Employment (ADE)are not price-controlled and therefore the COVID-19 Cancellation Policy does not apply, ADE's could claim unexpected short-term absences at the weekly DMI level.”  

You can read more about short term absences here.

 

EMPLOYEES

Wages and leave entitlements are the responsibility of ADE’s as the employer. The NDIS has specified that NDIS plan funds cannot be used to pay wages and recommends providers seek independent advice on their responsibilities as an employer during COVID-19. Here are some links to assist you in your thinking: 

  • ADE’s may be eligible for the Federal Government JobKeeper Payment. You can get DSC’s lowdown on the JobKeeper payment here.
  • Department of Social Services (DSS) has released a letter for ADE providers to support Participants understanding of the impact on of COVID-19 on the Disability Support Pension (DSP) and Carer Payments. The Growing Space has provided a summary of the key messages. 
  • You may also be eligible for State and Territory Governments assistance. You can access the most up-to-date support through the Australian Government Business website
  • Access Easy English has developed a raft of Easy English documents about JobKeeper and Centrelink payments to support employees understand their entitlements. These can be accessed here, more general COVID-19 related Easy English resources can be found here.

COMMERCIAL ENTERPRISE VIABILITY

Not surprisingly, the NDIS has not commented on maintaining the viability of ADEs as commercial enterprises. Sadly what we do know, is that across all sectors, not all businesses will survive the economic fallout of COVID-19.

The pandemic is creating a decline in demand across many industries: tourism, travel, arts, events and catering, face to face services and in-person entertainment, bricks and mortar retail and hospitality- to name a few. Businesses who have been able to pivot to online delivery and those who have repurposed equipment, assets and skills to produce new products will be in a better position post-pandemic than those who have simply closed.

However, on the other side, businesses with a focus on food and agriculture, office equipment and supplies, IT services, computer sales, fitness equipment, online retail and local manufacturing have seen an increase as a result of COVID-19.

The range and diversity of supported employment services and supports means that some ADEs by the nature of their business may not survive, but new things can replace them - what will they be? What are you doing to pivot your ADE to ensure it remains open and viable post-pandemic? Now is a great opportunity to review your business strategy, and adjust it for the new world order.

Authors

Ann Drieberg

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