The Future of Support Coordination, Recovery Coaching & Plan Management
Yesterday the NDIS Review handed down its final report and its recommendations may spell the end of intermediaries as we know them. While these are still just recommendations and their implementation is not guaranteed, we know this news will have come as a shock to many of you. So we’re back to unpack what we know so far about the recommendations.
Support Coordination, Psychosocial Recovery Coaching (PRC) and Local Area Coordinators (LACs)
The Review proposed a fundamental shift in the way that people are supported to navigate disability support. Effectively ending the roles of Support Coordination, PRC and LAC as we know them and replacing them with a new role – Navigators. This is because the Review has heard how confusing it is to have so many different players involved in navigating the NDIS. They are concerned that having this role split across so many functions creates both gaps and duplication. In the future, they also want to see better support to navigate the entire disability ecosystem, not just the NDIS.
The Navigator role would look very much like the current Support Coordinator function, with a greater focus on accessing support outside the NDIS. Specialist Navigators, ideally with qualifications in allied health or social work, would replace today’s Specialist Support Coordinators.
Navigation support would be available to all people with disability, regardless of whether they are NDIS participants. It’s unclear whether people would have any choice over who their Navigator is, though the Review calls out that continuity of support would be a priority in transitioning, and that they expect much of the Support Coordination and LAC workforce to become Navigators. Likewise, there are proposed Psychosocial Recovery Navigator roles, which the Review expects to be filled by the current PRC workforce.
Navigators would be commissioned and funded by the NDIA outside of participant plans. They would need to be independent, meaning they could not provide other NDIS services. They would have nationally consistent governance, branding, online services, information management, monitoring and training.
There are a lot of positive aspects to this recommendation. It is a return to the principles of local coordination, intended in the Scheme’s design but compromised with the addition of planning to the LAC role. The renewed focus on local knowledge, mainstream services and disabled people outside the NDIS is long overdue and the Review recommends Navigators be funded to spend more time with people than LACs and Support Coordinators typically are now.
Understandably many of you will be concerned about what the changes mean for your job or organisation. If these changes are implemented, it will not happen any time soon. The Review has specifically recommended a careful process of design and testing this idea in partnership with people with disability and the sector, prioritising continuity of support for participants and a smooth transition for the workforce.
While major change is likely on the horizon, there will be ample time to prepare and adapt. There will always be plenty of work in this sector for people who are invested in supporting people to live life on their own terms. DSC will be providing support to ease the transition wherever we can along the way.
You can read the Review’s fact sheet on Navigators here.
The NDIS Review has recommended the transition towards a “multi-channel digital payments approach” that would allow participants to pay all providers directly. Unlike the current system, which requires either a plan manager to process the invoice or a self-managing participant to handle the funds, the proposed approach would allow direct connection between all providers and the NDIA.
The Review describes this approach as gradually reducing the need for Plan Managers, eventually eliminating the need for them to pay invoices altogether. There are several reasons for this outlined by the Review in their Supporting Analysis document:
People have reported that the lack of clarity between the Support Coordinator and Plan Manager roles can be stressful and confusing. There are also gaps and duplications between these roles.
The current system gives intermediaries limited visibility over budgets, meaning it’s often too late to take action if a plan is over-committed
The NDIA currently has limited visibility on transactions for self managed and plan managed participants, which is now the vast majority of people.
By removing funding rules that tie flexibility to plan management type, all participants would have access to the same number of providers (which would all either be registered or ‘enrolled’ under the new approach)
Having greater control of payments would allow the NDIA to reduce instances of funds being spent not in accordance with the rules, or the person’s wishes.
While the Review focused on the quality outcomes and big picture cost savings that could be achieved through this approach, Minister Shorten has declared this to be an end to the “ticket clipping”, taking aim at the most profitable plan management providers. Interestingly, the Review report is silent on whether a digital payments platform would be a cheaper approach than funding plan managers. Perhaps because ‘ticket clipping’ is inevitable when it comes to payments processing, and it is unclear whether a custom-built system could process payments more affordably than what Plan Managers currently do.
As with any government-sourced technology, the development of this system is unlikely to be swift. The Review recommends that the government create a clear transition path out for existing Plan Managers. This would involve clarifying the role Plan Managers play in “protecting scheme integrity” and continuing to refine this as the new system evolves. It’s envisioned that the role Plan Managers play in supporting people to monitor and manage their funding would transition to Navigators.
That’s all we know for now. We will keep you posted as more information is available. In the meantime, if you’re hungry for more detail, here are some of your best next reads:
NDIS Review Final Report: For more information on intermediaries, check out pages 97-106 and 157-165
Supporting Analysis for the Final Report: This is another 1,297 pages of explanation for how the Review came to its conclusions, and a bit more on what is imagined
Fact sheets: If you filter the list of resources by ‘fact sheets’ you’ll find a great set of resources that break down some of the biggest recommendations in 1-2 page infographics and explainers