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Working in the NDIS: how do we overcome frontline challenges?

4 minute read – NDIS Carers Series – Working in the NDIS

When researching the state of play in the NDIS, most of what you will find online is about service providers and how these organisations have performed over recent years.

You will see the challenges many have faced financially and operationally, and overwhelmingly, the difficulty they continue to have attracting, recruiting and retaining the right people to their businesses.

But who are these ‘right’ people? And, as the carers who deliver NDIS services, on the frontline, everyday – how are you fairing?

In this brief report, we look past the organisations, to those people who facilitate the delivery of NDIS services, and consider how the industry has changed and will change, over time.

The NDIS experience

As service providers worked to meet demanding new requirements to facilitate the rollout of the NDIS, frontline workers have been facing their own challenges.

According to a 2020 UNSW survey of more than 2,000 NDIS workers, only one in five feel the NDIS has been a positive experience for them.

They reported many core tasks that enable quality service delivery are performed outside hours, and are unpaid. On average more than 2 hours daily are spent completing case notes, reports and communicating with colleagues or supervisors after clock out.

While many frontline workers have shared with us inspiring and motivational stories about their experience, often these have been mixed with difficulties they need to overcome with salary, shifts and hours, management and processes.

Employment stability

One of the most often repeated concerns for frontline NDIS workers has been and continues to be the stability of employment.

The NDS State of the Disability Sector points to a decrease in casual workers, and, at 62% of their sample, the highest level of permanent employment since 2015.

Despite this, UNSW’s survey of workers names casualisation of the workforce as an ongoing concern, noting many staff have to work part-time across multiple jobs, while managing unpredictable rostering and changing shifts patterns.

This unpredictability can lead to a lack of continuity in service provision, something that frontline employees, as well as their employers, are both very much aware.

Worrying wages while working in the NDIS

Not surprisingly, like most middle-and lower-income Australians, those working in the NDIS are also worried about what they get paid.

Joboutlook.gov.au reports aged and disability workers in Australia are paid under the average Australian weekly income.

UNSW found that workers were spending their own funds on expenses such as travel, and 20% expect to not have enough superannuation when they retire.

Job requirements

Running right alongside the difficulty for service providers to attract, recruit and retain, is skills and staff shortages that can change the requirements of frontline and mid-level managers.

According to UNSW, almost half of respondents were concerned they did not get enough time with their supervisors to discuss clients and their essential needs.

In turn, their supervisors provided some clarity on why this might be the case: they have too many people to oversee, which results in Cert IV employees making important decisions without the guidance they need.

Future prospects

At VisiCase, we make it a habit to regularly talk to both senior managers and decision makers in NDIS provider organisations, as well as frontline workers.

What frontline workers have told us over the last 12 months, is one of their major concerns is where they go next. How do they move up or across? How do they upskill? How do they build a career?

UNSW’s research indicates a lack of training is an issue for workers in the disability sector, alongside the fact that a lot of the development that is provided, is conducted outside of hours, which impacts the already limited personal time of many workers.

What all of this comes right back to, is that challenge to retain those top employees, with the research suggesting many workers will leave the industry in the next five years, despite participant numbers growing to an expected 500,000 or more.

What can be done?

When it comes down to it, we have to fight the battles where we know we can have some wins.

The NDIS is still evolving and continuing to iron out some of those wrinkles that are challenging service providers.

Likewise, service providers are continuing to work on their employer brand, their culture, their response to NDIS requirements.

Experts in business, specialists in care recruitment and career planning, as well as training providers tell us the best thing a frontline worker can do to improve where they work, how they work and the industry as a whole, is to communicate.

By providing constructive feedback about salary, working conditions, training and future prospects, you can ensure your organisation knows what you need – and isn’t left to guess.

You can make certain a dialogue is opened up, so your senior leaders can openly and transparently communicate with you about the challenges they are facing, that have flow on affects for you.

Most importantly, you can work together to first shape an organisation, and then help other organisations shape the industry.

VisiCase works with its clients to provide a platform that enables faster, smarter workforce planning, roster management and scheduling and more open and transparent communication.

We encourage a genuine focus on employer branding and acknowledge the lengths this can go to enabling organisations to attract, retain and recruit quality frontline workers.

VisiCase provides an NDIS-ready business automation platform, built on powerful workflows. It helps you manage, streamline and optimise every component of your business, and its modules empower a positive employee and client experience.

Image by Cristina Seri

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