Lessons of NDIS key to major reform

BENDIGO care providers have been told to heed the lessons of Geelong’s National Disability Insurance Scheme trial.

A forum this week called on Bendigo organisations to start preparing for the roll-out of the multi-billion dollar scheme.

The NDIS started in Geelong last July and will extend to the rest of Victoria between 2016 and 2019.

State manager of National Disability Services – the peak body for disability service providers – James O’Brien said he was confident Bendigo groups would be ready for the transition.

But he warned most providers would need to make reforms to adapt to the changing funding model.

“It’s moving to much more of a business focus,” he said.

“Providers are probably going to have a degree of uncertainty. The funding relationship they have had directly with state government will change.”

He said the first six months of the program in Geelong highlighted the opportunities and challenges associated with such a major reform.

“Certainly the (Geelong) trial is all about learning. There are things which will work and things which won’t work. They’ll take that and inform the next stage of the roll-out.”

Mr O’Brien said part of the transition for care providers would involve adapting to increased competition.

He said the new model would attract a rise in for-profit corporate companies offering a similar service.

“The pace of change is very rapid,” he said.

“I think people are generally optimistic about the NDIS. They realise it will be very beneficial for people with disabilities. But they recognise it’s going to have substantive challenges in terms of how they reconfigure their organisations.”

This week's forum at the Foundry Hotel was the first of 10 meetings to be held around the state.

About 60 people attended, representing groups from as far as Echuca and Shepparton.

Mr O'Brien said existing providers such as Bendigo Access Employment and Radius Disability Services already had an advantage with strong client bases and community connections.

The NDIS is estimated to be used by more than 100,000 Victorian patients by 2019.

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