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NDIS utilisation: The sky isn’t falling, but the ceiling is low!

As the last days of June 2019 approach, we will close out the sixth year of NDIS reporting of plan utilisation in Australia. Who would have predicted we would still be running at (only) 70% plan utilisation? The chart below show’s our progress, or lack of it. The NDIA reported at March 2019 that NDIS plan utilisation (while still emerging) was at 61%. At these levels, the final figure for 2018/19 is unlikely to show any significant improvement.

The experience across Australia jurisdictions does vary, with Tasmania reporting the highest plan utilisation at 81% (2017/18). South Australia has the lowest, some 22 percentage-points lower at 59% (2017/18). An evaluation of these varied outcomes may offer insights and learning to improve utilisation, and ultimately the outcomes for people with NDIS plans.

In October 2017 the Productivity Commission identified a number of factors influencing lower than expected utilisation:

  1. Poor quality plans

  2. Plan reviews are slow and take many weeks to occur

  3. Poor communication at the point of plan approval

  4. The introduction of Local Area Coordinators (LACs) being delayed

  5. LACs not delivering expected impacts

  6. People finding the NDIS confusing, which delays plan implementation and utilisation.

These are systemic issues and need appropriate system-based responses.

South Australia, the jurisdiction with the lower utilisation, has suffered from all of the factors identified by the Productivity Commission. It will be interesting to see where 2018/19 lands, as there have been new factors at play. The most significant of which was the decision of the NDIA to push NDIS plan approvals through in December 2019. The volume of NDIS plans approved in the period put significant pressure on service provider intake systems (in the Christmas holiday period) and challenged service capacity. We can reasonably expect that this has had a further negative impact on plan implementation timeframes.

Some forward thinking is required. It is critical that the system does not perpetuate these “approval peaks” (and implementation delays) in the years to come.

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08 oct 2020

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