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Free uni places, better wages: the push to double the NDIS’ workforce

The government is yet to respond more broadly to the review, which recommended 29 changes to cut waiting times, improve services and make it easier to update NDIS plans.

Ms Ballantine called on the Morrison government to implement all of the Tune review’s recommendations and to then “quickly move its focus to workforce capacity and capability”.

“The biggest challenge that is facing the sector is getting the appropriately skilled and qualified workforce to meet the demand,” she said.

“There’s no point in making access and system navigation easier if there are no services on the other end to deliver.”

The NDIS now has more than 310,000 participants, with the government estimating the sector will require at least 90,000 more workers in the next five years, about double the size of the current workforce.

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Mr Moody said disability service employers must work with unions to “reverse the trend of casualisation of the sector”, he said, saying the “precarious employment” through a “gig economy” approach was bad for the industry and people with disability, who needed “consistency of care”.

“The sector for its survival needs to move towards models of permanent and permanent part time work,” Mr Moody said.

Ms Ballantine said the government could offer fee-free university places in degrees such as social work and occupational therapy to students who committed to working in the industry.

“It’s about professionalising the industry,” she said.

Mr Moody said he was “not sure if we need to go down [the] path” of free university education, but said no-fee vocational education was an option.

Minister for the NDIS and Government Services Stuart Robert says the government will respond to the Tune review in the coming weeks.

Minister for the NDIS and Government Services Stuart Robert says the government will respond to the Tune review in the coming weeks.Credit:Sydney Morning Herald

The Victorian government last year made TAFE courses in disability services free, but had to halt enrolments after 19,000 signed up and it became clear that not all could be accommodated for the required industry placements.

People with Disability Australia policy and advocacy director Romola Hollywood said while the peak body welcomed the government’s commitment to a participant service guarantee and “clearer mandated timeframes”, it would also need to remove the NDIA staffing cap.

“The challenge is that without removing the cap, the NDIA may not have sufficient resources to meet these time frames,” Romola Hollywood said.

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“If and when the time frames are mandated in legislation, there’s a real risk that we could see a strong focus on meeting those deadlines at the expense of the quality of plans and good engagement with people with disability.”

Labor’s NDIS spokesman Bill Shorten said the NDIA staffing cap, which he has continuously demanded be lifted, was “causing mass outsourcing, a loss of professionalism and continuity of service”.

Mr Robert said the government would respond to the Tune review “in the coming weeks” with “more details about what specific improvements we will be making and how we will set the participant service guarantee into law by 1 July”.

The government was “trialling new ways to promote and attract workers to the sector”, he said, including a $33 million program to “support businesses to adapt to a consumer-driven NDIS market and expand their workforce”.

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