The Future of NDIS

25th July 2016

From the blog desk of Roland Naufal – A bridged version of his June 30 2016 blog

I’ve seen the future This statement has two famous and very  different endings. Applied to the NDIS, which would you choose?

and it works. Lincoln Steffans 1936

brother: it is murder. Leonard Cohen 1992

July 1st sees NDIS live and national. When I look into that future I see a bit of murder and mayhem, like the death of a lot of middle management and the fatal wounding of some non-profits. And then again, I see a future that works better for many NDIS participants and hands on staff. We have now done so much consulting in the NDIS that I reckon I’ve seen the future, and…

Planning Gets Better

Just like in the trial sites (but with a much greater degree  of difficulty)… participant planning in the early days of the full roll out will be mayhem. ‘My First Plan’ has come out of left field and it appears this mechanism to  simplify planning will at least temporarily dash a lot of initial hopes for the NDIS really making a difference in peoples’ lives. And the new non-profit LAC players  doing the planning will have real problems processing the thousands of new applicants; the grief will often outweigh the joy for both participants and planners. It certainly won’t be pretty for a while, although it will get better as the new planners learn their jobs and the sheer pressure of numbers eases (that’s years, not months).

Clients are also Customers

Yep it will happen. Although we see a lot of client stickiness in these early days of the NDIS, in the future people will vote with their individualised funded feet. Participant controlled social media such as the NDIS Grassroots Facebook site will be the great un-sticker; showing people where they can do better and how to go about it. Grassroots will be replicated in many different  formats and mediums; the more successful ones will be less aggressive and more user friendly in every sense. While participants in urban areas will have real choice and control, those in rural and remote areas, Indigenous communities and CALD groups will struggle, unless the ILC get serious and rapidly rethinks.

Serious New Shortcomings

My biggest worry in the NDIS future is the many people  with disability at the margins, those not eligible to  become participants (the estimate is up to 900,000  people). The ILC program is meant to cover them and state governments were also meant to continue  supports. Neither looks like it is going to do the job  properly. What is going to happen to people who only need a little support to carry on or vital programs where funding cannot be individualised? The NDIA will have to pay if the 900,000 start crashing through to become NDIS participants because they didn’t get the  preventative support they needed. The NDIA and state governments need to find some better ILC-type answers now and not wait for the planning chaos to subside.

Another very significant shortcoming is the area of  mental health in the NDIS. This can only be described as a mess: the assessment criteria and process fit so poorly for people with mental health challenges, and I have real concerns about the adequacy of the NDIS to adapt quickly enough to ensure quality of outcomes.

RIP Bureaucratic Management

The NDIS margins are so thin, organisations cannot  afford much management and emerging software will replace many of the functions anyway. Gone will be the days when middle managers focused on delivering  communications and paperwork up and down the chain. Coaching style senior managers will replace the  command and control ‘C level’ dinosaurs. What the  bosses want will be much less important and the ‘troops’ will have much more decision making power in the  future.

Autonomous Frontline Staff

It’s a self managed teams kind of future. If you haven’t heard us bang on about the new cost cutting, client and staff empowering team models, it’s time to get with the program. Both overseas and here we are seeing teams operating at the neighbourhood level; employing people with lived experience and highly qualified staff. They are paying higher wages with extremely low management ratios and delivering better outcomes. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that future?

No More Offices

Lots of people think I am a hermit or a nutcase because I think we waste a lot of money on offices. But watch that (office) space, change is gonna happen. People are  going to master the office-less organisation by using great software and diverting the building cost savings into processes for building great teams. We need to get much smarter about how we support team collaboration and our work is in the community, so why do we need to congregate in expensive purpose built bricks and mortar. Won’t someone please listen?

Some Not for Profits Dead

All of my career before consulting was in non-profits yet I am still amazed when some of them tell us they know they are not competitive and that their corporate service charges are way too high. The amazing bit is that many are not doing enough about it; definitely rabbit in the headlights behaviour. “Wait and see” is not a strategy, it is an epitaph. Some will end up roadkill while there also seem to be a significant number on the “death by a  thousand cuts” trajectory. Ouch. Too many organisations are doing too little, too late, to survive in the NDIS.

Winners and Losers

You may call me naïve, you may think I’m cynical  (somehow, I get accused of both) but I have seen the  future, it’s a world of dramatic, constant and often  exciting change. Like always, there are winners and  losers but it looks to me like some of the winners this time might be the underdogs, people with disability (but mostly those that are urban dwelling NDIS participants) and the great hands on staff that work with them. Which ending would you choose?

About Guest Writer Roland Naufal
Roland is one of Australia’s most knowledgeable disability professionals and has spent the last two years working on the  design of the NDIS, leading the  NDIS Community Engagement  Project for the National Disability  & Carer Alliance. Roland is a Founding Director Of Disability Service Consulting.

This article featured in the July Edition of Paeds Biz

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