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Deteriorating disability worker pay, conditions undermining NDIS

An urgent overhaul of poorly paid and casualised disability support work is needed to ensure the National Disability Insurance Scheme’s viability and protect participants from substandard care, a new report by the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work says.

Going backwards: How NDIS workforce arrangements are undermining decent work and gender equality warns deteriorating conditions for the quarter of a million workers supporting the scheme – which is increasingly reliant on digital platforms, third-party intermediaries and independent contractors – risk undermining its long-term survival.

The Centre for Future Work’s report calls for comprehensive reforms to protect NDIS workers, 40% of which are casuals. Bolstering NDIS working standards would also make the scheme work more effectively for participants – and taxpayers – through reduced wastage and increased accountability.

Key reforms:

  • Mandatory requirements within NDIS pricing arrangements to lift minimum pay for all NDIS-funded disability support workers under the Social and Community Services Award

  • Establishing a national mandatory worker registration and accreditation scheme for disability support workers

  • Requiring all NDIS providers to be registered, with registration requirements proportionate to the risks of service provision

  • Ensuring all NDIS support workers have access to adequate supervision and support, secure work and employment entitlements, and to collective representation and bargaining

  • Establishing portable leave and training for disability support workers

  • Reviewing funding and pricing so workers can collectively bargain for over-award wages

“The NDIS is a major employer and a huge source of indirect jobs. But despite its size and importance to society and the economy, unfulfilled promises for workers – predominantly women – around fair pay, decent working conditions and career opportunities risk jeopardising the scheme’s sustainability,” said Dr Fiona Macdonald, Policy Director, Industrial and Social at the Centre for Future Work.

“Limited regulatory oversight of the NDIS has eroded fair pay and working conditions. This has resulted in an overreliance on casuals, who make up a staggering 40% of workers supporting the scheme, and endure fragmented hours and poor pay relative to the demands and risks of the job.

“Undercutting their pay and conditions does not just deter potential workers from joining the sector, it compromises the quality of support provided to vulnerable NDIS participants.”

“Policy responses to date, including the National Care and Support Economy Strategy and the independent NDIS Review, are welcome. But the fixes proposed so far are fragmented and not enough to ensure the scheme is effective and sustainable, protecting jobs and people with disabilities.

“The NDIS has great potential to do more for the people accessing and working for it, but only if we face up to the real problems that risk undermining its purpose.

“Ensuring decent jobs within the NDIS is not just about economic sustainability; it's about achieving societal equity and fulfilling the promises of quality employment and support made a decade ago.

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