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Disability Royal Commission hears solutions to address workforce challenges

The Disability Royal Commission has heard that providing portable leave entitlements to all registered NDIS workers would support greater recruitment and retention as the sector battles high turnover.

Angus McFarland, Secretary of the Australian Services Union NSW & ACT, has today provided evidence to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.

Disability support services is one of the fastest growing sectors in Australia yet has a high attrition rate.

Mr McFarland has put forward the following solutions to the Disability Royal Commission:

  • Portable leave entitlements scheme

Given the increasing casualisation and gig-economy nature of disability support services, many workers are on the books of various providers and move between them frequently. Despite taking on full-time equivalent hours, they are not receiving full-time entitlements such as annual, sick and carer’s leave. The ASU proposes the Federal Government adopt a scheme where entitlements move with the worker, like superannuation. Worker leave entitlements are factored into NDIS pricing arrangements. Over time, a scheme could result in savings to the NDIS through the reduction of costs for recruitment and onboarding, as workers are retained in the sector.

  • Portable training scheme

Many workers have limited access to regular accredited training and career development due to a lack of mandatory minimum qualifications requirements and funding within NDIS pricing arrangements. A training scheme would provide opportunities for all workers to train and get paid for it.

  • National worker registration scheme

To provide centralised risk-based screening functions, administer quality work arrangements to workers, and protect participants. The scheme could be used to administer the portable leave and training entitlements schemes.

“With no access to accrued entitlements, many NDIS workers are forgoing holidays for their own mental health, and debating whether they can afford to take days off sick. This is only exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis,” Mr McFarland said.

“Workers are racing each other to the bottom in wages, and also feeling dissatisfied in their jobs with little access to professional development and training opportunities.

“Demand on the NDIS is only growing yet it's estimated half of the workforce wants to leave within years.

“The future of the NDIS, and the wellbeing, hopes and dreams of its participants, are relying on a committed workforce. We can’t achieve this if workers feel disempowered, undervalued, and are desperate to leave.

“Providing access to basic entitlements and opportunities, such as annual leave and training, would boost the morale of disability support workers.

"With the Disability Royal Commission, and review into the NDIS underway, Australia has an opportunity to stem the workforce exodus and make the NDIS the best it can be.”

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