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NDIS casualisation makes pandemic ‘scary’

Australians on the National Disability Insurance Scheme have been scared during the pandemic because having multiple support workers increases the risk of getting coronavirus.

A parliamentary committee looking at the NDIS on Tuesday heard calls for a workforce strategy, flexible pricing structure and improved access to data.

The committee was told the casualisation of the workforce has made it harder for participants to build long-term relationships with support staff and has increased fears during the pandemic.

People with Disability Australia's Romola Hollywood believes about 40 per cent of the broad NDIS workforce is casual and part-time.

"Supports can be quite fragmented in the way that they're delivered," she said.

"Many people have told us that it's been quite scary through the COVID-19 pandemic to have multiple workers potentially coming in and out of your home."

The committee also heard from the University of Sydney and University of NSW researchers who have surveyed NDIS workers.

The research found one-in-five workers believe the NDIS has been positive for them as a worker, and one-in-three believes the NDIS has been positive for participants.

"The more experienced the workers were, the more likely they were to be concerned about service quality compared to new recruits who have not worked in the sector as long," postdoctoral fellow Georgia Van Toorn said.

"Workers felt like the quality of services had suffered due to problems related to unstable and inconsistent work time arrangements, under-staffing, lack of training and supervision, and unpaid work."

Mental health groups also fronted the inquiry, expressing concern over highly skilled psychosocial support workers moving to other sectors to get better work conditions.

Community Mental Health Australia chief Bill Gye noted the lack of data on worker qualifications, and how difficult that is for planning.

"It would be great if an outcome of the recommendations from this hearing could be that the data is more publicly provided within the limits of confidentiality," he said.

NDIS workers also told the committee they were overworked, stressed, time-poor and weren't given adequate training.

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