New research from the Brotherhood of St. Laurence (BSL) released today is urging the Federal Government to improve regulation and oversight of digital disability support platforms.
Support online: User experiences of digital platforms in the NDIS market, published by BSL’s Social Policy and Research Centre, examines existing research and the experiences of users of digital platforms, which are becoming increasingly prevalent for connecting people with a disability to a support worker of their choice.
The report, which included interviewing support workers, people with a disability and carers, found that platforms such as Mable, Kynd and Like Family are offering people with a disability increased choice and control regarding how they receive support.
While expanding the choice of how people receive support is generally a positive development within the industry, BSL’s research highlights how the regulatory frameworks protecting workers and people with a disability are currently lacking.
Many support workers who are connected to people with a disability via an online platform are drawn from marginalised groups and are prone to high levels of burnout and turnover. They are classified as independent contractors by the platforms, meaning they are not entitled to a range of protections. These include minimum wage requirements, limits on hours of work, paid leave, protections for unfair dismissal and collective bargaining rights.
By classifying employees as independent contractors, platforms also devolve responsibility for compliance with workplace health and safety laws to the support worker and, potentially, the person with a disability using the service.
Almost all research participants were unclear about their obligations and responsibilities regarding workplace safety and what to do if something went wrong. Most interviewees were not able to resolve this with the platforms directly and continued to work or access support services hoping no issues would arise.
The report also found that NDIS pricing for support work doesn’t sufficiently cover the full costs of support work, including the provision of worker training. This is contributing to a poorly trained workforce and jeopardising the quality of care provided.
Support online co-author Andrew Thies is calling on the Federal Government to review and implement regulatory changes to improve the platform experience and ensure the welfare of users is a priority, as outlined in the report.
“The lack of regulation and oversight of digital disability support platforms in Australia is currently a ticking timebomb.
“The Federal Government must implement safeguards and urgently clarify the roles and responsibilities of platforms and workers to ensure the services are both fair and safe for all that use them,” Thies said.
The full report is available here.