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Review of the Latest NDIS Quarterly Data: January - March 2024


NDIS quarterly data review march 2024

As we delve into the latest National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) quarterly report, covering January to March 2024, we find ourselves at a pivotal moment in the Scheme's history. This period marks the lowest quarterly increase in new participants since the NDIS began, alongside significant trends in plan reassessments and state-by-state growth. Here, we'll explore these developments, their implications, and what they mean for NDIS professionals and participants.


A Slower Growth Rate


This quarter recorded a net increase of only 3,174 participants, the lowest since the NDIS's inception. This represents a 0.5% net increase from the previous quarter (December 2023), which saw an increase of 14,764 participants, translating to a 2.3% net increase. In comparison, the quarter ending in September 2023 recorded a net increase of 15,872 participants, a 2.6% increase.


While this may seem concerning at first glance, it's crucial to understand the underlying factors. The slower growth rate can be attributed to the Scheme's maturing process and the implementation of longer plan durations. Additionally, the introduction of the new NDIS system, PACE, in October 2023 has significantly impacted growth. While PACE aims to streamline processes and improve the system, its rollout has caused major delays for participants, contributing to the lower increase in new participants.


Decline in Plan Reassessments


One of the most notable trends is the continuing decline in the number of plan reassessments, which dropped by 19,996 this quarter. This reduction is directly linked to the extended plan durations, with some plans now reaching up to five years in length. Since June 2022, the number of reassessments has steadily decreased, illustrating a broader trend within the NDIS. For instance, there were 63,430 reassessments in the September to December 2023 quarter, which fell to 40,708 in January to March 2024, marking a 35.8% decrease. While longer plans can provide stability for participants, they also bring challenges. Participants may find themselves stuck with outdated plans that no longer meet their evolving needs or with subpar service providers. The lack of regular reassessments can lead to fewer opportunities to update supports and review the quality of services received.


State and Territory Comparisons


Examining the growth across different states and territories reveals interesting patterns. New South Wales remains the state with the highest number of active participants, now standing at 193,468, while the Northern Territory has the highest average annualised plan budgets and payments, driven by a higher proportion of participants in Supported Independent Living (SIL).


In terms of growth, Victoria experienced the highest percentage increase in active participants this quarter, rising by 2.2% from the previous quarter to a total of 173,758 participants. In contrast, South Australia had the lowest percentage increase, with a modest 0.8% growth to 55,826 participants.


Increased Use of Plan Managers


The use of plan managers among participants has seen significant growth. Plan managers help participants manage the financial aspects of their NDIS plans, providing support with budgeting and payments to service providers. This growth reflects a broader trend of participants seeking professional assistance to navigate the complexities of the NDIS. In the March 2024 quarter, 63% of participants opted for plan management, compared to 29% who chose self-management, and 9% who had their plans agency-managed.


Despite the current uncertainty in the ndis around proposed changes to the plan manager and support coordinator roles, with speculation they could be merged into a "navigator" role, there surprisingly was a quarterly increase in the total number of plan managers in the ndis. The number of plan managers increased from 1,494 to 1,540 this quarter, representing a 3.1% increase. This brings the total number of plan managers to the highest recorded number since the NDIS's inception .


Key Insights from Participant Data


- **Participant Outcomes**: Improvements continue in participant outcomes, particularly in choice and control. For participants aged 15 and older who have been in the Scheme for two years or more, there is a notable increase in community and social participation. The employment rate for young participants (aged 15 to 24) has more than doubled, highlighting the positive impact of the NDIS on young adults transitioning into the workforce.

- **Plan Utilisation**: Utilisation remains steady at 78%, though disparities exist among different service districts. Some districts fall significantly below the national benchmark, indicating potential areas for targeted support and resource allocation.


- **Provider Market**: The number of active providers continues to grow, with 21,142 providers active at the end of March. However, market concentration remains an issue in some regions, where a small number of providers dominate the market.


Key Areas of Improvement


The report highlights several areas for improvement that are crucial for the Scheme's future:


1. **Resolving Participant Requests**: The NDIA is experiencing a significant increase in participant requests for plan changes, leading to higher volumes of calls and emails. The NDIA is addressing these delays by prioritising urgent plan reviews, recruiting more planners, and improving communication with plan managers and support coordinators.


2. **Participant Safety and Integrity**: The NDIA continues to focus on participant safety and fraud prevention. Initiatives include enhancing payment scrutiny, increasing pre-payment checks, and monitoring claims against expired plans to protect participants.


3. **Improving the Participant Experience**: Efforts are underway to enhance the participant experience by refining the hospital discharge process, reducing the time between readiness for discharge and actual discharge, and ensuring timely follow-ups.


4. **System Enhancements**: Upcoming system enhancements aim to improve efficiency and the overall participant experience, particularly in handling reassessments and complaints.


Increased Delays in Complaint Handling


The volume of complaints has increased significantly, with a notable rise in complaints open for more than 21 days. In the March 2024 quarter, only 39% of complaints were resolved within 21 days, compared to an average of 69% in the previous three quarters. This increase in unresolved complaints highlights the need for improved complaint management processes within the NDIA.


Conclusion


For NDIS professionals, these trends highlight the importance of proactive engagement and support. Here are some key takeaways:


1. **Advocate for Regular Check-ins**: Even with longer plan durations, regular check-ins with participants can help identify changing needs and ensure that their plans remain relevant and effective.


2. **Support Quality of Services**: Encourage participants to provide feedback on their service providers regularly. This can help identify issues early and ensure participants receive the highest quality of care.


3. **Utilise Data for Better Outcomes**: Use the data and insights from these reports to tailor your support strategies. Understanding the broader trends can help you better advocate for your participants' needs.


4. **Focus on Community and Employment**: With significant improvements in community participation and employment among younger participants, continue to foster these areas. Support programs that encourage social engagement and employment can have lasting positive impacts.


As we navigate these changes, it's crucial to keep the participants' needs at the forefront. The NDIS continues to evolve, and with it, our approaches to supporting and empowering those we serve must adapt as well.


Let's continue to work together to ensure that every participant can live a fulfilling and independent life, supported by a responsive and effective NDIS.


Cody Thompson


WA NDIS Networking Hub

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