This chapter examines workforce readiness, starting with an overview of
current workforce shortages and needs, and the implications of these shortages
for the national rollout.
The chapter then outlines recent policies and initiatives designed to
grow the workforce before focusing on the barriers to grow the workforce
identified by submitters. These include: employment conditions, NDIS pricing
structure, training and professional development.
Workforce needs and shortages
Disability workforce today
The disability care and support workforce includes disability support
workers that provide daily care and allied health professionals that provide
It is difficult to profile the disability workforce because ABS labour
force data is not classified in a way that allows analysis of the disability
However, despite the lack of comprehensive data, broadly it is accepted
disability care workers are older than the workforce in general;
about 80 percent of employees in the disability sector are women;
about 60 percent of employees work part time; and
the majority of disability care workers hold a certificate-level qualification.
Casual and part-time work is the fastest growing type of employment in
the disability sector, increasing by another three percent in the final quarter
According to the National Disability Services Workforce Wizard, the high
casual employment in the disability sector (42 percent) is resulting in a very
high rate of worker turnover.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that staff without formal qualifications are
increasingly being hired.
According to the Productivity Commission, the disability workforce will
need to increase by between 60 000 and 90 000 full-time equivalent employees
(FTE) by 2019-20.
In its submission to this inquiry, the NDIA estimated the need for an
additional 70 000 workers by 2019-20.
The NDIA also noted that the Productivity Commission found that the
national disability workforce is currently growing at approximately 6 percent
per year, but that the rollout will require workforce growth of 18 percent per
year during the transition period in order to meet demand.
The Future Social Service Institute reported that despite a workforce
increase in the broader social assistance /personal assistance /residential
care sectors, disability workforce shortages remain a major issue.
The Victorian Healthcare Association noted that, based on 2016 figures,
in Victoria alone the disability workforce must grow by 76 percent by 2019.
There are disparities in workforce shortages depending on geography and
According to the Productivity Commission, the disability workforce will
need to more than triple to meet demand in some regional, rural and remote
According to the NDIA, growth in total worker demand is likely to be
higher in regional and remote areas than urban areas, and highest in Queensland
and the Northern Territory.
For example, in Queensland, Bundaberg, Beenleigh and Maryborough are
expected to require the largest proportional increase, as the current estimated
workforce is less than 40 percent of the estimated NDIS workforce.
There is a
critical shortage of disability support workers. According to the NDS State
of the Disability Sector Report 2017, around 60 per cent of disability
service providers had moderate to extreme difficulty recruiting disability
In the same
report, service providers also described difficulties in recruiting allied
health professionals, especially psychologists, speech and occupational
therapists and physiotherapists despite workers from these professions not
being in shortage at a national level. The NDS report argues that this may point
to a real issue in connecting the allied health workforce to the disability
are experiencing shortages at the national level. For example, a recent analysis
of the Australian orthotic/prosthetic workforce indicates that no state or
territory meets the recommended rates for optimal provision.
for more information
Market Position Statements published in 2016 provide nominal information about
workforce needs but lack detailed data.
reiterated the recommendation made by the Productivity Commission that
the Australian Government should fund the ABS to collect policy-relevant data
on the disability care workforce.
The Victorian Government also recommended greater sharing of data and
information between the NDIA, the Commonwealth Government and providers to
ensure workforce development opportunities are aligned.
Implications of workforce shortages
Overwhelmingly, submitters reported significant challenges in recruiting
qualified staff to meet the demand for services.
Ms Maree Geraghty, a service coordinator, who has worked in the
disability sector for 19 years, reported that her organisation was struggling
to recruit qualified staff:
Just two weeks ago, I did some interviews for a support
worker position, and 95 per cent of the people that were applying had no
experience in the disability industry. So, when you're interviewing, there's
just not enough people trained at the moment to actually get people qualified.
We used to always ask, prior to NDIS, for minimum certificate III or willing to
obtain in disability work or equivalent. Now we don't ask for that. So there
are no qualifications required to get a job now.
Based on the NDS's Annual Market survey, the outlook for 2018 suggests
the supply gap will continue to widen with only 43 percent (compared with 53
percent in 2016) of disability service providers expecting to meet demand.
The Queenslanders with Disability Network noted that 'the lack of
available and qualified staff is impacting on the people's choice and control,
particularly for younger participants who are seeking support staff who can
help them learn new skills to achieve their goals around social and economic
Submitters reported that the lack of available qualified staff and
constant change of staff have concerning implications for participants as it
impacts on the quality and continuity of care.
Ms Deborah Anderson, who has worked in the disability sector for over
ten years, told the committee:
I'm fearful that, for frontline positions, the sector is
attracting unskilled, untrained workers with little to no qualifications. This
puts the people that we're looking after at risk of harm.
Mr Stewart Little from the Public Service Association of NSW reported that
'inexperienced staff have been brought into some homes, which has led to a
sharp increase in the anxiety – and, some cases, violence – of the clients they
are caring for'.
The committee is concerned that there is no clear picture of the
disability workforce. The lack of data and monitoring of trends on the
disability workforce makes it difficult to develop appropriate responses and
programs to address workforce shortages.
The committee agrees with the Productivity Commission's view that the
ABS should regularly collect and publish information on the disability care
workforce, including allied health professionals.
The committee recommends the Australian Government fund the ABS to
regularly collect and publish information on the qualifications, age, hours of
work and incomes of those working in disability care works, including allied
Initiatives to grow the workforce
The Department of Social Services (DSS) has the lead role in addressing
national issues relating to the disability market, sector and workforce. The
DSS's role includes identifying national workforce issues and working with
relevant Commonwealth programs to develop a suitable workforce pool from which
providers can attract, train and retain sufficient workers with appropriate
skills to meet the needs of NDIS participants.
The NDIA and states and territories are responsible for supporting the DSS
in this leadership role.
DSS coordinates this work through Market Readiness Working Groups in each
jurisdiction, and nationally through the Market Oversight sub-Working Group of
the Disability Reform Council Senior Officials Working Group.
Australian Government initiatives
DSS also administers sector development funding and programs, including the
NDIS Sector Development Fund (SDF) from 2015 to 2018 (administered by the NDIA
from 2012 to 2015), the new NDIS Jobs and Market Fund (JMF), and the Boosting
the Local Care Workforce Program.
Sector Development Fund
As discussed in Chapter 1, the SDF was established to support the
substantial changes required in the disability sector to realise the vision of
a flourishing support market driven by the choices of people with disability.
The SDF was available from 2012 to 2018 to support the transition to the
NDIS environment and funded a range of projects, including some aimed at
assisting with the expansion and diversification of the workforce required to
meet increased demand.
Over six years, $105 million was provided through grants to
organisations and state and territory governments.
For example, it provided $4.9 million to the Innovative Workforce Fund
(IWF) project managed by National Disability Services. The IWF aimed to
encourage the development and sharing of innovative workforce practices to support
rollout of the NDIS.
In October 2016, the Victorian Government released Keeping our Sector
Strong: Victoria's Workforce plan for the NDIS, which comprises nine
workforce priorities. The Plan was supported by a $26 million investment, which
$4.88 million funded through the SDF.
Some inquiry participants expressed their support for the SDF and IWF as
it allows individuals and organisations to apply for grants to support the
development of the disability workforce and recommended continuation of these
types of programs.
Boosting the Local Care Workforce
$30 million of the SDF funding was transferred to the Boosting the Local
Workforce Program in the 2017-18 budget.
The $33 million program is aimed at developing the capacity of disability and
aged care providers to operate effectively and expand their workforces, with a
particular focus on boosting local job opportunities in rural, regional and
outer suburban areas.
On 15 December 2017, the Minister for Aged Care announced the
appointment of a consortium led by Ernst & Young (EY), and including
not-for-profit organisations and an employment service, to implement the
The program is deploying Regional Coordinators and Specialist (issues
based) Coordinators to raise awareness of employment opportunities, produce and
distribute market intelligence, and recommend strategies to address workforce
challenges. In addition, eligible disability service providers will be able to
apply for business transition advice and grants to help them prepare their
businesses to deliver services under the NDIS.
Jobs and Market Fund
From 1 July 2018, the Jobs and Market Fund (JMF) replaced the Sector
Development Fund (SDF). $45.6 million is available through JMF funding until
30 June 2021 for targeted projects to grow the provider market and workforce in
number and capability.
Examples of projects that may be funded under the JMF include:
work to support the development of an e-marketplace;
online training modules for NDIS workers;
initiatives to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
organisations to become NDIS registered providers;
information and programs that link school leavers and
VET/university students with NDIS career opportunities; and
projects to develop new delivery models for rural and remote
It is expected that the first grants round will be open to applications
by the end of 2018. 
Other initiatives undertaken by the
Department of Social Services
DSS is also working with other Australian, state and territory
departments, the NDIA and the sector to grow the disability workforce.
leveraging off existing employment and training programs such as
jobactive and Disability Employment Services to place jobseekers
into suitable jobs;
funding the National Aboriginal Community Health Organisation and
Indigenous Allied Health Australia to deliver projects to identify issues and
solutions to enable Indigenous organisations and job seekers to deliver NDIS
working with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD)
organisations to develop resources which will assist NDIS providers that serve
CALD participants; and
communication activity to support the growth of the NDIS market
and workforce which was announced as part of the NDIS Jobs and Market Fund
Sunnyfield reported a lack of a national approach to workforce planning
and development and called for the development of a national strategy.
Mr Symondson, CEO of the Victorian Healthcare Association called for a national
approach to workforce planning:
A recommendation that we have is that there be a
comprehensive approach to workforce planning in the disability space. Each
state at the moment has its own view on this, and the Commonwealth another. We
would like to see a unified approach to workforce across disability services so
that these issues don't happen differentially across the country.
Some submitters also called for workforce strategies to be developed for
some specific sectors.
For example, Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia (MIFA) recommended the
development of a rural and remote workforce strategy to support upskilling of
people living in rural and remote areas.
VICSERV and other submitters called for the development of a national
mental health workforce strategy.
UnitingCare Australia similarly recommended the development of a
coordinated cross-agency strategy:
A coordinated strategy with resourcing, developed across the
Commonwealth Departments of Social Services, Jobs and Small Business, as well
as the NDIA, would better enable the emergence of workable and effective
employment initiatives to aid NDIS implementation in service delivery
The committee acknowledges the current grant funding programs in place
to grow the disability workforce in number and capability. Such programs are
critical to building and growing the market. Funding priorities need to be
clear to maximise outcomes. The committee is concerned that in its evaluation
of the SDF, the ANAO found that there was limited evidence that the DSS adopted
a strategic approach to grant-making.
The committee urges the DSS to ensure that the JMF program funds are
distributed according to priorities identified through the development of an
overall national disability workforce strategy.
At present, there is no clear national strategy to grow the workforce.
The 2015 Integrated Market, Sector and Workforce Strategy is now outdated and
lacked details for the transition. As described by the ANAO, the Strategy did
not provide a clear basis for coordinated actions and did not include any
commitment to specific deliverables.
The committee recommends the DSS develop and publically release a national
strategy to develop the disability workforce.
Barriers to grow the workforce
Submitters cited the changes in working conditions, the casual nature of
the work, the low number of hours offered, a lack of relevant qualification
pathways and professional development opportunities and pay conditions as key
barriers to growing the disability workforce.
Transition to market
The transition to market has been disruptive both for service providers
and disability workers.
For example, Flinders University explained that in South Australia the
workforce was not prepared for a marketised environment of allied health
service provision, nor the need to change service delivery models to meet
The Australian Services Union pointed out that the traditional model of
permanent employment with a single service provider is being supplanted by
alternative employment models, which can result in insecure work arrangements
and overall casualisation of the workforce.
Dr Fiona Macdonald explained that the transition to market has disrupted
the organisation of work and led to fragmentation of working time arrangements
and highly variable and unpredictable work. These factors contribute to
underemployment and low pay.
Casualisation of the workforce
Many submitters raised the issue of the casualisation of the workforce
as a major barrier to workforce growth.
For example, the Benevolent Society noted:
The promise of the sector for those looking for work is being
undermined by the increasing casualisation of the workforce which is acting as
a deterrent to attracting more staff.
According to the NDS State of the Disability Sector Report 2017,
underemployment in health care and social assistance is among the highest of
any industry at nearly 11 percent.
Scope explained that the reliability and availability of casual staff
can be problematic both for disability workers who may experience under
employment and service providers who may be unable to roster workers in
response to customer demand or choice.
Dr Natasha Cortis believes the casualisation of the workforce is contributing
to a high staff turnover and the disruption of services.
Similarly, Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA) explained that the
'increasing casualisation of the disability support workforce has reduced
continuity of workers and services'.
Most service providers are of the view that under the current pricing
structure, it is very difficult to recruit and retain staff.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU NSW) summarised the view of many in
saying 'wages are inadequate to attract staff'.
Professor Hayward from the Future Social Service Institute told the
I can say that the feedback we're having uniformly is that
the prices are set too low to enable workforce growth to happen in a good way.[...]
At the current level of pricing there is no way you're going to be able to pay
disability workers what's needed in order to make it an attractive place to
Competing with other sectors
As a result, some workers are leaving the sector. For example, the Ella
Centre stated that current unit pricing for direct care gives little incentive
for skilled and experienced workers to stay in the sector.
Buzza reported that because staying in the disability sector is no
longer profitable, highly experienced and skilled people are leaving for
adjacent sectors, including Child Protection, Aged Care, Education and Health.
VICSERV identified 'a mass exit of qualified and experienced workers
from the [mental health] sector' due to the NDIS pricing structure.
UnitingCare Australia noted that various sectors, including aged care
and health are currently competing for the same workers.
Impacts on quality of care
One of the risks of inadequate pricing identified by submitters is that
the disability market may come to rely on a largely unskilled workforce.
CPSU NSW contended that 'this is already occurring and has led to a
de-professionalising of the disability workforce'.
This can have devastating consequences on the quality of care delivered
to participants but also, at times, put unskilled and unsupervised workers at
risk of harm.
Training and qualifications
Professor Hayward from the Future Social Service Institute (FSSI)
believes there has not been enough focus on looking at the qualifications
needed in the disability workforce:
One thing that has struck me about the NDIA and the NDIS is
that there has been too little attention paid to the disability workforce and
the qualifications needed, and not just at the vocational level but at the
higher education level.
Submitters reported that there has been a lack of investment in TAFEs
and universities to develop a qualified disability support.
Entry level qualifications
FSSI noted that despite increasing enrolments in Certificate III
programs related to disability support, the number of students completing their
courses remains low. For example, in 2016, there were 35 179 students enrolled
in Certificate III in Individual Support, but only 10 511 students completed.
There are several reasons why students do not complete a training system
and may include:
training packages that are not fit for purpose;
funding arrangements and costs;
poor quality teaching; inadequate facilities and infrastructure;
lack of personalised support; and
personal reasons including family and caring responsibilities,
financial factors and academic ability.
FSSI identified the need for more research to understand why students
are not completing their training and identify the types of supports that can
assist students to complete their program.
Additionally, FSSI believes there is an urgent need for new suites of
educational programs that are fit-for-purpose.
Similarly, other submitters recommended a review of Certificate III in
Individual Support and Certificate IV in Disability to ensure better relevance
Ms Natalie Lang from the Australian Services Union (ASU) sees a need for
a review of content in entry level qualifications but argued that
qualifications remain important:
The experience that we found is that there does need to be
some reimagining of the content in the Certificate III and Certificate IV, but
it is certainly not a case to do away with minimum qualifications.
Conversely, the NDIA is of the view that calls for mandatory entry-level
qualifications for personal care workers may create a significant barrier to
workforce growth and that there is no convincing evidence that it would improve
quality of care or participant outcomes.
Professional development and
training on the job
FSSI is of the view that there is an urgent need for training for
existing workers and leaders within the disability workforce to successfully
transition to a market based system.
With the transition to the NDIS system and pricing structure,
opportunities for staff to engage in learning and development activities,
compliance training, mentoring, induction and staff meetings are very limited.
In the NDS's 2017 Annual Market Survey, around one-third of CEOs
surveyed indicated their workers were not paid to attend training and
development or to attend team meetings.
Similarly, the Australian Service Union (ASU) members reported that 'the
NDIS does not allow funding for staff development or team meetings'.
Overall, service providers reported that within the current NDIS pricing
model, there is no or very minimal funding available for training staff.
Ms Linda White from the ASU explained that careers in the disability
sector are not attractive because they offer little or no professional
On price pressure: what's happening is that training goes out
the window because the price pressure means that you just can't train people,
therefore the jobs are less desirable. [...]We think if you deskill a workforce
you make it less desirable, and you're not going to attract anybody.
The Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre recommended the
development of a funding stream to enable on-site training and professional
development for staff.
Portable training model
The Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute proposed a
strategy for addressing training needs. It has developed a model for how,
within the context of the NDIS, disability workers would have opportunities,
both when they join the industry and on a career-long basis, to acquire skills
and credentials that would improve their jobs but, most importantly, improve
the quality of service that is delivered to NDIS participants.
Dr Jim Stanford from the Centre for Future Work explained to the
committee the main features of the training model:
We imagine a system based on three tiers of training. The
first tier would be induction training, consisting of a minimal orientation and
training for new recruits to the industry of 50 hours training total[...].
The second tier would be a foundation level of training that,
in our judgement, should be compulsory training and recognition of a credential
for people to work in this field, that would be equivalent to a certificate III
level of training from the existing vocational education and training system
The third tier [...] would be to establish an entitlement for
workers providing disability services funded under the NDIS for a portable
training entitlement. As they work in the field and accumulate experience, they
would gain entitlement to certain numbers of hours of paid training. The
training would be covered, and they would be paid their average wage while they
were taking the training. We've proposed setting this entitlement at a ratio of
one hour of paid training entitlement for every 50 hours of work performed
under an NDIS compensated service.
The Centre for Future Work estimated the cost over the first five years
of the program would be around $190 million per year in total. This would cover
all three tiers of training and administration.
Dr Jim Stanford believes this innovative model 'fits with the spirit of
the NDIS for a flexible, individualised model of service delivery'.
The ASU is of the view that this proposed portable training entitlement
system is essential to ensure the recruitment and retention of a skilled and
The committee is concerned that there are currently virtually no
incentives to choose a career in the disability support sector. Submitters who
have worked for a very long time in the sector described how working conditions
have dramatically deteriorated under the NDIS. In short, they reported a rise
in underemployment and insecure work arrangements, inadequate wages and no
prospect of professional development opportunities. Under these conditions, it
is hard to imagine how to retain highly experienced and qualified workers and
attract new workers, including young people entering the workforce.
It is becoming apparent that with the introduction of the NDIS, it has
become challenging for service providers to offer secure full-time employment
to their staff. In addition, because of the NDIS pricing structure, service
providers are unable to offer training and professional development to their
staff. The committee is also concerned that staff supervision and mentoring
have also been reduced, which is potentially compromising the quality of care
offered to participants. The committee is of the view that these issues are
directly related to NDIS pricing. Pricing is further discussed in Chapters 4
and 5 of this report.
Training and qualifications
The committee is of the view that having qualified staff working in
disability supports is important to ensure quality of care and safety of
participants. On this basis, the committee believes that a range of
qualifications should be available both at vocational and tertiary education
The committee is conversant with the low rate of completion of VET
qualifications, including in programs related to disability support. The
committee sees value in the suggestion made by several submitters that some education
vocational programs could be reviewed. This may assist in delivering training
programs that are better aligned with jobs and increase rate of completion.
The committee recommends the Australian Skills Quality Authority undertake
consultations with the industry, state and territory governments on the
adequacy of current VET programs offered in disability care.
The committee recognises that opportunities for training and
professional development activities are important to ensure workers keep
up-to-date with practices and gain new skills. In the context of the NDIS there
is, at present, no provision for access to funding for training for disability
workers who deliver NDIS services as employees of an organisation or as sole traders.
The committee sees merit in the proposal of a portable training entitlement
system for people who are working for NDIS registered organisations or are
sole-traders registered with the NDIS. Such a system would ensure that disability
workers continue to upskill and provide high quality care to participants. This
would also assist in making the disability sector a more attractive career
option and in retaining some of the workforce currently considering moving to
other sectors. The committee is of the view that the Quality and Safeguards
Commission is best placed to review options on how to ensure disability workers
under the NDIS can access funded training to ensure a high quality of care and
safe environments for participants.
The committee recommends the Quality and Safeguards Commission review
options on how to ensure disability workers under the NDIS can access funded
training, including considering the introduction of a portable training
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page