This annual financial sustainability report is required under section 180B of the NDIS Act. This report provides an assessment of the financial sustainability of the NDIS after the first year of transition to full Scheme, following the three year trial period.
Summary of National Disability Insurance Scheme Financial Sustainability Report 2016-17
Sarah Johnson BCom FIAA, Scheme Actuary, September 2017
The Scheme at 30 June 2017
The NDIS has nearly tripled in size in the year to 30 June 2017, with the number of participants who had an approved plan increasing from 30,281 to 90,638. Of these, 89,610 remained active participants as at 30 June 2017. There were a further 6,134 Early Childhood Early Intervention () gateway referrals identified.
The Scheme participant population is equivalent to about a fifth of the expected full Scheme population at 30 June 2020 and about 83 per cent of the bilateral estimate at 30 June 2017, including participants in thegateway.
As at 30 June 2017, $7.3 billion of support has been committed to participants since the inception of the Scheme, of which $1.5 billion relates to supports committed during the trial period, $3.2 billion relates to supports committed during 2016-17 and $2.6 billion relates to supports committed in 2017-18 and beyond.
Not all committed support in plans is being used by participants. The utilisation of committed supports has been around 64 per cent for supports committed in 2013-14 and around 75 per cent for supports committed from 2014-15 to 2016-17, with utilisation rates varying across states/territories, and generally being lower for a participant’s first plan.
Comparison between the revenue received during 2016-17 from both the Commonwealth and state/territory governments (the “funding envelope”) and the amount of support used by participants, results in a projected accounting surplus of about 11 per cent of the funding envelope. The relatively low levels of utilisation to date has meant that the Scheme has operated within the funding envelope. However, if as expected, the utilisation of committed supports within the Scheme increases over time, without the management action described below, pressure could be put on the Scheme.
Baseline data from the short-form outcomes framework questionnaires was collected during 2016-17, revealing that participants generally want more choice and control in their life. They also have low levels of employment and community participation. Families and carers would like to work more and see their family and friends more often. This information will enable the assessment of changes in a participant’s outcomes over time.
Approximately 85 per cent of participants reported that they were satisfied with the planning process during 2016-17, reflecting a rating of the process as either good or very good. This result is relatively high, but is a reduction from the 95 per cent reported during trial, indicating that improvements could be made to the current planning process.
Whilst the Scheme cost was within the funding envelope for the first four years, there are some current pressures which require management responses. These pressures are very similar to those reported in last year’s financial sustainability report, and include:
- higher than expected numbers of children entering the Scheme, especially for children with developmental delay and autism;
- increasing package amounts over and above the impacts of inflation and ageing (“super imposed” inflation);
- potential participants continuing to approach the Scheme, even for the most mature trial sites;
- lower than expected numbers of participants exiting the Scheme, specifically for those who have entered the Scheme via the early intervention pathway;
- a mismatch between benchmark package costs and actual package costs, especially for higher functioning participants; and
- higher than expected costs of shared supported accommodation.
NDIS insurance approach
The NDIS insurance approach allows pressures on the Scheme to be identified early and management responses put in place to respond to these pressures. Specifically, data is collected on participants (including the characteristics of the participants, costs and outcomes), and this actual experience is compared with the baseline projection. This actuarial monitoring occurs continuously and allows management to implement strategies as required.
It is not unreasonable that some emerging pressures are evident after four years of the NDIS. This is common in any statutory insurance or social welfare reform, and also reflects the fast paced implementation of the NDIS over the past year. The current pressures reflect the original commitments, as the pace of implementation and learning from this implementation, will assist with management responses.
Importantly data and evidence is available to understand what is driving these pressures and operational responses are underway to address the cost pressures. All else being equal, if these responses are as effective as expected, the pressures identified should be mitigated, and it is reasonable to expect financial sustainability throughout transition and full Scheme.
A number of specific initiatives have been developed:
- The approach is being progressively rolled out. The approach provides a gateway to the NDIS for children aged 0-6 years, which aims to ensure only children meeting the eligibly criteria for the NDIS enter as participants. The gateway also provides support for children to access mainstream and community services when they do not meet the criteria, but need some support to access these services.
- The reference package and guided planning process is a method to better align the level of function and need with support packages for participants when they first enter the Scheme and for a participant’s plan review. This process is well underway, but ongoing refinement of this process to ensure the right assessment tools and questions are used also is critical. Importantly, this process assists in determining the reasonable and necessary support package, enabling participants to plan their supports to be able to meet their goals.
- A detailed plan review strategy has been developed with the aim of better aligning a participant’s plan to the Scheme’s growing evidence base of typical support packages to ensure plan reviews are fair, equitable and sustainable while also reflecting individual needs and circumstances. The review strategy also provides better alignment of plan duration to the nature of supports within a plan, for example allowing longer plan durations if participants live in a stable, supported environment and have predictable support needs.
- A sustainability and quality team has been established to build awareness of sustainability and quality within the Agency and to develop strategies to ensure a balance in meeting bilateral estimates and building the Scheme in a sustainable manner. This manifests itself through targeted file reviews and audits, staff training programs and monitoring.
- A Participant and Provider Pathway Review is underway following stakeholder feedback that the experience of participants and providers was not meeting the high standards to which the Agency aspires. The Review has involved workshops and discussions with people with disability, carers and providers to help understand the key issues. The key principles for designing the revised pathway and to address the identified issues include:
- a stronger focus on the disability ecosystem, including mainstream services, disability organisations and community supports;
- NDIS communication which emphasises the objectives and role of the Scheme to support people with permanent and significant disability with a clear focus on outcomes and goals during discussion of planning or funded supports;
- information provided that is clear and consistent, and is available in accessible formats, such as braille and Easy English;
- participants have a consistent point of contact, with an emphasis on helping participants to use all supports (not just funded) to achieve outcomes and where face-to-face engagement is the default, depending on individual preference;
- planning is done by a capable planner who understands the participant’s specific disability and who is supported by data and business intelligence; and
- design of easy-to-use portal and tools, with simplified processes for common tasks, for example making changes to plans which do not change value.
- A business intelligence strategy has been developed to progressively deliver a foundational business intelligence capability within the Scheme based on strong insurance principles using comprehensive and reliable data. There are a number of projects underway which will increase the Agency’s business intelligence capability, including the refinement of governance processes for data management, improved gateway interfaces with business partners and channels, participant analytics for assistance in participant pathway redesign and analytics to help participants, families and carers to maximise opportunities at plan review.
In summary, it is important that the Agency maintains a continued focus on the collection of quality data to monitor the effectiveness of management responses. It is also important that appropriate risk-based assurance reviews are performed to help the Agency better understand the current pressures. Ongoing training is also required to put Scheme sustainability at the core of the Agency’s business processes. Lastly, the Participant and Provider Pathway Review is designing processes to ensure quality plans, an outcomes-based focus and financial sustainability. It is critical that the capacity and capability of the Agency be supported to implement the redesigned pathways.