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MSWA Bulletin Magazine Summer 2022

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Keeping your cool this summer | Welcome Melanie Kiely CEO | MSWA Stationary Cycle results | Pain and pain management series: Part 3

COMMUNTY CUSTOMER

COMMUNTY CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT SUPPORT TEAM LABOUR SHORTAGES IMPACTING NDIS EFFECTIVENESS When I joined MSWA in 2018, I was keen to get a clear picture of the NDIS environment and its pain points. I wanted to see, if possible, what MSWA should be focusing on in the upcoming months and years. To do this I organised several meetings with peers from various organisations to have a chat and discuss the world as we now knew it. Most talked about the issues with the rollout, delays in the planning process, and the challenges of working within a Scheme that was still very much in development. One astute disability sector veteran went a different way and suggested that “everyone is focusing on organisations competing for clients, however, the real competition will be organisations competing for staff”. Well, kudos to that man because as we are seeing now, workforce may be the biggest stumbling block to a sustainable and effective NDIS. To be fair, his concern wasn’t totally without supporting evidence. As early as 2014 two thirds of respondents to the NDS State of the Disability Sector survey highlighted difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff as an emerging trend. It is important to note that the NDIS did not officially arrive in WA until 2016. The 2017 and 2018 State of the Disability Sector results were much of the same, with workforce planning being listed as a ‘top three issue’ amongst providers. By 2019 those concerns had become reality, with 76% of providers stating that they had received requests for services in the past 12 months that they were unable to provide due to capacity constraints. The NDIS National Workforce Plan 2021-2025 helps to illustrate the issue. Across the country, 450,000 active participants receive services from over 11,600 active NDIS providers employing around 270,000 workers. By 2024 the NDIS is expected to grow to 500,000 participants who will require support from almost 353,000 workers – a growth of 83,000 workers in only three years. Even under the best circumstances, that’s a reach. So what caused this issue? Well, the starting point is that the workforce wasn’t ready for the rapid growth provided by the NDIS. In June of 2017 there were 4,691 active participants in WA. By July 2021 that number had grown to 42,256 NDIS active participants across Western Australia. While this growth had been matched by growth in recruitment opportunities, the sector as a whole has traditionally struggled to attract and retain workers. This struggle can be linked to a lack of suitably trained applicants, perceived low job prestige, lower pay compared to other sectors and fewer opportunities for career progression. In fact, government reports suggest that 43% of unfilled support worker vacancies were because of a lack of suitable or qualified candidates. So the jobs are there, it's just there’s no one to fill them. Another concern is the number of providers now competing for the same workers. According to NDIS reporting as of September 2021, there were 2,176 active NDIS providers in Western Australia. When you compare this to 978 active providers in September 2019 it’s evident that a lot more organisations are now seeking to attract the same number of workers and there are not enough to go around. 14

These barriers pale in comparison to the 300lb Pandemic Elephant that just entered the room. While the true impact of the COVID pandemic on Western Australia’s workforce will play out in the coming weeks and months, what we do know is that the Government’s response to the pandemic, ensuing border closures and vaccination mandates have already impacted the state’s disability workforce. For instance, pre-pandemic, a large percentage of organisations were able to recruit a casual workforce due to the movement of workers internationally and across the states. Post-COVID these workers have all but disappeared. The lack of international students has also seen a drop in graduating allied health staff looking for employment opportunities locally. While the border opening may ease some of these concerns as our eastern states counterparts have shown, living with open borders and the Omicron variant is a challenging exercise in itself. The sector’s peak-body NDS reported in January of 2022 that some eastern states’ organisations have up to 20% of their workforce in isolation due to COVID. All these challenges mean that organisations across the sector are unable to meet the growing demand of their Clients. It’s a perfect storm of growth in demand coupled with a drop in resources, that is impacting everything we do. So what is the sector doing to address this issue? MSWA is continuing to look at everything we do from a staff recruitment and retention point of view to ensure that we can not only attract high-quality staff, but keep them. This includes improvements to how, where and how often we recruit; potential partnerships with education facilities; improved training; and more support for frontline workers to improve connectivity to the organisation. The Federal Government has also taken up the challenge by investing .3 million into the NDIS Jobs and Market Fund (JMF) and 2 million into the Sector Development Fund, with targeted projects to grow the provider market and workforce in size and capability. While these will have long-term impacts on the available workforce, the reality is that the disability sector, much like the health, transportation, hospitality and retail sectors, will be affected by staffing shortages over the coming months. It is important that you as participants have an active conversation with us around your plans and we work together to ensure that we can safely provide as many services to as many people as possible. GEOFF HUTCHINSON MANAGER CLIENT ENGAGEMENT 15