On the 4th May 2023, Minister for NDIS Bill Shorten was interviewed by ABC Radio. The Minister made some comments about the scheme and providers of services which members found to be upsetting, frustrating and incorrect.

The full transcript can be found here. He later echoed these sentiments on SKY News and The Today Show.

VAHPA felt strongly that these issues needed to be brought directly to the attention of the Minister. VAHPA will always stand up for its members regardless of the politics of the situation.

The following is our formal letter to Minister Shorten addressing his statements about these matters.

11 May 2023

Hon Bill Shorten MP

Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Minister for Government Services

PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Minister

RE: NDIS MEDIA REPORT ON ABC RADIO 4 MAY 2023

The Victorian Allied Health Professionals Association (VAHPA) is a specialist trade union which promotes and defends the industrial, professional and democratic interests of its members working in almost all areas of healthcare in Victoria – in public, community and private healthcare.

This membership includes Allied Health Professionals such as Occupational Therapists (OTs), Physiotherapists and Speech Pathologists, working with and providing services to participants in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Many of our members listened to the ABC radio interview with you on 4 May 2023 regarding the NDIS and the Federal Government’s concerns and hopes for the future of the scheme.

In particular, our OT members working in the sector were dismayed, upset and frustrated to hear of the example used to amplify the message about alleged over-servicing by some providers.

They were further hurt and offended that it was stated that as a provider you can afford to pad the bill or take more time and that’s a- it’s taken from people with disability and it’s denying them the opportunity to get better outcomes”.

Unfortunately, once something is on the public record the untrue perception is created, as we all know. The interview fed into a narrative that providers are rorting the scheme.

We are informed that therapist providers (i.e. Allied Health Professionals) did not receive any price guide increase last year, so to state that “they had a very significant increase last year” is apparently not correct when it comes to therapists. This adds fuel to the fire that the providers are doing very well out of the scheme at the expense of the participants.

Additionally, the reference to “91 per cent of the providers who deliver the services to them (the participants) are unregistered”, can cause a misleading confusion and misunderstanding in the public mind about the level of the clinical competence of Allied Health Professionals delivering these services.

Allied Health Professionals such as OTs, Physiotherapists and Speech Pathologists, all require a minimum AQF7 university-level education.Professions are regulated through the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (NRAS) or are self-regulated. The different types of regulation do not imply a difference in quality and safety, as each allied health profession has a system in place to ensure that practitioners are appropriately qualified, undertake ongoing professional development, and adhere to professional standards.

Our members are dedicated to professionally and ethically assisting and supporting the participants in the scheme. However, they advise many of the problems impacting the cost effectiveness of the scheme are the consequence of systemic issues and inconsistency from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) around reporting requirements.

Our members are looking to the Federal Government to actually lead by directing the NDIA to clarify once and for all what is needed from Allied Health Professionals and other providers.  As others have said, the NDIA’s bureaucratic requirements divert funds from participants’ plans and reduce the time available to support participants to achieve their goals.  

Sewing doubt and division does nothing but create more stress and pain on an already overburdened workforce and is not a way to build and maintain trust. 

Many providers tell us they are near breaking point and are only holding on because of their commitment to their clients. Driving Allied Health Professionals and other providers out of the system by the questioning of their integrity will serve no one and only make for worse outcomes for clients who are already worried about the potential of future cuts to their services. 

In solidarity

John Ryan

Acting Secretary