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Willing and able

Emma Breheny

With the shift from a mostly centralised system of disability care to the more flexible NDIS where users choose their providers, the ACT and many other states are going through a transition phase that can be challenging for workers.

This uncertainty is widely acknowledged, with National Disability Services (NDS) saying, ‘For disability service providers, the journey to the NDIS is arduous and uncertain. Providers don’t lack the will to proceed, but they do lack resources and a clear map of the terrain ahead.’

In response to this, NDS delivered a forum specifically for allied health professionals on 7 April. Richard Attwood, APA senior policy advisor, attended the forum and says it was helpful in dispelling some of the fear and misunderstanding around the NDIS.

‘The NDS know about disability. They have connections to government; they have connections to other disability service providers. They’ve got fantastic networks.’

The major workforce issues discussed were access, recruitment, retention, training and cost reimbursement. With 460 000 people estimated to be covered under the NDIS by 2019, there’s likely to be significant challenges ahead for recruitment and retention.

However, there are huge business and career opportunities for physiotherapists and others in allied health, and the benefits are significant for those that make the transition to provider status early.

Those that don’t may find themselves competing with personal trainers, occupational therapists and others who may not have the same qualifications as physiotherapists in the use of exercise as treatment.

‘Six to nine months out from the scheme starting, start reading, start learning what you have to do to register and start making connections. Reach out to your peers and other professionals, go to meetings, watch webinars.’
In addition to business opportunities, participating in the NDIS as a provider offers a chance to grow as a clinician and take on new challenges.

‘You will deal with very challenging, interesting people, you’ll work with other professionals, and you’ll work with wider families,’ Richard says of the multidisciplinary nature of the scheme.

To be ready to take full advantage of the financial, professional and personal opportunities, Richard strongly recommends educating yourself early.

‘Six to nine months out from the scheme starting, start reading, start learning what you have to do to register and start making connections. Reach out to your peers and other professionals, go to meetings, watch webinars.’

The NDIS records many of its information events and makes these available as webinars and transcripts. Topics covered include mental health and the NDIS, provider readiness and assistive technologies, as well as state-specific rollout information.

Richard also recommends identifying your niche and using it to your advantage, rather than trying to provide services for every type of impairment.

‘The message I got from the forum in the ACT and another in Queensland is to know your limits. Don’t try and offer everything.’

 

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