The NDIS Workforce Capability Framework and the DSW Cost model



The NDIS Commission is to be congratulated on the new Workforce Capability Framework released earlier this month in a user friendly format. It’s a visionary step. However, I get the feeling that I can't be the only person thinking there’s an elephant in the room here - and it’s the Disability Support Worker (DSW) Cost model.


For me, the new NDIS Workplace Capability Framework and the latest DSW Cost model are two completely incompatible frameworks facing every NDIS provider. (Although the first is not mandatory.)


One delivers quality, the other actively undermines it.


Unless the DSW model is revised, their combined impact will only further drive the ‘corporatisation’ of disability services as organisations move to build workforce capability and still remain financially sustainable under the NDIA’s price limits.


The problem is that the DSW cost model (which drives the NDIA pricing) only works if you operate a high volume, low support, transactional service model.


The irony is that the disability customer is not looking for a transaction. They are looking for someone with whom they can build a trusted relationship.


People with disabilities deserve dignity and respect – and so do their frontline workers. An "enabling work environment" is one founded on values that apply to ALL stakeholders.


People with complex intellectual disabilities need longevity in a relationship. Their support workers need more than one or two ‘buddy shifts’ before left on their own to support the client.


If we are genuinely serious about enabling frontline quality and building a stable, qualified workforce then this means:

  • more than two hours of ‘buddy shifts’ before a first solo shift

  • on the job training and ongoing professional development

  • a career path, regular performance reviews, and above all

  • an hourly rate that delivers a decent living wage.


All of this requires a less regulated price mechanism. Otherwise, only larger providers (or those supporting people with less complex needs), will be financially sustainable.


How does this serve 'market stewardship' or the principles of “choice and control” upon which the NDIS was founded?


From what I can see, the DSW cost model actively dis-incentivises training, it dis-incentivises promoting staff, and dis-incentivises the quality of support that the Workforce Capability Framework was designed to prioritise and enable.