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How we can work to overcome challenges identified by the disability workers in this study.

As broadly similar themes have presented throughout the three years of the study, it is advised that the 2018 and 2019 recommendations are retained with some additions (please see Understanding the workforce experience of the NDIS – Longitudinal Research Project: Year one and Year two reports).

The following recommendations are based on the research findings presented here, and input from the project’s Expert Advisory Panel.

  1. There is need for standardised information to be made available to the sector about workforce health and safety protections specific to the disability sector with a unified approach to dissemination. This will provide the workforce with a clear path to the resolution of OH&S issues and demonstrate to the workforce and organisations that worker safety is a priority. Key to the development of this information is consultation with and input from key stakeholders such as WorkSafe and the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) as well as NDIS providers.

    The development of standardised information should also be accompanied by a sector-wide communication and training program. Specifically:

    • A coordinated approach to provision of training about the information developed should be undertaken. WorkSafe and NDIA should also be a part of the health and safety training story to help empower staff, particularly direct support workers.
    • Training should be encouraged and implemented at a service level as workforce perception is that employers are ultimately responsible for employee welfare.
    • While there is a need for available written information about policies and procedures, it was also noted that there should be training that includes role plays and taking workers through a variety of scenarios that could occur, as workers are often too short of time to read lengthy documents. This also could be conducted in an online environment.
    • To promote a healthy and safe workforce, information, and support services available to the workforce should be tailored to the specific needs and experiences of disability workers.
    • Provide information to NDIS providers about building a safety culture. For workers a safe workplace is responsive, open to feedback and prioritises the safety of staff alongside clients.
    • Disseminate information through existing Communities of Practice, which provide an opportunity for workers to exchange ideas and reflect on organisational practice.
  2. This research identified many examples of members of the workforce finding new, specialised, and motivating roles within the NDIS. There is an opportunity to share these stories to showcase the possibilities of working in the sector.

    Additionally; support, education and flexibility are needed to encourage the existing workforce to carve out fulfilling careers in the sector and ensure their retention.

  3. Many members of the workforce – particularly those in direct support or support coordinator roles – are keen to obtain qualifications and move into allied health roles as they can see a clear demand for these skills. However, the current pathways to qualifications are seen as limited, overly academic, and difficult for those already in the workforce to access, particularly if living in regional areas. There was strong demand for the opportunity to conduct traineeships or other forms of study that can be combined with existing work in the sector. Further research and consultation with the education sector is required to explore opportunities to diversify qualification pathways.

    In addition, there is growing interest in working as a sole trader within the NDIS as a potentially more lucrative and flexible pathway for the workforce. However, further education and support is needed; such as services that match clients with workers, social networking opportunities and training in policy, procedures, and financial management.

    This research study has continually identified that funding for training is a severe limitation of the NDIS. The workforce has typically been reluctant to migrate to online training, as it lacks the opportunities for incidental peer learning and social interaction. However, with the widespread move to using online tools such as Teams and Zoom to collaborate in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be the opportunity to capitalise on increased technical competency to develop innovative and collaborative training models. A co-design approach should be used with the workforce to ensure that any digital training meets their needs.

  4. While the Expert Advisory Panel recognised there is a need for solutions such as those outlined above to address the issues raised by the research, it was also agreed that there are significant structural barriers to improving health, safety and wellbeing and providing adequate training and career progression opportunities for a growing workforce. A systems-thinking approach would involve reviewing some of the structural issues that exist under the NDIS. This three-year research project suggests any review should aim to ensure employment conditions that include time for training, supervision, collaboration and ultimately, worker wellbeing. A systems-thinking approach would also mean identifying strategies for the NDIA, WorkSafe, NDIS providers and the Department of Social Services to better collaborate in meeting the needs of the workforce.

Research project delivered by the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (formerly Department of Health and Human Services) and conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs

Future research

The Victorian Disability Worker Commission may have future opportunities to pursue disability worker- related consultation and research. Notification of opportunities to participate in consultation or research will be noted in the Commission’s newsletter. You can subscribe to the newsletter from the Disability Worker Commission website contact pageExternal Link by selecting 'Subscribe to periodic updates'.

For more information, events and resources to support Victoria’s disability workforce visit Victoria’s workforce plan for the NDIS.

Authorised and published by the Victorian Government, 1 Treasury Place, Melbourne. © State of Victoria, Australia, Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, August 2021.

With the exception of any images, photographs or branding (including, but not limited to the Victorian Coat of Arms, the Victorian Government logo or the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing logo), this work, NDIS Workforce Longitudinal Research Study – Year 3, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence.

The terms and conditions of this licence, including disclaimer of warranties and limitation of liability are available at Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public LicenseExternal Link .

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The images in this document depict actual services and recipients of services. This document may contain images of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

In this document, ‘Aboriginal’ refers to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. ‘Indigenous’ or ‘Koori/Koorie’ is retained when part of the title of a report, program or quotation.

ISBN 978-1-76096-504-4 (pdf/online/MS word)

Reviewed 02 September 2021

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