Attracting the future disability sector workforce – scaling up is a challenge

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The NDIS is set to reshape Australia’s disability sector, by ensuring people get the support they need and its growth represents new opportunities and jobs across Australia.  Consider what the disability sector might look like in 5 years’ time and the position locally, nationally and globally.

Capability development and scaling up is key and the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) is accepting applications for the ILC Jurisdictional Based Grants.

This $80 million of funding is open for people in NSW, SA and the ACT.  Organisations can apply for grants up to two years, with acceptance in one of four ICL activity areas: information, linkages and referrals; capacity building for mainstream services; community awareness and capacity building; and individual capacity building.


National Disability Service (NDS) has commenced a project to grow the disability workforce in the ACT to be better positioned to meet the requirements of the NDIS. NDS will implement a Collective Impact approach to engage stakeholders to explore, choose and develop ways to strengthen the base of potential and existing workers who are aware of, positively disposed towards and capable to work in the disability sector. This project will run for two years to May 2019 and is funded under the Commonwealth’s NDIS Sector Development Fund.

New South Wales

The NDIS is expanding across NSW and offers significant new economic, social and community opportunities. At full implementation, it will support approximately 142,000 people in NSW. The disability sector is projected to need around 25,000–30,000 additional workers by 2019 to support this expansion.

In New South Wales, the government is offering numerous events, resources and the Disability Sector Scale-up Program.  DSSU will provide three types of support to help businesses and organisations leverage the expected $6.8 billion investment in the NSW disability sector:

  • Business Acceleration Grants program — grants of up to $2 million are available to support businesses and not-for-profit organisations that can provide new and innovative approaches to delivering outcomes for the state’s disability sector. Applications for the grants closed on 30 October 2017.
  • Business advisory services — The department’s Business Connect advisors will provide targeted advice for organisations entering or supporting the disability sector
  • Aboriginal economic opportunities — a co-designed program to increase the number of Aboriginal people and businesses participating in the NDIS, to ensure Aboriginal communities share in the economic benefits and the availability of culturally appropriate services increases.

South Australia

The NDIS is being rolled out across South Australia and once fully functional, it’ll support 32,000 people and create 6,000+ jobs in the process. Over 18 months this means doubling the size of the services offered now with Autism the highest growth areas for service provision.  Disability providers have the chance to apply for the State Government’s $200 million Future Jobs Fund – which aims to boost employment and new investments in the disability sector.  The range of services available through the NDIS are much wider and could include exploring entrepreneurial and self-employment options.

According to Rob DiMonte, the NDIS Industry Development and Marketing Coordinator General, the effective roll out is critical to the wellbeing of many South Australians.

“The business and job creation opportunities are significant however there will be a focus on new business models, capabilities and resources. There is now some urgency for providers to become NDIS ready.”

Optimisation of the NDIS for consumers follows a model with four components including plans, plan management, service provision and plan review.  Currently NDIS plan utilisation in South Australia sits at around 54% with a number of challenges such as regional delivery, disruption to service provision models, limited adoption of assistive technologies, payment gateway difficulties via the NDIA and issues with workforce attraction.

A number of employment hubs have opened up to help connect people looking for jobs with local employers, and help get the state ready for the boom. Their locations are Southern Adelaide, Murraylands, Yorke Peninsula & Mid North, Limestone Coast, and Whyalla and Eyre Peninsula – with the first hub in Northern Adelaide opening in November 2016. 600 people have already used the centre’s services.  Each hub will help grow jobs in the disability sector including direct support and allied health (with supported independent living), management and administration, human resources, workplace & health safety, information technology plus transport and fitness.

The Government is also targeting high school students, particularly in Adelaide’s north. Through the new South Australian Government Disability Workforce Project, Year 11 and 12 students from six schools are completing the Certificate III in Community Services. SA youth also gain first-hand knowledge, attending a half-day ProjectABLE workshop.

Strategic Partnership, an alliance between the South Australian and Northern Territory Governments, is working to grow our relationship with Asia and improve labour mobility through joint workforce development.

NDIS Reform is leading the implementation of the scheme, funding, contracting, and monitoring the quality of disability services provided by the non-government sector. The Government body also helps DCSI respond to the Commonwealth Aged Care reforms and manages funding through the National Disability Agreement.

Critical Job Roles

A broad range of roles will be required to implement the NDIS – including counsellors, behaviour specialists, respite support workers, planners and case managers, registered nurses, disabilities services officers, welfare support workers, and social workers. Specialty occupations will also be sought after such as therapists, physiotherapists, speech pathologists and psychologists.  From our workforce planning with providers to date critical job roles include case workers, coordinators, planners and team leaders.

Scaling Up

The convergence of ageing well and health with disability, together with collaboration and innovation utilising new discovery technologies, could see the disability sector reimagined.  An ecosystem including aged care and disability service providers, tech companies, entrepreneurs and startups, all with a focus on protecting citizens and optimising the scheme, could be transformational for consumers.

Recent conversations with those across the disability sector have reinforced the need for service providers to scale up quickly and in a way that protects and supports consumers. What is difficult to ascertain is where different providers might be up to and whether there is an open mindedness to apply something like lean startup or design thinking to your approach.  This is where you could apply an innovative mindset to thinking about new and existing services including exploring entrepreneurship and self-employment for consumers, plan development and implementation, partnerships and technologies, and the workforce of the future.  It could be that something like a startup style weekend format but customised for scaling up in the disability sector might work?

Workforce of the Future

What is often unknown if the size and scale of the workforce needed into the future. Thinking about your future disability sector workforce complete this quick form then one of our Workforce Architects will review the results and provide you with 15 minutes of free advice, ideas and support to help you scale up.  If you are interested in building your capability in planning for and developing your workforce, explore experiences including the Workforce of the Future Masterclass, and the Global Workforce Architects Program open for registrations soon.

To learn more about attracting, developing and retaining your future disability sector workforce, please contact Wendy Perry at


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