Steps are being taken to address ‘thin markets’ for disability services

By Stephen Easton

Thursday April 11, 2019

The Department of Social Services and the National Disability Insurance Agency would like suggestions for what the government should do when supply doesn’t meet demand for disability support services.

The government has asked consulting firm Ernst & Young to take the lead on working it out,  and it is working in partnership with the First Peoples Disability Network on the public consultation.

One of the many challenges of the consumer-directed NDIS funding model is the emergence of thin markets, where supply is insufficient or non-existent, either in certain geographic areas or for services designed to meet particular needs.

The department identifies five main examples of thin markets. In rural and remote areas, there may not be enough service providers. Secondly, some services are not widely available because very few people need them, and third, people with very complex needs can also struggle to find the specialised support they need.

Supply is also likely to fall short of demand for services designed specifically for Indigenous people, and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Consultation has now begun for the Thin Markets Project, which will result in a framework for how government should address the issue, and a “roadmap” to guide pilot projects that will test out solutions.

There are two online surveys — one for NDIS participants and one for service providers — as well as a discussion paper that explains the problem, sets out some potential solutions taken from a scan of the academic literature, and ends with guiding questions for both major stakeholder groups.

It will be followed by “24 face-to-face targeted consultations with providers and peak organisations in capital cities, regional centres and remote Australia”, according to Assistant Minister for Social Services, Housing and Disability Services Sarah Henderson.

“The feedback from these activities will generate innovative approaches to solve service delivery gaps which will ultimately inform policy direction, including a framework for market design and responses in thin markets, and trial projects to test solutions,” she said in a statement. “The government recognises that ‘thin markets’ is a complex issue existing in diverse locations with people with a range of needs requiring more than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.”

Read more:

Actions government can take to address thin markets and market gaps in the NDIS

The vexed question of market stewardship in the NDIS

Protecting equity in the National Disability Insurance Scheme

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