ACT Government Withdrawing From Early Intervention Services
AEU ACT Industrial Officer, Garrett Purtill, explains a twist on the local implementation of the NDIS.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is widely and appropriately supported for delivering greater resourcing and control to people with disabilities. A surprising and unwelcome feature of its local implementation is the Government's decision to deny children with disability and their families the option to keep using their current publicly provided early intervention services.
- 19 April 2013, ACT Govt signs up as a jurisdiction to the NDIS
- 3 April 2014, ACT Govt announces that, as one of the national ‘trial sites,’ it will be withdrawing entirely from the provision of specialist disability services, therapy services and early intervention programs & services over 3yr period to conclude on 30 June 2017 in lieu of private sector providers.
- 17 December 2014, the pre-school aged, early intervention programs offered through the ACT Education & Training Directorate will cease.
Uniquely, the ACT is the only jurisdiction as a whole to enter the NDIS. Other jurisdictions are entering by zones and/or selected categories. For the ACT this transition will involve approx 5,000 people.
Impacts on Education, Teachers & School Assistants:
There are 17 public schools, engaging 27 teachers (15.35FTE) & 23 school assistants (15.35FTE) impacted by the closure of the following units of early intervention programs which have 302 children enrolled:
- Early intervention playgroups
- Early intervention units
- Language intervention units
- Autism intervention units
- Early childhood centres
- Early childhood centres
In addition, the early intervention home education programs for children with sensory impairment will cease.
On Monday 9 June, the ACT Minister for Education & Training, at a public forum of parents, carers and some prospective private sector providers, announced that the Directorate would be offering the space vacated in public schools by the cessation of the early intervention programs to private sector providers as an inducement to enter the Territory.
At present, the ACT Govt provides approx. 90% of therapy, disability and early intervention programs & services and their view is that thereby they have crowded out the private sector providers and that only by withdrawing entirely from the field will a viable private sector emerge.
The AEU immediately sought and obtained a meeting with the Minster the following day at which it transpired that she is contemplating the offer of space on a transitional basis. In order to facilitate further discussions between the AEU and the Minister in coming weeks, the Minister has asked ACT ETD to examine the her proposal and prepare a set of draft transitional protocols.
The Minister also announced the KPMG have been engaged to, amongst other things, scan the current landscape for likely private sector providers with a view to meeting with them and distilling their interest in offering services and programs in lieu of those currently provided by the ACT Govt. It is expected that an expo of the resultant private sector providers will take place in the first three weeks of Term 4 to assist parents & carers with choosing a provider.
It is true to say that parents & carers are still in a state of shock at the nature & speed of the ACT Govt’s decision to cease the early intervention programs and that the provision of the expo so late in the year, while notionally welcome, leaves very little time for working parents & carers to complete their NDIS funding arrangements ahead of 2015.
The ACT Govt has been deaf to the clamor for a more lengthy withdrawal [eg to close the current programs to new enrolments and pass through the current cohort to pre-school in an orderly fashion (it is estimated that 160 of the current 302 children will do so simply by turning 4 years old by 30 April 2015 anyway] while those who would have enrolled in these programs would begin in the private sector.
From the date of the ACT Govt announcement on 3 April 2014, there have been nearly weekly Whole of Government meetings of the industrial parties to scope the impact on the affected workers and craft extended redundancy, redeployment and retrenchment (RRR) arrangements.
The parties are as follows:
- ACT Chief Minister & Treasury Directorate
- ACT Community Services Directorate [ACT CSD] (whose portfolio includes ACT Therapy, ACT Disability & some early intervention services)
- ACT Heath Directorate
- ACT Education & Training Directorate
The current applicable enterprise agreements all contain identical RRR provisions which are adequate for more conventional reductions in workforce. After two months of negotiations, the parties have produced an NDIS Principles MOU [basically a ‘RRR plus’ agrrement] now being considered by the union parties for endorsement and signature.
In the AEU/ETD space, it is expected that all of the impacted 27 teachers and most of the 23 school assistants will be redeployed by way of the normal transfer round.
ETD have confirmed that they will be able to inform impacted staff by week 1, Term 4 of their redeployments for commencement in 2015.
Given that many of the impacted teachers have been dedicated to the early intervention programs for lengthy periods of time, there will be employer paid professional learning opportunities identified and similarly for school assistants, save that many of them will require formal TaFE accredited training and qualifications to work in the pre-school space.
In the ACT CSD space, there are approx. 530 staff impacted and given the reliance of the likely therapy & disability private sector providers on a ‘ready made’ skilled workforce by which to resource their tenders & contracts, the overwhelming bulk of the ACT CSD workforce is destined for retrenchment progressively over the next 3 years.
Accordingly, while the impact of the ACT Govt decision on ETD and AEU members is uppermost in our minds, the larger part of the concerns and negotiations of the industrial parties has been the ACT CSD space.
While ACT CSD has clearly been planning and preparing well in advance of the ACT Govt decision to enter the NDIS space, it appears that ACT ETD was an afterthought for inclusion and consequently there had been some initial reluctance by ACT ETD to concede very much on the likely and obvious impact on staff, schools and programs. Recently, however, ACT ETD has quickened their step and is now demonstrating an evolving proactivity.
Suffice to say, AEU was also not aware that there would be a direct NDIS impact until the 3 April. However, since that time the AEU has been very active in the Whole of Government negotiations, discussions with ACT ETD, impacted workforce and community meetings and amongst our membership.
The ACT ETD NDIS website page below also contains links to more comprehensive information on the ACT CSD website.
The NDIS website also contains much valuable comprehensive information about the rollout in all the ‘trial sites.’