What is the NDIS?
Australia is drastically changing the way it cares for people with a disability.
As you’d expect, this is causing a lot of commotion, frustration and general panic.
Since you’re reading this now, I am going to assume you’re not a person with a disability, as you would otherwise be painfully aware of the changes that are about to affect you.
This is roughly how it works:
Imagine your relatives are buying your birthday presents.
They asked you for ideas; you told them you wanted makeup, a phone case and a proper massage.
Your birthday comes around, and you open your gifts:
The makeup is perfect, Aunty Gwen hits the nail on the head!
The phone case isn’t great – grandma bought an overly large, poorly made novelty case from the markets, and it barely fits in your pocket.
You’re booked in for a massage, but at the less-than-impressive local day spa.
You’ve been before, and you know the staff are rude, but it looks like you’re going again.
You think to yourself:
“Wow, presents are really wasteful. What would have been better is if everyone just gave me a gift card”
Cash gifts can look vulgar, but gift cards are tasteful.
They allow the recipient to make a choice, whilst still keeping the intent of the gift.
You have an eye for quality, and you know what you like.
It makes sense that YOU choose the item, so that everyone is happy.
This was essentially the situation for people with disabilities/carers/families.
They were given support services like they were gifts, which can be good, but sometimes aren’t quite appropriate for their individual circumstances.
It also meant that the service providers could get away with some sloppy efforts, as they had a captive market and guaranteed government funding.
Now imagine if the government switched away from the equivalent of buying presents, and instead gave everyone the equivalent of gift cards.
For people with a disability, this would mean choice, power and control.
For service providers, this means that their formerly captive audience now get to vote with their wallet.
But this is where my analogy falls down – you and I can always buy another phone case.
People with a disability can’t pay for another support service, they are stuck in an awful situation. Our country is full of heartbreaking stories, and there can be no doubt that the current system isn’t working.
Hence, the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
What this is guaranteed to bring is change.
Change is neither good nor bad – it depends on your circumstances.
Some people with a disability will now be able to choose better services that provide much-needed support.
Some people with a disability love their current support services, and are understandably scared of losing them.
Some service providers do a fantastic job, and are about to see a lot more customers at their doorstep.
Some service providers do a mediocre job, and are about to lose most of their clients and will probably fold.
So why is this so controversial?
The NDIS attracts debate because it is simultaneously fantastic and terrible.
Nobody could argue that the old system worked, we all agreed change is necessary.
But this new system has flaws, and some people will be worse off.
Many businesses will close, and it brings stress to a group of people who don’t need any more adversity in their lives.
To cap it off, this new exciting system is being implemented by the same old bureaucracy who managed the old system.
This is making the changes difficult to process, and means pretty much everyone is nervous.
So who will thrive in this environment?
It will be the service providers who know their customer inside-out, who run efficient businesses and deliver great support to their satisfied customers.
In other words, not many of the big institutions who exist today.
Instead it will probably be groups like Coles, Virgin, Telstra, maybe even Google.
Smart companies who see a way to deliver services in a better way, who run a tight ship and can compete on price.
What about the current service providers?
They’ll either adapt or fold.
What other choice do they have?
In the words of Brad Graham: “Sometimes you have to let the dinosaurs die”
So what’s your role in all this?
I work with existing service providers who want to stay relevant and thrive in the new system.
These are the organisations who have seen the need to change, and want to build new business models.
In other words, ideas that are financially sustainable and provide genuine benefits to their customer’s lives.
That means doing a lot of research and interviews, understanding the customers pain points and aspirations, then designing new services that will delight, inspire and scale up across the country.
The results so far are exciting – we’re designing new programs that help young people find jobs, start their own microbusinesses, and participate in more social activities.
It also includes starting services that are staffed by people with a disability – people who understand your situation, are easy to talk to, and who can make the best possible recommendations.
My hope in all this is that good businesses will attract more customers, that’s a win-win.
If the NDIS can allow customers to access the supports that make their lives easier, we should be happy.
Until then, I hope that the current nervousness and anxiety is short-lived, and that the scheme’s implementation goes smoothly.
Too much is at stake. We can't afford to get it wrong.