This National Disability Insurance Agency’s decision to outsource its contact call centres on a two year contract to international sensitive-service provider Serco has been met with widespread scepticism in the disability community. The decision has fuelled the flames again on the debate around the role, scope and limitations of private sector involvement in the NDIS.
The British based Serco already runs the majority of Australia’s onshore immigration detention centres, and has also recently been tasked with providing additional customer support to Centrelink welfare recipients. However the 2017 leaked Paradise Papers are fairly indicting with significant allegations of fraud, misconduct and mishandling of radioactive waste in the UK.
Put mildly, the NDIS is still experiencing teething problems as consumers, providers and the NDIS rapidly attempt to bring consistency, comprehension and financial viability to the landmark scheme. The scheme aims to put people with disability at the centre of all operations. In a statement the NDIS indicated the ‘ongoing flexibility, responsiveness and value for money’ Serco would bring. Seemingly reasonable goals to strive for; given the existing displeasure at the inefficiency of the NDIS/provider/consumer communication channels at present.
An intended differentiator of the NDIS is the ability to entice private enterprise into a traditionally not-for-profit dominated market. The flow on benefits of increased market capital to improving the choice and control of individuals living with disability are widely recognised and accepted. But where do we draw the line? The NDIS is a vehicle to empower clients with choice based on need, not a money making operation – yet if better and more efficient service is delivered; does the end goal of the organisation really matter?
The equilibrium is difficult to find with the current pricing structures forcing the traditional not for profit providers of services to critically examine, overhaul and often cut-back service offerings due to financial inviability. Many strategies are being undertaken to minimise wastage and identify additional revenue streams: such as diversification, social-enterprise maximisation, understanding your unit cost and transitioning to lean business structures. These people are the backbone of the industry, and the current system runs the risk of forcing many selfless, passionate and altruistic individuals out of the sector entirely.