Robbie Moore said frontline workers were being affected by the change to the NDIS system. (ABC News: David Hudspeth)
Tasmanian mental health workers are concerned that one organisation’s transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is leaving them with less job security and less in their pay packet, but the sector says the problem is widespread.
- The funding model of the NDIS is resulting in job insecurity, the industry peak body said
- Mental health workers at a Tasmanian organisation transitioning to the NDIS are being offered fixed-term contracts
- The Tasmanian Government said changes to contracts were “a matter for the service provider and NDIA”
Richmond Fellowship Tasmania (RFT) has been providing mental health services in the state for more than 30 years, with state government funding.
Robbie Moore from the Health and Community Services Union (HACSU) said about 20 mental health workers with the organisation were now being made redundant and had been offered new positions with its subsidiary’s NDIS-funded programs, but at a lower level and only on fixed-term contracts.
“We’re seeing workers having their job security taken away and if they want to keep their job, they’ve got to lose up to $150 a week,” Mr Moore said.
“These workers go above and beyond everyday to support people with mental illness. How can they continue to support these clients when their employer is reducing their pay and taking away their job security?”
Fixed-term contracts ‘industry standard’
The rollout of the NDIS means Tasmanian disability service providers and organisations are no longer funded by the state government in the same way they have been in the past.
This year, RFT was advised by the state government that its Moonah and Glenorchy residential programs would need to transition to NDIS-funded, supported independent living facilities.
RFT chief executive Miriam Moreton said the programs were being picked up by RFT’s subsidiary entity, Richmond Futures, which was established in October to provide mental health services and supported independent living homes funded by the NDIS.
“And we have been able to offer redeployment to staff who otherwise would not have had roles,” Ms Moreton said.
Under the NDIS, clients re-apply for funding each year.
Ms Moreton said all roles within Richmond Futures were fixed-term, because NDIS participants’ plans changed at least annually and the organisation needed flexibility to deliver services that could increase and decrease with limited warning.
“Richmond Futures funding source is based entirely on ‘fee for service’ such as the NDIS. It does not receive any state government support,” she said.
“Fixed-term contracts are industry standard across sectors operating within the NDIS due to the nature of the NDIS model.”
She said all transitioning employees would maintain their minimum hours and entitlements if they chose redeployment to Richmond Futures.
Ms Moreton said there was no real change to the types of contracts on offer, as all roles that had been recruited by RFT over the past 18 months had been fixed-term, in line with short-term funding contracts.
Job insecurity increasing, peak body says
Will Kestin is the state manager of National Disability Services, the peak body for non-government disability service organisations.
He said the NDIS funding model of yearly reviews was challenging, and increasing instability in the workforce.
“Job security is a challenge for our employers because ultimately we are reliant on the funding models that are available through the NDIS,” Mr Kestin said.
“Also when they move into projects, those projects are funded through a different pool of money that the NDIS has and they are fixed contracts for sure, so there is a certain level of instability within the workforce because employers are only given a certain level of certainty about the money that they’re receiving.”
He said there was an ongoing conversation with the state government about where its responsibilities in the disability sector ended and the NDIS began.
Mr Moore said Richmond Fellowship Tasmania should work with the government.
“To ensure they get the funding they need and to ensure that workers get their rights and entitlements paid to them,” Mr Moore said.
In a statement, a Health Department spokesman said a number of residential programs currently funded by the state would transition to the NDIS.
“The state government is required to transfer all funding to the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) when the NDIA takes responsibility for the clients in those programs,” he said.
“Any changes to employment contracts as a result of the transition is a matter for the service provider and the NDIA.”
My family loses out: worker
One worker, who did not want to be identified, said they were currently in a permanent position but were being offered a fixed-term contract at Richmond Futures at a lower level and less pay, for doing essentially the same job.
“There’s not much job security in a fixed-term contract. I know that the sector itself, many organisations are trying to do this. It means that after a year’s time they may decide to unload you,” the worker said.
“Losing money for doing what essentially will be the same job means that my family loses out.
“I think this is just endemic to a large degree of the sector at the moment, but for whatever reason … my organisation dealing with the transition to NDIS just seem to be perhaps a bit worse than everyone else.”
A National Disability Insurance Agency spokeswoman said the NDIA was not responsible for changes in Richmond Fellowship’s employee structure, and that it was a business decision taken by the organisation.
The union and Richmond Fellowship Tasmania will meet on Wednesday.