Making NDIS Headway

Headway Gippsland's Jenelle Henry is happy with how the NDIS benefits its participants but has been left struggling with huge demand and tight pricing. photograph anne simmons

Headway Gippsland's Jenelle Henry is happy with how the NDIS benefits its participants but has been left struggling with huge demand and tight pricing. photograph anne simmons

Since the roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in the region, a Newborough-based registered service provider has doubled its staff to meet unprecedented demand and its general manager is looking for relief from a tight price guide.

"Our main staff in the office are under pressure every day because there's so many new clients coming in the door," Headway Gippsland's Jenelle Henry said.

"We are aware that a lot of agencies have said 'we can't take any more referrals at the moment'. We're trying not to do that because we believe that everyone who's coming is coming for a reason – they need something; we want to help them."

Headway is a not-for-profit which provides services across Gippsland.

Ms Henry has seen people undergo "amazing transformations" with the new access to services through the NDIS, however, she has concerns for the shortfall between the cost of services and staff wages.

"As a not-for-profit, we don't expect to make a profit but we would love to make a break even or have a little bit left aside for capital, which could be replacing computers, replacing equipment," she said.

Ms Henry said Headway paid a "fair and reasonable" wage to qualified staff, which only left about a $7 margin to the organisation for its services which did not leave much room to pay for utilities and administration costs.

"Other agencies may have unqualified staff so that then can put you at a disadvantage," she said.

"In the price guide there's obviously areas where the profit is better so you might make more money on one program than you do another."

A new price guide introduced on July 1 provided some relief, however, Ms Henry would like to see more room to improve the quality of services, such as investing in vehicles and maintaining computers.

Since the roll-out of the NDIS in parts of Gippsland, which covers the local government areas of Latrobe, Bass Coast, Baw Baw and South Gippsland, the not-for-profit has increased its staff from about 30 to 60 and doubled its participants to about 120 people.

The NDIS will roll out in East Gippsland on January 1, 2019.

"I think that's going to be the trickiest region because we service clients now in Buchan - places like that - and we don't have staff there," Ms Henry said.

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