Out now: First Australian Disability Workforce Report

First report from disability workforce frontline paints an interesting picture of a rapidly growing sector. It is the first public report to analyse Workforce Wizard and carecareers data to reveal National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)-related trends in the disability workforce that is experimenting with work arrangements and recruitment approaches.

Australia’s capacity to provide a quality workforce to meet the increasing workload that the NDIS demands is one of the most significant challenges to the design of the NDIS. And the carecareers job board shows a clear growth trend in part-time, particularly casual roles, compared with uneven growth in full-time roles. Also the disability labour pool is more age and gender-balanced and likely to be casually employed, compared to the age care workforce. Women make up more than two-thirds on average of the organisational workforce, with 21 per cent aged 55 years and older while the workforce aged between 45 and 54 years is over-represented in the disability sector. With the average retirement age for women now 60.4 years the disability support sector is facing an ageing workforce at the same time as growing demand for workers.

Although the sample was small, survey results suggest there is a slightly greater difficulty in allied health professional recruitment compared to disability support worker recruitment. It revealed that 23 per cent of organisations employing speech therapists and 22 per cent employing occupational therapists found people with these skills ‘extremely difficult’ to recruit.

According to the report, a common difficulty faced by providers appears to be the increasing selectivity of job requirements for disability support positions as a result of providers adapting jobs to clients under the NDIS. There is concern that as the sector transitions to the NDIS more organisations will take on casual direct support workers to remain flexible in light of uncertain demand and funding. Despite the benefits of this flexibility, Workforce Wizard data shows it comes at the price of higher turnover and is associated disadvantages, such as increased costs and disruption of care.

Some interesting statistics emerged from the states and territories. The Northern Territory has a higher proportion of a full-time workforce and a lower number employed part-time. It also has a higher number of men on staff and workers under 45 years. NSW has a consistent pattern of lower casual turnover rates but higher turnover among permanent staff while Queensland has a substantially higher rate of casual turnover.Victoria is more successful than other states in retaining permanent staff although casual turnover rates are on par with other states and territories. Western Australia too has a larger proportion of disability support workers under 45 years, along with a higher turnover for casual staff. South Australia has highest reliance on casual staff with turnover rates below the national average while Tasmania has a lower proportion of full-time workers and a higher dependency on part-time workers. Results for the ACT were not available because of the low number of users.

The report also explores Workforce Wizard’s first ‘spotlight’ topic – recruitment difficulty. This demonstrates that providers are successfully recruiting in high numbers, while also experiencing challenges as they adopt more person-centred approaches, which are readily visible in carecareers job ads, which continue to attract over 500 views per ad. A slight decline in this number over time could reflect a tightening labour market, which the report will continue to track. Recruitment difficulties among allied health professionals included lack of qualified candidates, poor pay and rural/remote locations. The inability to use NDIS funding for hours of supervision was mentioned as a constraint on the recruitment process.

This first edition of the report tracked six successive quarters of workforce data, Average working hours are recorded in Workforce Wizard as low, at 22 hours per week for support workers, and possibly reducing, suggesting poor utilisation of the existing workforce.

The Australian Disability Workforce Report will be a twice-yearly publication, with the next edition to be released in February 2018.

For more information on the report visit: https://www.nds.org.au/news/australian-disability-workforce-report-first-edition-released?

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