Leading Western Australian disability service providers Ability Centre, Rocky Bay, and Nulsen received $75,000 from the WA Disability Sector Transition Funds to undertake research into sustainable models to overcome transport challenges affecting the industry.
The research aims to identify a recommended approach to enable trial(s) of a sustainable transport service and, if successful, provide a metropolitan-wide solution to transport that benefits disability providers and their customers.
The introduction of individualised funding through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has created fundamental and substantial changes to practices across WA’s disability services sector, with client transportation having a significant impact on both providers and customers.
For many years the WA State Government, through the Disability Services Commission (now Department of Communities), provided subsidies to providers for vehicles to ensure a well-maintained, modern fleet. Recent changes to funding has meant providers no longer receive support for vehicles or subsidies, with the NDIS focussed on individual plans.
On behalf of the three providers, Ability Centre CEO Mrs Jacquie Thomson said the provision of sustainable, safe and appropriate transport options for people with disability in an NDIS environment involves a number of complexities that, to date, had not been adequately interrogated and analysed.
“Our clientele are often severely restricted in accessing public transport due to their high levels of disability complexity and require capital intensive modified vans, and our transport options must put their needs first,” Mrs Thomson said.
“Through this research, our aim is to provide long-term benefits to all disability service providers and people living with disabilities across the Perth metropolitan area by identifying a sustainable method of delivering transport services within the sector under the new NDIS funding arrangements.
“A successful outcome would enable providers a means of continuing to deliver services to vulnerable people who otherwise find it difficult to move in an effective and cost-efficient manner outside of their homes, when and where they choose.
“It would also reduce isolation and prevent some existing services from being discontinued into the future due to unsustainability.
“The research will form the bedrock of a larger initiative, ensuring that any future investment in disability transport is undertaken on the basis of having a well-considered and workable model.”
The current NDIS transport funding model is designed in such a way as to dictate predominantly Monday to Friday day time transport in order to be sustainable, reducing the hours of service available to customers and leaving substantial assets idle for large periods of time instead of providing full community benefit.
Additionally, in shared supported independent living accommodation a customer’s mobility allowance commonly aids in funding a vehicle for the house, with a second vehicle generally required to meet capacity building or community access requirements.
It is also anticipated that changes to policies related to customer subsidies, mobility allowances, and on-demand transport reform to impact future directions, redefining transport options and transport delivery for people with disability.
The Client Transportation in the NDIS research aims to:
- Clearly define the existing and potential demands for an effective, efficient and affordable disability transport service in WA.
- Understand the scope, NDIS context, current limitations, and potential of existing models to develop sustainable models going forward.
- Examine and analyse changes to government policy and delivery models that have affected disability transport in WA over the past three years, as well as any anticipated impacts expected in the next ten years.
- Determine what industries are aligned to the disability services industry in terms of services, underlying philosophies, and transport requirements, and in what ways these correlations might aid in provision of a sustainable transport service.
- Analyse international and interstate practices and innovations to inform the development of a sustainable WA disability transport model
- Identify potential partners
- Outline viable models for a sustainable WA disability transport service