You will see from the various posts on this website that we have worried quite a lot about how DisabilityCare is going to work, and here in Queensland, we have the perfect vehicle to check it out: Your Life Your Choice.
On 1 July Queensland will move almost all new packages onto the your Life your Choice program. You can find out about this program from the QLD Department website here.
Many agencies have been approved as Host Providers under this scheme, and we will all be competing to sign up individuals and families to assist them to obtain the services they want and need.
Under the funding formula, these packages are required to cover most, if not all of the costs that a person with a disability needs to lead the life of their choice. The package will be based on the assessed needs of the individual, and will be targetted to specific areas, or a number of specific areas that have been assessed to be needed by the person with a disability.
The difficulty that is likely to really catch people, and agencies, is going to be a whole suite of costs - traditionally borne by organisations. This is mostly, but not exclusively, around the employment of staff, training, supervision and coordination of the service delivery.
In future, the clients package will be reduced by the cost that the organisation bears every time a client contacts the agency for a change in their service; where a shift is changed, a staff member gets sick and a replacement needs to be found, or the client becomes unwell and a shift is cancelled.
The area that most concerns our organisation, is when a person with an unstable health condition becomes unwell, the parents more often than not, turn to us. This is common - because we are often the only people that the family or individual knows that understands their issues, sometimes we are the only people who are easily accessed where families can find help in a hurry!
What happens at the moment, is that we get money from the QLD State Governement to support our organisation and we use this money to keep a core staff group. This allows us to expand and contract our services to meet these fluctuating needs of families.
At the moment it is likely that we will lose this core funding, and once all our families move onto packages, we will have to charge against the packages to provide support to families and individuals according to their use of our services, including during these episodes of fluctuating needs.
We know that we have often spent 20 hours in one week and over 45 hours in a month with a family that is doing it tough. Who is going to be there for our famiies in the future? How will famiies cope when the money simply won't stretch to provide the help they need?
The other issue is that the costs of providing an hour of service, to audit the funding, to pay for equipment, or to pay the person that answers the phone - is not determined by this organisation. We are required to pay wages set by Fair Work Australia and to pass on the costs of other services we use. It is important for families to be aware; you cannot contract out of your obligations to pay people according to the award. Every year, the wages will rise at rates set by FWA, and the costs of other services will change as well.
Organisations like ours must ensure that we cover the costs we incur in being a Host Provider, and even at the very basic level; processing claims against your package, ensuring that the costs have been approved by you and meet the funding guidelines, making payments, reporting monthly or quarterly to you and the department, and finally getting the financial records audited.
There was a very interesting discussion on Radio National this morning with Fran Kelly about this situation and you can link in and listen to the interviews here.
I don't know what the future is - but I do know that I expect there will be lots of really big changes across services in Queensland as we all struggle to come to terms about how this new funding model will work - and whether it is really going to be better for the families we support - those in the rural and remote communities in Queensland.
And that is what this is all supposed to be about - change for the better.