Creating a voice for the Disability Sector
Creating a voice for the Disability Sector
Number of NDIS participants and providers are skyrocketing - what does this mean for the future of the scheme?

Number of NDIS participants and providers are skyrocketing - what does this mean for the future of the scheme?

24 September 2021

The number of Australian participants receiving NDIS help has skyrocketed to almost 200% over the past five years, while the number of providers has only just doubled, barely keeping pace with demand in some states.

Despite the challenges COVID-19 threw at us, in the 12 months to June 30 this year, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) continued to grow with 466,598 participants with approved funded plans on its books nation-wide, an almost 19% jump from the 2019-20 year which recorded 391,999 participants.

As of June 30, those 466,598 NDIS participants received support from around 27,700 active NDIS providers that employed around 270,000 workers across 20 occupations.

NDIS Participant

By 2024, it is tipped around 500,000 participants will require support from almost 353,000 workers. See the figures here.  

So while each support worker currently has 1.7 clients to take care of, by 2024 it’s expected there will be more workers on the scheme, each with just 1.4 participants on their books.

The scheme has grown exponentially over the past years: In the 2016-17 year to June 30, 2017, there were 90,635 participants with an approved plan - a hike of 196% in the years since.

And that figure will only continue to grow, along with the number of NDIS providers and workers.

While substantial participant growth was always expected as the scheme rolled out to include all states and territories, there has not been such a rapid growth of the number of businesses in the provider sector, to date.

The number of registered NDIS providers is steadily growing, however - 8698 businesses to June 2017, compared to 16,526 in June this year - a rise of 62% during the same five-year period.

NDIS Providers

Throw in the above projected figures of 353,000 workers for 500,000 participants and it looks like participants will be well taken care of as provider numbers increase.

Providers Participants

The NDIS 2020 Year In Review  showed more than $20 billion was paid to providers to deliver participant support throughout the year. It also showed:

  • Average payments per participant increased by 32% over the previous two years, from $39,600 to $52,300.
  • Registered providers grew by more than 12% over the past year.

Back when the scheme was being rolled out across Australia in 2016, it was projected to cost around $22 billion by 2019 and helping 460,000 participants.

According to latest data from the NDIS, that projection has only now been realised with 466,619 NDIS participants on the books for the 2020-21 year, averaging payment per participant of around $69,000. This average has risen steadily by around 12% a year over the past four years.

But what does this mean for the future?

Well, obviously provider numbers will continue to grow and eventually almost catch participant numbers, judging by above predictions.

Also, the 2021–22 Portfolio Budget Statement (PBS) for Social Services has forecast the NDIS to reach $33.3 billion in total costs (of which participant support will account for about 96%) by 2024–25, over half of which will be provided for by the Federal Government.

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) flagged in its 2019 Annual Report that the Scheme will reach 532,000 participants, or 2.3% of Australia’s estimated resident population, by June 2023.

As pointed out by the NDIA back in 2017, early indications were that most NDIS participants were accessing more support under the NDIS than under the previous disability system, including more hours of support, a wider range of support and greater access to equipment.

Even back then, the NDIA flagged cost pressure concerns throughout the roll-out of the NDIS, noting the Scheme came in either at cost or lower every year, due to the masking of costs caused by low plan utilisation rates coupled with high cost packages.

Each state has experienced a small surge in provider numbers, year on year. Current statistics show:

  • West Australia now has 2053 active providers since the scheme started, as at June 30 this year, with 39,951 NDIS participants with an average budget of $71,000
  • Victoria has 5809 active providers for 124,501 participants with an average budget of $64,000
  • Tasmania has 1287 active providers for 10,657 participants with an average budget of $79,000
  • South Australia has 2276 active providers for 41,034 participants with an average budget of $66,000
  • Queensland has 6056 active providers for 92,742 participants with an average budget of $73,000
  • OT (other, eg Norfolk Island) has 26 active providers for 41 participants with an average budget of $81,000
  • NT has 711 active providers for 4196 participants with an average budget of $120,000
  • NSW has 8291 active providers for 144,890 participants with an average budget of $70,000
  • ACT has 1231 active providers for 8586 participants with an average budget of $62,000.
Active Providers Participants Active Providers Participants Graph

It is interesting to note Western Australia has the nation’s highest provider per participant figures of 19.5 participant per provider, followed by South Australia with 18, New South Wales with almost 17.5 and Queensland with 15.

At the other end of the scale we have places like Norfolk Island with almost two providers for every participant with just over eight providers per participant in Tasmania and nearly seven per participant in the ACT.

Total payments to providers for participant support increased to $6.6 billion in the last quarter of 2020-21, which is a 3% increase in total participant costs from the last quarter of 2019-20.

The average payment per participant has continued to increase at 11.8% yearly in the three years to June 30 this year, which the NDIA considers an unsustainable level of increase.

Plan budgets are higher for participants in high socio-economic areas compared to participants in lower socio-economic areas: $51,300, compared to $55,700 for participants in the highest socio-economic decile, a difference of 9%.

As the national roll-out of the NDIS is now complete, plan utilisation has, of course, increased as existing participants improve their plan usage as the longer a participant is in the Scheme, the more they tend to use their plan, but the pandemic has had a great impact on their ability to spend their funding.

It will be interesting to keep an eye on Federal and state budgets versus funded plans, and the pace of providers per participant over the next three years to see where the predictions take us.

And as vaccination marks around the country creep up to the magic 80% mark, participants will be marking the days off, anxious to get out there and seek services and connections.

Which makes our Disability Connection Expos 2022 perfectly timed and such a vital tool for providers and exhibitors to connect with new and valued clients and for participants to get out there and spend their NDIS plan funds.


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