Workers are turning away from the disability sector because of delays with new employee screening checks that could leave hundreds of staff in limbo and Australia’s most vulnerable at risk.
The NDIS worker screening checks are a national requirement coming into effect this year for workers in disability.
However, service providers say problems with the online application system has led workers to drop out of the recruitment process or unable to work while they endure long waits for their clearance.
ONCALL, which provides disability services and workers to the sector, said the checks were taking weeks to clear.
“We recruit about 100 people a month and we’re probably 30 per cent down because of people being delayed in the checks,” Victorian executive director Laura Green said.
“That means people with disability aren’t getting out of bed, they’re not getting out into the community, they’re not getting that support delivered because we don’t have enough workers to be able to say yes to all the requests.”
Ms Green said the online portal system was poorly designed and not user-friendly, prompting potential workers to drop out of the recruitment process.
“We have jobs ready and waiting for them and this NDIS screening check is stopping them from being employed, which seems crazy,” she said.
National Disability Services chief executive David Moody said some of its 1180 organisation members across the country expressed concerns about workers getting screened in time in order to accept jobs.
This is at a time the disability sector has been identified as needing an extra 120,000 full time jobs to fill labour shortages.
“We’ve had a number of cases I’m aware of, of workers who’ve declined an offer of employment because the worker screening couldn’t be completed in a sufficiently quick time for them to take on the job and those workers have then gone on to work in other sectors,” Mr Moody said.
“At a time when we’re trying to grow the workforce, NDS does have concerns the worker screening process, as it’s been implemented across the nation by state and territory governments with the Australian government, is not working as intended.”
Disability service provider Able Australia said its workers must have their checks done by the Victorian government deadline of July 31 to stay employed.
“If we have a situation on July 31st where we are not allowed to roster staff on shifts to support people with disabilities – due to a flawed administration process – then we will be in an untenable situation, where the safety of people with disabilities is put at risk,” chief executive Kate MacRae said.
While there’s been some technical issues, delays are also understood to have been caused by unprecedented demand experienced by the National Police Checking Service as well as people providing wrong documents or details.
Victoria’s department of justice and community safety department said despite some delays, it had issued 17,700 NDIS worker checks since the scheme started.
While the online application usually takes around 30 minutes, manual applications take much longer, with the department processing about 270 a week.
It urged people to carefully follow instructions on the Service Victoria website to avoid unnecessary delays.
“We’re working closely with the sector to identify priority applications and ensure they receive the assistance they need,” a spokeswoman said.
An NDIS Commission spokeswoman said each state and territory operated their own worker screening unit.
She said the commission was aware of concerns raised about processing time frames in Victoria and was working with the community safety department on the issue.