Clients of the Australian Government Hearing Services Program who meet the eligibility criteria for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will transition to the NDIS by 2019-20.
Read a Fact Sheet prepared by Office of Hearing Services
The group most affected by this change is hearing impaired and Deaf children and their families. This client group is currently under the care of Australian Hearing which is the sole provider of services to children with hearing loss and their families. Under the NDIS there will be a choice of service provider for the first time.
The concept of client choice in service provider is not at issue. This is concerning because the private market is untested in the delivery of services to children with hearing loss. The introduction of contestability introduces significant risks in terms of access, expertise, quality, standards and client outcomes.
The paediatric client group is quite small. If services are spread across multiple providers it will be difficult for the clinicians to maintain their skill level which puts the client outcomes at risk.
A study by McCreery, Bentler and Roush (2013) which investigated the accuracy of infant fittings across 15 U.S. States, showed that despite the availability of fitting guidelines and prescriptive formulas in that country, 26% of the children were shown to have sub-optimal fitting that resulted in reduced access to speech. A significant predictor of sub-optimal fittings was the audiology clinic the child attended. Clinics with low client volumes and infrequent engagement with babies and very young children – as would be the case with contested paediatric hearing services – are likely to be prone to poorer fitting outcomes.
Also, the Government is still to make a decision on the future ownership options for Australian Hearing so it is still not clear whether the safety net of the Government hearing services provider will continue to be available.
Deafness Forum of Australia has developed a paper outlining the issues that need to be addressed in the transition plan.
Read Transition of the Australian Government Hearing Services CSO Program to NDIS — issues paper June 2015
The Office of Hearing Services has released a Hearing Services Program/NDIS Transition Plan which describes the activities, dependencies and timeframes that need to take place to effectively support the transition of eligible Hearing Services client from the Hearing Services Program to the NDIS.
Read Hearing Services Program NDIS Transition Plan February 2016