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Research into Australia’s Disability Support Sector

For the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to realise its goals of improving the range and choice of services available to people with disabilities, there will need to be a strong, efficient and accessible supply of services. It is widely acknowledged that the current market for the supply of services will undergo profound change with many Australian governments exiting disability service provision, but we know little about how the sector operates now and even less about how it will evolve. To address this, the Curtin Not-for-profit Initiative in partnership with the Centre for Applied Disability Research is conducting a two year, national study to monitor change and identify potential strategic responses in the non-government sector. This evidence will help to facilitate the development of policy that fosters a strong, competitive and efficient supply of non-government disability services and supports the achievement of the objectives of the NDIS.

Aims of research

The research aims to provide governments, service providers and the broader community with detailed information on the supply and sustainability of non-government disability services in Australia.

It will address a number of key questions including:

  • How will the NDIS impact the structure and therefore costs and availability of supply of non-government disability services?
  • What are the key risks to the disability sector, particularly service users and how can these be ameliorated?
  • What is the current aggregate financial sustainability of disability service organisations and how can we ensure sufficient supply?
  • How are disability services organisations responding to market forces through different forms of strategic alliances and sector collaboration?

Unique outcomes

The project will produce comprehensive summary data on the financial position of service providers including their annual net income, sources of income, assets and liabilities. Key financial ratios will be calculated and analysed by key demographic characteristics, including location and income to identify any trends, such as changes in the number of smaller suppliers or increases in average income over time.

This new longitudinal data set can then be used for ongoing monitoring and analysis of sector capacity and change across a range of areas, including employment and volunteering. It will also create the ability for an ongoing assessment of the impact of market forces on aggregate service provision and pricing, including identification of services which may be under or over supplied in particular regions and areas of possible market failure.

Innovative and efficient methodology

Stratified sampling will be used to recruit a panel of organisations that agree to participate for two years (drawn from a range of profit and not for profit organisations including large Australia wide organisations through to smaller niche or local players).


annual benchmark report cover

The organisations participating in the research will also have access to unique and specific information about how they are performing relative to competitors. Participants will be provided with an annual benchmark report that identifies an organisation’s position relative to other providers on a range of key performance metrics. Download example report that will be made available to participating organisations.

In addition to conducting two online surveys, we are also seeking to examine examples of joint ventures and mergers given that it has been widely forecast that the NDIS will require greater collaboration between organisations.


Taking part – Confidentiality and Ethics

The data for this study is collected and managed under ethics approval RDBS-86-15. Download Participant Information Statement.

Download Frequently Asked Questions about the study.

If your disability service organisation would like to be involved in this ground breaking research and be a part of the research panel, please contact either Penny Knight or Liz Neville

Alternatively, please complete the short questionnaire to confirm your place on the research panel.