Co-operative businesses in Australia have expressed support and protection for service providers and consumers under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Melina Morrison, CEO of the Business Council of Cooperatives and Mutuals (BCCM), the sector’s peak body, said the model would give consumers more choice and control when it is rolled out in July.
“This is a huge opportunity to allow the consumers of disability services to organise themselves in the marketplace so they have access, basically as bulk purchases,” Ms Morrison told Pro Bono Australia News.
“[The] NDIS is predicated on the idea that personalised budgets create more choice and control for people living with disability, but for that to happen you need marketplaces where there is actually that choice.
“Co-operatives and mutuals can help organise the market for disability services… in a way that it can actually deliver on the great promise of the NDIS, which is empowerment to people living with disability – choice, control, diversity.”
The scheme is similar to that of the Citizen-Directed Care Co-operative, which was launched in Cardiff last year by Disability Wales and the Wales Co-operative Centre.
By setting up as co-operatives, consumers, or “budget holders”, can pool their resources for better services.
“It creates the opportunity for them to scale up their purchasing, so they might get a better range of services because they can enter the market as a larger purchaser,” said Ms Morrison, adding that there were also great opportunities for co-operatives on the supply side of the NDIS.
“What we’re seeing at the moment is that there are a lot of existing providers of services which are… not sufficiently large enough or robust enough to compete in the new decentralised marketplace,” she said.
“So what they can do is come together in enterprise co-operatives… so they can scale up and get some back-room efficiency, so they can compete with larger providers.
“But at the same time, because it’s a co-operative and it’s democratically owned and controlled by the service provider organisations, they don’t have to lose their individual autonomy or even the community connections that they’ve built up as individual organisations.
“We see this as very important, again, to keeping some choice and diversity in the provision of disability services.”