NZDSN COVID-19 Update and Initial Budget Analysis May 15th

Kia ora NZDSN members

Top of mind for people this week will be the continuing impact of the May provider payment debacle and what’s in the budget for Disability Support Services. There is no briefing for the Minister this week as our next meeting is not until May 21st.

In this Update:

  • May Provider Payment Run
  • Budget
  • Returning workforce guidance
  • COVID-19 extraordinary costs reimbursement
  • Level Two Guidance
  • Regional Zoom Meeting Summaries
  • Further Information

May Provider Payment Run

As you all know this was riddled with major errors and came at the worst possible time. Everyone has been working hard getting it fixed. While the Ministry is acutely aware of the need to respond quickly to provider anxieties and concerns the scale of the errors has made this extremely difficult. Communications about the plan to set things right and offer clarity have often raised yet more questions and concerns. There have been some quick responses for providers who faced immediate financial difficulties, but many have found it difficult to get straight answers to basic questions.

The patience of providers is being sorely tested – and on top of a string of delays regarding advice and guidance on COVID-19 related matters. We have asked that further communications be tested with a couple of providers to ensure clarity before distribution. While most providers are keen to return to an invoicing process this is not universal. There is an independent audit underway of Ministry business systems and processes in relation to this matter. Let’s hope this leads to some major reforms – and well before any expansion of things like FDS contracts. 

If you need to talk with someone to sort out the issues you are facing contact the following people directly:

For Northern region, IDEA services and Spectrum Care: Rob Gill.

For Central: Martin Anderson:

 For Southern Region and NZ Care: Terry Hibbert.

If problems continue or you cannot get answer’s contact: Amanda Bleckmann.

Feel free to copy Garth into your emails – this enables us to see how fixing things is tracking.

Budget 2020

Attached here is an initial analysis from our consultants, CapitalNZ relating to Vote Health

The main points including MSD increases as well are: 

  • There appears to be net increases of approximately $230 million dollars per year over the next 4 years for Disability Support Services across MoH and MSD. Interestingly, this equates to the $210 million shortfall we identified in our 2020 Sector Briefing released late last year
  • This is blunted somewhat by $104 Million being allocated for this current financial year in the Ministry of Health, leaving just a $108million increase for the next financial year. (we are assuming this is to cover a DSS over spend for the 19/20 financial year).
  • There is no detail in the DSS budget as to how the increase is to be spread across residential, community care and environmental support, but it is likely to be in similar proportions as last year. There is no mention of a residential pricing model.
  • There is also the caveat that continued growth in demand will have to be accommodated within the increased spending in that it will have to be spread further as each year rolls around. Things will still be tight, but the prospect of not having significant DSS deficits each year will take a lot of pressure off. We will be working closely with the Ministry alongside a representative group of providers on a strategic work programme focused on long term sustainable funding for the sector.
  • Information was also released today by MSD about 6% year on year price uplifts for Community Participation Services and similar increases for Business Enterprises ($43 million dollars over 4 years). There is also $12.5million over two years for strengthening and expanding employment support services.  Further information from MSD is attached here:

Attached here is a Budget media statement we released today: 

Returning workforce guidance

Despite providing input into sector specific guidance which DSS was leading the decision making hierarchy in the wider Ministry has stuck with a core DHB document focussed on “clinical settings” prefaced with some high level advice for community sectors – and links to websites that you will already have visited by now. This is due for release very soon. This is really disappointing not just content wise but the long delay in getting it released. We have asked DSS to provide the disability sector guidance they were working on earlier as a follow up to help you translate the DHB orientated documents.

COVID-19 extraordinary costs reimbursement

A draft of the template and the process for recovering extraordinary COVID-19 related costs is being reviewed by a small group of providers over the next couple of days. The period to be covered is from the start of the level 4 lockdown through until May 31st. The Ministry is keen to get this out next week. There will be a short turn around period for completion so the funding can be released as soon as possible.

We remain very concerned however, about continuing costs for providers after May 31st through level 2 and beyond, largely because how things will unfold is really unknown. For this period the only assistance is the essential workers leave subsidy scheme. This won’t cut it and we have organised some regular meetings with the Ministry including provider and union representation to take a really focussed look at this to find a solution.

Level Two Guidance

Providers are now having to juggle increasingly fluid situations as the level of social contact increases which creates uncertainties and risks for people with underlying health conditions. Day programme facilities are starting to open as long as they can do so safely – a guiding principle here would be to “start small and slow” so that you can ensure safe practices and physical distancing can be maintained. There is guidance available specifically for disabled people and families/whanau which you may find useful as supporting information: 

Regional Zoom Meeting Summaries

These are attached here:

Many thanks again to regional coordinators and hosts.

Further Information:

Here is a link that provides guidance for health professionals supporting people with learning disability in health settings developed in association with the Donald Beasley Institute. While these were developed with the COVID response in mind they have relevance well beyond the current crisis:  

And here is a message to NZ’s Deaf Community from Health line:

Kia tu tahi tatou

From the NZDSN team