How to Better Operate Your Disability Service Business in 2024

There’s no doubt that the disability services industry rallied in the face of the challenges that they were faced with throughout the pandemic, and as we move into 2024, there’s plenty to be positive about.

Growing numbers of disability service providers are operating at a profit. Meanwhile, people with disabilities increasingly report that the services they receive help them become actively involved in the community and have more control over their lives.

With so much to look forward to in 2024, now is a good time to review your operations and highlight areas to improve so that you can take advantage of the opportunities ahead. Let’s explore a few options for doing so.

Run an Efficiency Audit to Increase Profitability 

While more and more disability service providers are operating in the black, profitability remains a challenge for many companies. According to NDS’ State of the Disability Sector Report 2021, 33% of providers either broke even or made a loss in 2020–2021. That number rises to 50% among very small organisations.

While you no doubt routinely seek ways to reduce costs and increase profits, it’s easy to overlook specific areas. An annual efficiency audit will help you spot them. What’s more, you can run a basic one in-house.

Before you begin, determine what’s important to your business. There are several popular models for evaluating efficiency and performance, and the one you choose should depend on your business’ priorities and financial resilience. 

For example, if you’re struggling with low profits, you might adopt a lean framework in which you aim to reduce your use of resources. If, however, you’re in a good position financially and want to target growth, you might prefer something like a balanced scorecard performance framework. This option gives more weight to strategy and development.

Regardless of your model, the basic principles are the same: track time and costs for a set period. ShiftCare’s detailed reports can help here (if you’re not already using our split shifts function to record different tasks, it’s worth doing so for this review). 

Next, compare the per-task costs associated with your chosen measures of success, including compliance, service quality, profits, worker satisfaction, and growth enablement. Finally, evaluate your results to determine where you’re seeing the best return on investment - of money, time, and energy - and where you can improve.

Create a Plan for Increasing Capacity

In 2020, 69% of providers had to turn away requests for disability services because they didn’t have the capacity to provide them. If you’re one of these providers, creating a plan for scaling up could pay off. By having it ready and waiting, you’ll be able to quickly increase capacity when the opportunity arises.

Automating rostering and invoicing, and increasing flexibility in scheduling where possible will help you do this. At some point, however, growth requires investment, especially when it comes to adding more workers to your roster. 

Take a look at your recruitment process: how long does it take you to hire and onboard new staff? If this is limiting you, set aside time for networking, try to identify more job listing sites, and ask yourself if your process is unnecessarily convoluted. 

Until you get sufficient long-term demand, you may also want to explore working with partners, freelancers, or temporary staff for specific services. 

Prioritise Support Worker and Carer Retainment 

According to the NDS’s survey cited above, staffing remains a major challenge for disability service providers. For certain roles, such as psychologists, almost nine out of ten respondents struggle to recruit staff.

Generally speaking, retention is easier and less expensive than recruiting and training new staff. Unfortunately, by the time you realise you have a retainment issue, it’s often too late to fix it. To avoid this, prioritise employee experience and retainment in 2024.

Regularly seek feedback from your current workforce, and make sure there are open channels for raising concerns or making suggestions. Be flexible when rostering, and encourage staff to fill in their preferences and availability using the ShiftCare app. The Team Collaboration features can also help cut down on bureaucracy and make shifts run more smoothly, while the ShiftCare app makes it easier for carers to submit expenses and mileage reports for faster repayment. 

Finally, regularly show your appreciation - after all, everyone wants to be recognised for doing their best at work.

Review Clients’ NDIS Plan Utilisation Level

Optimising plan utilisation can make a big difference to clients’ quality of life, as well as potentially increasing your per-client income. Unfortunately, many NDIS participants do not receive all the care they’re entitled to.

Since its inception, annual NDIS utilisation has hovered around just 70%. This figure also drops dramatically for participants new to the NDIS system — in the first six months of 2020–2021, participants on their first-ever plan utilised only 46% of their approved support.

 There isn’t an easy solution to this issue, but there are several things you can do to help. For instance, if a client’s plan allows for it, arrange for them to receive support from an NDIS Support Coordinator

In addition, schedule regular reviews of clients’ details — especially if they’re newer participants — to see if there are particular services they’re entitled to, but are not receiving. You can also upload accessible guides to the NDIS scheme and specific services to the ShiftCare app for the client to view, potentially in partnership with their carers.

The invoicing and billing system built into the ShiftCare app will also help clients understand what their funds are being used for. If the client consents, encourage family members and loved ones to use ShiftCare Connect. This will help them see what the client receives, enabling them to play an educated role in the conversation around care packages. 

Operating a Disability Service Business in 2024

All of this isn’t to say that 2024 will be challenge-free for disability service businesses. From the continuing risk of COVID-19 to the ever-increasing number of people requiring disability care, there are certain to be bumps in the road ahead. However, it’s undeniable that opportunities exist, and that there are plenty of reasons for disability service organisations to be optimistic.

At ShiftCare, we believe in supporting you by empowering smoother business administration processes. Give our care management software a try today so that you can get back to the important things — providing quality care that enables people with disabilities to live independently, with dignity and within their communities.

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