Collaboration vs Competition in the NDIS Environment | Queensland Alliance for Mental Health

Collaboration vs Competition in the NDIS Environment

Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.

Henry Ford


The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has reformed the disability sector and organisations are now required to meet the demands of a newly-empowered marketplace and transition from block funding to individual fee-for-service arrangements.

The introduction of the Scheme has significantly changed the business market place, and service providers now face changing their business models to focus on NDIS participants to remain competitive in this individualised market.

There is a real risk that the demand for services will greatly exceed supply, and organisations will need to compete to recruit and maintain qualified staff, especially for smaller organisations that do not necessarily have the capital to do so[1].

While such competition has empowered consumers, we risk a significant decrease in sector collaboration as organisations compete to retain a skilled workforce and client-base.

In July 2017, National Disability Services (NDS) released its Australian Disability Workforce Report revealing NDIS-related trends in the disability workforce, including workforce challenges. The Report revealed that only 12 per cent of the workforce were in a full-time permanent position, compared with 41 percent of casual employees, and that ‘casual turnover rates [were] much higher than those for permanent workers’[2].

A common difficulty faced by providers appears to be the increasing specificity of job requirements for disability support positions, a result of providers tailoring jobs to clients under the NDIS[3].

Research has long demonstrated the value of inter-organisational collaborations. A 2017 study found that one common value derived from social enterprises and their partner organisations is that of receiving knowledge and conducting relation-specific investments[4].

However, collaborations, while valuable, are not always easy to achieve. Queensland Alliance for Mental Health (QAMH) works with over 10 local alliances across the State, and it has been our experience that getting senior executives and thought leaders, with busy schedules and competing deadlines, to the table can be a challenge. Networking and strength in numbers are recognised advantages of collaboration, however, without key stakeholders regularly available to attend teleconferences and meetings, it is difficult to progress forward.

QAMH’s Manager, Partnerships and Engagement, Sue Pope says that it is concerning to see organisations moving away from collaborative relationships in the new market-place.

No organisation is an island. We all need support. The NDIS is the biggest reform we’ve seen since the introduction of Medicare and the mental health sector still has so much to learn. We are seeing mental health being fit into a system designed for disability. The changes are immense and the challenges significant. We need to stand together to increase our knowledge base, bounce ideas around and strengthen our voice.

There is no simple way for community mental health organisations to bridge the gap between competition and collaboration, particularly for not-for-profit (NFP) senior executives and thought leaders whose work never ends.

But let’s not be too hasty. How about we start with conversations? Healthy and robust discussions about the mental health sector from thought leaders who are shaping the landscape of this compelling cause.

In order to be successful, an inter-organisational collaboration needs to be flexible and innovative while allowing each participant to be independent within their own psychosocial space[5]. Therefore, QAMH has established the QAMH Members Group on LinkedIn, a platform open to our member representatives to form strategic relationships, share opinions and exchange ideas about current topics that are influencing the community mental health sector. This platform offers information sharing in a private environment that can occur while sitting in an Uber on the way to the next meeting.

QAMH will introduce a series of topics and members can participate in those topics relevant to them. Members seeking the opinion of other thought leaders in the sector are invited to propose a topic for discussion.

If you want to know more, visit us on LinkedIn, or contact Sue Pope, Manager, Partnerships and Engagement at or phone 07 3252 9411.

By Rebecca Somerville, Communications Officer
Queensland Alliance for Mental Health


[1] Gilchrist, D 2016, Understanding the NDIS: The challenges disability service providers face in a market-based system, The Conversation,

[2] National Disability Services 2017, Australian Disability Workforce Report,

[3] National Disability Services 2017, Australian Disability Workforce Report,

[4] Weber, C, Weidner, K, Kroeger, A & Wallace, J 2017, Social value creation in inter-organizational collaborations in the not-for-profit sector – give and take from a dyadic perspective, Journal of Management Studies.

[5] Kourti, I 2017, Why should we collaborate? Exploring partners’ interactions in the psychosocial spaces of an inter-organisational collaboration, Scandinavian Journal of Management.