Establishing a sustainable National Relay Service
23 June 2017
The Turnbull Government will take steps to ensure the
sustainability of the National Relay
Service (NRS), an important communications safety net for people who are deaf
or have a hearing or speech impairment.
current NRS contact was introduced in 2012-13, rapid developments in technology
have increased the range and take-up of mainstream communications options for
users with unique needs.
community feedback to the consultation paper Communications accessibility: 2016 and beyond, the Government has released
an implementation plan proposing changes to the NRS which will ensure that the service
continues to be funded at the same level as the existing funding allocation,
and that all existing communications options remain available to NRS users
under the current contracts.
consultation paper attracted more than 30 submissions from a variety of
individuals and organisations with an interest in the NRS.
Three key steps
were announced as part of the implementation plan:
First, the NRS outreach
function will be rebalanced. Key outreach functions will continue to be
delivered, including the helpdesk and online presence, which are available to
users and potential users of the NRS. The online presence will shift in focus to
educate users about the wide variety of easily-accessible communication options
available to people with unique needs, such as online and app-based message
Second, to provide
improved data insights into NRS usage and user requirements, a registration
process will be introduced. This process will see users provide a limited set
of personal information in accordance with Australian Privacy Principles. This
will allow a more comprehensive analysis of the needs of NRS users and will
assist the Government in ensuring appropriate arrangements remain in place, now
and into the future.
Government will go to tender for the continued provision of the NRS, ensuring
that the existing total annual funding allocation of $22 million (including
GST) remains in place. This process is expected to commence in the near future.
There have been
no changes to the wide range of call options currently available to users of
the National Relay Service under the existing contract with the Australian
Government, including internet relay, captioned relay, video relay, SMS relay,
recommendations will be implemented through changes to the existing NRS
agreements and the upcoming tender process, with changes to the outreach
service expected to take full effect following 1 July 2017.
years, usage of some NRS services has increased substantially, putting pressure
on the service overall. Usage minutes for captioned telephony, for example, increased
by more than 347 per cent between 2014-15 and 2015-16.
The NRS annual
funding allocation of $22 million was set in 2012, and currently includes
funding for both the relay service ($18 million) and the outreach program ($4
year, increases in usage led to the total cost of delivering the NRS to grow to
$26.3 million, with the relay service component costing $22.1 million – more
than $4 million above the funding allocation. This represents an increase of
nearly 22 per cent over the delivery costs in the previous financial year.
implementation plan is available at https://www.communications.gov.au/departmental-news/communications-accessibility-2016-and-beyond