Reflections on the NDIS Review
By Kathryn Carey, Head of Events, ImpactInstitute
It’s not very often that you hear the words “it’s stuffed” coming from a senior advisor to the Government — at least in a public forum.
So, you can imagine my surprise and amusement when they were delivered ever so frankly, by Ms Kirsten Deane OAM during a recent town hall panel discussion outlining major findings from review into the NDIS.
You may remember Ms Deane as the one-time director for Every Australian Counts, the grassroots campaign that fought for the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) back in 2011.
The life-changing scheme is widely acknowledged as a world-leading, consumer directed care model of funding for the support needs of people with disability.
But it’s far from perfect.
Concerns about the financial sustainability of the NDIS — which at around $35 billion per year (and growing rapidly) far outstrips the cost of Medicare at $19 billion — and concerns from the disability community about the operation of the scheme itself prompted a long-anticipated review.
The review, announced by Bill Shorten MP, Federal Minister for Disability Services and the NDIS, came 10 years after the introduction of the scheme and was conducted by a panel of prominent figures in the disability sector and people with lived experience.
The final report makes 26 recommendations with 139 actions to change the NDIS over a 5-year period.
What did we learn? The good, the bad and the ugly
Panellists at the town hall event discussed the recommendations across five major areas including: provider markets, psychosocial supports, planning, foundational supports and housing.
Like all reforms, there are those in the disability community who support the recommendations and those who believe they will be worse off once the recommendations are adopted.
One of the most significant recommendations relates to structural changes, specifically to reconsider the role of wrap around foundational supports. For example, mainstream supports (like the school system) be provided and partially funded by the states.
There are also some very welcome changes in planning with the annual planning process set to be abolished and more flexibility provided within the funding buckets.
The yearly review in which funding is reassessed is one of the most contentious, difficult to navigate and quite frankly baffling elements of a scheme that designed for people with permanent disability.
Other recommendations, such as changes to the provider registration process, are more challenging. People in remote areas are concerned forcing providers to “enrol” in the scheme will ultimately lead to less choice.
Having initially been amused by Ms Deane’s frankness, I was somewhat disappointed when there was no further discussion around the issue of providers overcharging — something she’d identified as a “massive issue”.
I was further disappointed to read that the recommendation about pricing has been relegated to the “deal with that later” bucket.
So, in a more inclusive world, what does success look like? That’s the question we asked each of our wonderful ambassadors this year – Yasmin Arkinstall, Alex McKinnon, Reggie Sorensen, Mel Harrison, Ruth O’Brien, Tim McCallum, Mike Rolls and Ben Pettingill.
The reality is there is not just one answer to this question, but My Future, My Choice is definitely something to keep in our sights.
We understand the enormous impact these events can have on our community. Did we make a difference in the lives of people who attend? Yes, we did! How do we know that? Simple – we asked them.
When attendees were asked, “Do you feel the information provided to you at the Expo will assist you with your ongoing care needs?” the response rating was 4.3 / 5. Moreover, 97% of attendees said they either would, or would consider attending an expo again.
As a person with a little skin the game, it seems that on balance, the NDIS review is a considered piece of work that will lead to significant improvements in both the short and long term for people with disability.
On the flip side, I can’t help being concerned that without urgent structural reform to the pricing models the scheme won’t be able to provide the necessary supports across the entire disability community into the future.
I am buoyed that the Government is pushing ahead with reforms quickly and calling for members of the disability community to be involved in those changes.
Change is not always easy, but in this case, it is necessary.