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Defending Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme

The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) welcomes yesterday’s commitment from the ALP to policies that will optimise and strengthen Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Acknowledging the Coalition Government’s commitment, in the recent budget, to fully fund the NDIS over current and forward estimates, there are still significant issues of concern for people with disability, their families and their representative organisations. With one in five Australians being people with disability they must have a voice in any matters that directly impact upon them, inclusive of the NDIS.

AFDO’s thirty-one member organisations represent disability-specific communities and cross-disability communities with a total national reach of over 3.8 million Australians. We back the importance and priority of ensuring the continuing operation of the NDIS and its potential to continue to change lives.

Our community has also felt a growing level of distrust and disengagement due to attempts to change and redefine the NDIS away from its original vision and purpose without input sought from people with disability, their families and their representative organisations.

These include;

  • Move towards Independent Assessments that was successfully abandoned after people with disability and their advocates opposed this blatant cost-cutting measure

  • A systemic pattern of unexplained cuts in plan reviews to significant numbers of participants

  • No data is available on plan reviews that are participant initiated as opposed to Agency initiated

  • Substantial increase in matters referred to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) for appeal by participants or applicants to the NDIS

  • Increase in Agency spending on external legal fees to fight people with disability seeking to appeal decisions made against them

  • Unaddressed barriers to participation for Australians living in rural and remote areas, including First Nations Peoples, those from CALD backgrounds and/or intersectional communities

  • The ongoing need to continually push to ensure that people with disability, their families and representative organisations are maintained front and centre in any reviews, proposed changes, policies or legislation in co-design and consultative processes – “Nothing about us without us”

  • Agency staffing capped at 3000 since 2013 despite original projections requiring 10,000 staff

  • Outsourcing to consultants at a premium cost for what should be staff roles

  • High staff turnover and lack of staff contribute to a service delivery model that creates stress and uncertainty for many participants without delivering meaningful efficiencies

  • Continual Federal Ministerial and Assistant Minister revolving door for the Scheme since inception

The NDIS originally had bipartisan support across the political spectrum – an indication of the importance of this social reform and equity initiative to change the lives of people with disability, their families and communities for the better. The NDIS, if valued and supported, still has the potential to remove uncertainty, restore dignity, and create greater social and financial participation.

AFDO calls on all political parties and candidates to outline their views and position on supporting and improving the NDIS for Australians with disability.

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