People with Disability Australia (PWDA) is concerned over the direction the Independent National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Review Panel is taking following the announcement of recommendations they are considering during a presentation yesterday and is calling for further consultation.
While the Independent NDIS Review was intended to forge better outcomes for people with disability – those the NDIS is intended to support – a recent speech by Professor Bruce Bonyhady AM, co-chair of the Independent Review Panel, has left concerns the Review will push unwanted recommendations on both NDIS participants and the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), and has reignited debate around Scheme sustainability.
“The NDIS Review was promised to the disabled community as a means to improving the NDIS. That means improving access to support for people with disability across Australia, regardless of their location and disability,” says Nicole Lee, President of PWDA. “What we heard from Professor Bonyhady yesterday, however, makes us, as disabled people, fear for the future of our supports.”
During yesterday’s speeches, which were given by Professor Bonyhady to participants and service providers, Professor Bonyhady indicated that the NDIS Review would consider abolishing the tiered approach to supports that underpinned the Scheme’s original vision. This would entail looking to States and Territories to deliver accessible mainstream supports that work for people with disability so there are more options to access support – rather than solely relying on an NDIS plan.
“We have waited decades for States and Territories to provide accessible and inclusive services and it simply hasn’t happened. Stripping back the NDIS on the promise that all governments will pick up their act is a frightening prospect for many of us who have benefitted from the NDIS.”
While Australia needs State and Territory Governments to improve the accessibility and availability of mainstream services and supports for people with disability that are not NDIS participants, we need to ensure that any change does not leave people with disability worse off or without support. “We agree with Professor Bonyhady and the Review Panel that State and Territory Governments need to step up, however, that should not take the place of the Scheme and its vital investment, for example in ensuring children with disabilities have every opportunity to gain an education alongside their peers without disabilities,” says Ms Lee.
“For PWDA and its members, the most important thing is that people with disability – both those who are NDIS participants and those who are not – receive the supports they need, at the time they need them, without having to wait for governments to adapt.” said Ms Lee.
“This means states and territories need to play their part outside of the NDIS,” says Ms Lee.
“We see some indication in the Review Panel’s recommendations, but the detail as to how this is going to happen is lacking. Furthermore, constant public discussion about the supports that are provided to people with disability and their costs keeps people anxious about the fact they may lose their supports. We need this to stop.”
During the speeches, Professor Bonyhady also implied that changes would be made to participants’ planning process, with budgets set at a package level prior to plans being built - moving away from building a budget line-by-line.’ Planning would also be brought in-house away from Local Area Coordinators (LACs) and assessments funded by the NDIA.
“While we have heard from our members that planning needs simplification, and that assessments are cost-prohibitive barriers to accessing support, we also need to ensure that any changes to the planning process do not see us return to the fiasco that was Independent Assessments,” says Ms Lee. “It’s important that participants continue to be assessed by their known and trusted professionals. Any changes to the budgeting process also need to be carefully considered and co-designed with community to ensure we do not return to block funding and we do not lose choice and control as to how those budgets are spent.”
Professor Bonyhady referred to the NDIS as being used as a ‘limitless Magic Pudding,’ making light of a Scheme that is life-changing for many. “The NDIS has introduced life-changing support for thousands of Australians who live with disability,” says Ms Lee. “It’s critical that the Scheme remains fully funded to ensure the basic human rights of those who benefit from it.”
While the NDIS Review has undertaken considerable engagement with people with disability since its inception, PWDA urges the Review Panel to double back and re-consult with the disability community on its recommendations before they are provided to Government who may impose them on the Agency and its participants.
“We need more detail, and we need a better understanding of the changes that are being recommended, because the changes will affect us, our supports and our day to day lives,” says Ms Lee. “It is critical, now, that the Review Panel bring their recommendations to us so we can consult further on the options that lie ahead.”
ABOUT PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY AUSTRALIA
People with Disability Australia Incorporated (PWDA) is a national disability rights and advocacy, non-profit, non-government organisation. We have a cross-disability focus, representing the interests of people with all kinds of disability and our membership is made up of people with disability and organisations mainly constituted by people with disability.