Is the NDIS unsustainable? “This is a lie…

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The Australian Labor Party’s announcement of a plan to improve the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and broader community programs has given people with disabilities hope for positive change after the federal election.

If elected to government on May 21, the Labor Party has promised sweeping reform of the NDIS and the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), which runs it.

Shadow NDIS minister Bill Shorten accused the government of not handling NDIS and funding the way it should be handled when it launched its disability support plan yesterday.

“This government has a problem with the NDIS, but they will never declare it,” he said.

“…You can’t walk the halls of Parliament in Canberra without tripping over a Coalition minister who whispers the program is unsustainable.

“I am here to tell you today that is a lie.

“The regime’s survival is only threatened by the incompetent management of the current government…the money is there, the problem is that it is not being spent on the right priorities.”

Labor has outlined six key ways in which it will achieve reform of the NDIS and “bring it back to its original vision”, including:

  • Lift the staffing cap at the NDIA and add an additional 380 staff, reduce the number of precarious labor contracts, increase the number of permanent staff, and review the design, operation and sustainability of the NDIS
  • Review the use of outside lawyers and consultants and combat criminal activity and fraud
  • Streamline the planning process to create better initial plans, as well as fix the review and appeal process
  • Introduce expert review to ensure funding for the scheme is not cut arbitrarily
  • Appoint senior manager at NDIA to remove barriers to service delivery in regional areas
  • Co-design all program changes with people with disabilities and increase the number of people with disabilities on the NDIA Board of Directors

At the launch of the plan, Mr. Shorten spoke about the importance of bringing the NDIS back to the model of choice and control it was designed for, and co-designing the program to follow the motto “nothing about us, no we”.

“Trust is broken after ten years of absentee landlords from the current government with disabled people and their representatives – trust is broken,” says Mr Shorten.

“…What we’re trying to do is restore trust.

“The truth is that right now there is an undeclared war against people under government rule.”

Responding to the Labor Party announcement, NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds said the Morrison government was providing record funding for disability services.

The government has increased funding for the NDIS as the number of participants has grown, and the 2022/23 federal budget has allocated $33.9 billion to the NDIS over the next year, as part of a total of $157.8 billion over the next four years. .

“[This] only possible because we have a strong economy,” said Minister Reynolds.

“The economic insecurity offered by [Opposition Leader] Anthony Albanese represents a real risk for this record financing. »

Minister Reynolds says she thinks Labor’s ‘expert reviews’ plan will introduce ‘an extra layer of bureaucracy’ and ‘slow down participants’ decisions’.

The other parts of the Labor plan to improve the NDIS have also been criticized by Minister Reynolds.

“Labour’s promise for another review, on top of all previous reviews, will add more uncertainty for participants and suppliers,” she says.

“Labour’s unfunded promise to remove the staffing cap for the NDIA and 380 other NDIA staff must be properly factored into Labor policy costs.”

Aspects of Labor’s plan to support people with disabilities, which are not specific to the NDIS, include commitments to:

So far, the current government has made no campaign promises for changes to the NDIS, other than a promise to fully fund it, and has made no new promises beyond the funding provided in the federal budget.

Positive response to sector labor plan

Leading disability bodies and organizations have responded positively to trade union election commitments.

The Australian Federation of Disabled People’s Organizations (AFDO), which has 31 member organizations and represents over 3.8 million Australians with disabilities, acknowledged the government’s commitment to fully fund the NDIS from the federal budget, but also welcomed the Labor Party’s policy to “optimize and strengthen” the Scheme.

The Federation says its community has “felt an increasing level of mistrust and disengagement due to attempts to change and redefine the NDIS away from its original vision and purpose without the sought-after input of people with disabilities, their families and their representative organizations”.

The AFDO has compiled a list of the ways the NDIS has been damaged over the past few years, including:

  • The move towards independent assessments, which was eventually abandoned due to community backlash
  • Unexplained cuts in plan revisions for a significant number of members
  • The substantial increase in the number of Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) cases related to the NDIS
  • Increased spending on outside legal fees to fight AAT cases
  • A lack of effort to remove barriers for people in rural and remote areas, First Nations people, people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and people with other intersectionalities
  • A lack of data on the number of participant-initiated plan reviews compared to the number of NDIA-initiated reviews
  • The amount of effort required by people with disabilities and representatives to ensure they are involved in reviews, consultation and co-design
  • NDIA staffing has been capped at 3,000 personnel since 2013, which AFDO says occurred despite initial projections of a need for 10,000 personnel.
  • Outsource NDIS work to consultants who cost more than in-house staff
  • High staff turnover, in addition to regular changes at the Federal Minister and Deputy NDIS Minister level

AFDO says that with all these issues that need to be addressed, it calls on all political parties and candidates to detail their plans to support and improve the NDIS ahead of the elections.

Labour’s plan to fix the NDIS has huge benefits for many young Australians with disabilities, says Mary Sayers, chief executive of Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA).

Ms Sayers says she hopes all political parties will make similar pledges to Labor in the run up to the election, as the majority of NDIS participants are under 25 and need the program improved.

“The NDIS is currently extremely difficult for children and young people with disabilities and their families to navigate, with many struggling to access and juggle the complexity of the program,” says Ms Sayers.

“These announcements of streamlining the NDIS, based on co-design, are welcome.”

The focus on employment support in the wider community is also important for young people, says Sayers.

“Youth with disabilities are one of the most disadvantaged cohorts in the labor market due to the barriers they face,” she says.

“We welcome the commitment of a Disability Employment Center of Excellence to build the capacity of employment services to better support young people with disabilities, who consistently tell us that these services are not meeting their needs. and let them down.”

A missing promise from the Labor plan, which Ms Sayers says is important for many students with disabilities, is the development of a national plan for inclusive education. “Children and young people with disabilities are routinely excluded from their education, through suspensions, expulsions and checks where they are told they are not welcome at their local school,” says Ms Sayers.

“We will seek out all parties in their education announcements to commit to a national plan for inclusive education.”

People With Disability Australia (PWDA) chairwoman Samantha Connor also sees positives in Labor’s plan, but is somewhat cautious about how it will play out if the party is elected to government.

“On the face of it, this is a very good plan and responds well to what people with disabilities and our families are asking for,” says Ms. Connor.

“However, there is a lot in the plan, so it would be useful to know what the main priorities are and what the timetable is for delivering on those promises.”

Ms Connor says the suggested expert review of the NDIS plans will be beneficial, but the plans should be corrected as much as possible before reaching the need for an appeals process.

“While we welcome the introduction of safeguards such as the expert review mechanism proposed by the Labor Party, we have yet to address the issue of algorithms determining funding as well as the introduction of punitive operational guidelines,” says Mrs. Connor.

“We want the next federal government to commit to a full review of the appropriateness of using machine learning – the same system the current government used to create the RoboDebt fiasco – to decide what the outcomes of the NDIS funding from people.

“And we want a full review of the adequacy of punitive operational guidelines that keep people trapped in hospitals or unable to get the support they need.”

Members of the Disability Does Not Discriminate campaign, which aims to remove the age limit from eligibility criteria for the NDIS, are disappointed that the Labor Party’s plan to fix the NDIS does not consider people with disabilities over the age of 65 years.

National Campaign Manager David Margan said: “The ALP’s recent announcement to ‘Defend and Fix the NDIS’ remains silent on a key issue for voters over 65 and their families.

“It is only the Independent MPs, Zali Steggall (Warringah), Dr Helen Haines (Indi), Rebekha Sharkie (Mayo) and Andrew Wilkie (Clark) and the Australian Greens who have had the integrity to stand up and say ‘no’ to this discrimination based on age and [aim] give priority to this issue in the next legislature.

Margan says the government has already “clearly decided to actively discriminate” against older people with disabilities by omitting the issue of the federal budget.

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