Sector signals support for NDIS reforms

Posted on 11 Dec 2023

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia


The not-for-profit sector has backed the federal government’s planned reforms to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

A recently released review of the NDIS has made a raft of recommendations designed to improve delivery of the $35 billion scheme, which has more than 630,000 participants, and deflate its ballooning cost.

The 329-page report, which followed a year-long review that made 26 recommendations to be implemented over the next five years, calls for more support outside the scheme to ensure its long-term sustainability.

The review's co-chairs, Bruce Bonyhady and Lisa Paul, called for "a complete rethink" of NDIS operations.

"We must return to the principle that NDIS eligibility is based first and foremost on functional impairment rather than medical diagnosis,” they wrote in their report.

"We must ensure the NDIS experience is centred around the whole person and their disability-related support needs."

Leading migrant rights advocate Settlement Services International (SSI) said the proposed changes to the scheme would strengthen inclusion and support for people with disability.

SSI particularly praised proposed changes to the NDIS designed to:

  • strengthen and widen the availability of support for people with disability in navigating the NDIS
  • introduce specialist ‘navigators’ for people with more complex needs or those from different communities.

SSI delivers the local area coordination (LAC) services for the NDIS in south-west Sydney and Sydney.

SSI's general manager for service delivery and community, Stephen O’Neill, said the proposed reforms would make it simpler and easier for people with disability to navigate mainstream services.

He said that under current arrangements, finding the right support can be complex, costly and time-consuming.

“We welcome the proposed introduction of navigation support that would facilitate choice, enable inclusion, and ensure all people with disability can meet their goals,” said Mr O’Neill.

“It is particularly heartening to see the emphasis on this navigation support being delivered locally by people who have genuine connections, knowledge and links to local services.”

Mr O’Neill said that as a provider of local coordination within the existing scheme, SSI particularly welcomed the recommendation to improve the connection between mainstream services and the NDIS.

“This review sets out a clear vision for more consistent pathways for people with disability to access support, with a role for mainstream services, as well as navigators at the local level,” he said.

“We particularly welcome the recommendation that all Australian governments should improve responsiveness of services to culturally diverse communities through building the capacity of government agencies and service providers.”

SSI commended the review's focus on the needs of First Nations, culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) and LGBTIQA+ people with disability.

It also endorsed the review’s recommendation of taking a staged, sequenced and coordinated approach to implementing the changes over the next five years.

“As a whole, this review takes into account the voices of thousands of people with disability and provides a roadmap for creating a stronger and more localised ecosystem of support for people with disability within and outside of the NDIS,” said Mr O’Neill.

“Seeing these [recommendations] delivered could mean a community that's more inclusive, more accessible and an end to people fighting for the support they need.”
People with Disability Australia president Nicole Lee.

People with Disability Australia (PWDA) welcomed the additional funding and steps to address gaps in support for people with disability outlined in the report.

PWDA president Nicole Lee said the review acknowledged what disabled people have known and experienced their entire lives - that support outside the NDIS was sorely lacking and must be improved.

“We know the NDIS has done some heavy and much-needed lifting, but even with the scheme people have struggled to access the support they need to live free and equal lives and participate fully in the community."

People with Disability Australia president Nicole Lee.

PWDA expressed support for the report's recognition that the needs of some people with disability over the age of 65 were not being met.

"It's positive to see recommendations that aim to see people with disability over 65 have greater access to support through the NDIS and the aged care system," said Ms Lee.

She said recommendations such as the introduction of the navigator role also backed by SSI, acknowledged that people with disability inside and outside the NDIS need help to access support.

“Seeing these [recommendations] delivered could mean a community that's more inclusive, more accessible and an end to people fighting for the support they need.”

Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) welcomed the NDIS report’s focus on the nation’s youngest generations.

A key recommendation of the report was the establishment of more support for children, inside and outside the NDIS.

CYDA CEO Skye Kakoschke-Moore said with an estimated 57% of NDIS participants aged under 25 - and one in two of those children - the changes recommended by the review have the potential to significantly affect their lives.

“Hundreds of thousands of children and young people with disability across the country have been anxiously waiting to hear what their futures hold,” said Ms Kakoschke-Moore.

“The 26 recommendations made by the Review panel suggest we’re heading in the right direction – but more needs to be done to ensure children and young people both on and off the scheme get the support they need.”

CYDA highlighted several specific reforms in the report, including:

  • targeted foundational support and services for early childhood
  • funding for roles to help families who may feel isolated by the NDIS complexity to navigate it effectively
  • greater investment to help young people thrive during key life transitions, from their first day at school to entering university

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