Looking ahead to the NDIS Review

by | Oct 19, 2023 | Ability News, Disability Sector, Featured, NDIS

If comments made by the review panel to date are anything to go by, the report is set to change much of what we know about the NDIS, including addressing the sustainability of the scheme . . .

Aruma’s Martin Laverty has some firm ideas about what the reform process will mean for the sector. (photo: Danielle Kutchel

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It’s been a big year for the disability sector.  

The release of the final report from the Disability Royal Commission last month was not just a collective moment of unity and reflection for the sector, so much as a vision of what could be was brought to the forefront of community conversation.

Now it’s time for the report from the NDIS Review, initiated by the new Labor government last year, will be handed to the government. 

The release date hasn’t yet been announced; Ability News attempted to contact Minister Shorten to confirm the report’s public release date but did not hear back before deadline.

But as we await the final report, Ability News spoke to some of the sector’s disability heads to find out what they’re expecting to see from the report.

“We must retain what’s working” 

Former NDIS Board member and Aruma CEO Dr Martin Laverty says it’s important to remember that the positive impact the NDIS has had for so many disabled people.

“The NDIS has improved lives of hundreds of thousands of people with disability, and the lives of their family members and loved ones. The control the NDIS has given people with disabilities to make choices about their lives must continue,” he said. 

“We must retain what’s working.” 

But he also said there are a number of key issues that need to be fixed urgently. Laverty says the schemes huge cost blow-out is because of vague eligibility criteria and inconsistency in what the scheme covers. 

Meanwhile, a lack of early intervention in the wider community means “more children than intended” are part of the scheme. State-government-owned group homes “are frozen in time” and registered providers are bearing a “compliance cost burden” that unregistered providers avoid. 

‘Most importantly,’ he added, ‘the participant pathway is fraught, with red tape and planning inflexibility creating headaches for participants navigating the scheme.’

Brooke wearing glasses and long hair is smiling at the camera

Brooke Canham (photo courtesy Down Syndrome Australia) 

Making it fair for all

Brooke Canham, a Policy Officer at peak body for intellectual disability Inclusion Australia who lives with an intellectual disability, coordinated a submission to the NDIS Review from the National Advocacy Collective of parents with an intellectual disability and has been involved in work to help others with an intellectual disability to understand the review.

She said “lots of things” need to change in the reformed NDIS.

“The NDIS needs to make NDIS plans accessible for people with an intellectual disability so they can make informed decisions about their plan and their supports and know how their funding is being spent. People with an intellectual disability need to be able to learn about supported decision making and have this included in their plan every step of the way.” 

She’s not alone in her belief. Inclusion Australia’s submission to the NDIS Review featured the words of people with an intellectual disability who agreed, among other things, that “plans are too hard” and information from the NDIS is difficult to understand, and as a result, people don’t receive the support they need.

What needs to be fixed

To make the NDIS more accessible and fair for people with an intellectual disability, Canham said the scheme should engage in “more codesign with people with an intellectual disability”. 

Information about the NDIS and supports available within it needs to be made accessible and independent of service providers, and should be provided as early as possible, such as at school, so people can understand what support they need and  can access before applying for the NDIS and make an informed decision, she said.

Making better quality information available would also assist communities that are left behind by the NDIS, such as First Nations, LGBTQIA+, and parents, with an intellectual disability. Allowing marginalised groups, like First Nations and LGBTQIA+ community members, into leadership positions in the NDIA to share their lived experience would also help, Canham added.

Laverty said that the NDIS would need to ensure it retained the support of taxpayers in years to come. 

“Rethinking scheme eligibility and what reasonable and necessary funding pays for is essential to keep taxpayer support. The Government’s eight percent growth target is more than generous, and holding scheme costs within this eight percent target will assure the NDIS remains available in years ahead for those who need it most,” Laverty said. 

He is confident that the issues with the NDIS can be addressed.

Front cover of the NDIS Review: Review of the NDIS is informed by participant provider and community feedback

The NDIS Review is scheduled to be handed in at the end of the month (photo courtesy Review Panel). 

Laverty believes we need to redefine “who the NDIS is for, and what the NDIS pays for”. He said only those with the most significant disabilities should be able to access the NDIS, and only for “needed supports for social and economic participation”. 

Mainstream settings should take over the role of early childhood interventions, and the sector should move on from “dated” state-run group homes.

As well, all providers, whether registered or not, should be held to “proportionate safeguarding registration obligations”. Participants should be granted more flexibility in planning, within their budgets.