Protecting the integrity of the NDIS

16 March 2022
In less than ten years, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has proven its ability to radically improve the lives of millions of Australians with disabilities. Despite this, the scheme has struggled under the weight of the Federal Government’s pressure to cut funding significantly. 

Such cuts are impacting families already, with numerous reports of families and their loved ones being short-changed by the NDIS.

One of the key players responsible for these concerning changes is the Minister for the NDIS, Linda Reynolds MP.  She has come under scathing criticism for her claims that the cost of the scheme will balloon out beyond initial projections. However, activists have consistently stated insufficient evidence to support such claims. 

In response to the growing threat of funding cuts, advocacy groups have collectively worked to overcome proposals that hinder individuals and families from accessing fair plans. The Teamwork Works Campaign is a recent example.  

Teamwork Works is a campaign driven by National Disability Services (NDS), the peak organisation representing disability service providers across Australia, that will put people with disability and the workers that support them at the front and centre of the national conversation. The campaign has released a report by Per Capita that highlights the alarming inconsistencies of cost claims and the financial benefits the NDIS provides. 

The NDS says that “people with disability are having their plans drastically cut, leaving them without the funding they need to build their team around them. The message is simple: it’s time for both major political parties to commit to a strong NDIS.”

Currently, the NDIS provides services to 450,000 Australians, and for every dollar spent, it delivers $2.25 to the Australian economy and directly employs 270,000 people. The Teamwork Works campaign is encouraging citizens to become involved by signing an open letter calling on the Federal Government to protect the future of the NDIS.  

Last year, the proposal to implement independent assessments was rejected, a move that Senator Jordan Steele-John credits in part due to “the thousands of disabled people who mobilised, and made our opposition known.” 

CPSN spoke with the office of Jordan Steele-John about the government’s handling of NDIS funding. Here’s what he had to say: 

There’s been numerous reports of people’s plans being significantly cut. What supports are currently in place to help these individuals and their families? 

The Morrison Government’s callous, systemic cuts to NDIS funding is leaving thousands of disabled people unable to live the full, independent life we all deserve. My office is supporting an ever-growing number of disabled people who’ve had their plans arbitrarily slashed, leaving them marooned without key supports and services. 

It’s unconscionable that people’s vital funding is being cut, especially when the Coalition is throwing billions of dollars at nuclear submarines no one wants or needs. The Greens are working so hard to ensure the NDIS gets the resources it needs to support disabled people to live their best lives, now and into the future. 

The Greens Party announced their Accessible Australia Plan. How will this plan address the existing concerns of cuts to funding? 

Our Accessible Australia plan will fully resource the NDIS. First and foremost, that looks like increasing funding. It looks like removing the staffing cap, and ensuring staff receive high-quality and ongoing training and support. It looks like ensuring IT systems are fit for purpose and fully accessible.  

We’re also committed to removing the age limit that prevents people over 65 being accepted in the NDIS and investing in the Quality and Safeguards Commission to ensure it’s adequately equipped to undertake its compliance and investigative work.  

At the heart of this is the Greens’ commitment to ensuring the NDIS meets its full potential and appropriately supports all disabled people who need it. Anything less than that is simply not good enough. 

There’s a lot of mixed information around Independent Assessments and how they affect participants, what are the key things NDIS Participants need to understand about IA? 

Any change to the way NDIS participants are assessed must be co-designed with disabled people, our advocates and our peak bodies. The big problem with independent assessments is that they were not developed in consultation with disabled people – the people they would directly impact.  

As a result, independent assessments wouldn’t produce an accurate picture of a disabled person’s life and needs. Forcing a disabled person to communicate their complex support needs to a complete stranger in a short appointment – someone unlikely to have an adequate understanding of their disability – is a highly inappropriate and inaccurate way to conduct such an assessment.  

What are some of the ways the NDIS has stimulated the Australian economy? 

The NDIS has a significant impact on the Australian economy. Modelling released last year shows that it provides an economic benefit of $2.25 for every dollar spent, contributing about $52.4 billion to the economy in 2020-21. The scheme also employs more than 270,000 people – that’s more than double the number of people employed in the fossil fuel sector in Australia. 

When you strip it all back, that means underfunding the NDIS will bleed thousands of jobs. Australia’s GDP will take a significant hit. These are both things the Morrison Government claims to care about, so why are they continuing to undermine and underfund the scheme? 

How can participants advocate their rights? 

It’s really important that disabled people find themselves a good disability advocate who can help them uphold their rights and navigate the system. It’s also a good idea to become familiar with the rules of the NDIS if possible. My office is available to help with any questions as well! 

Want to learn more about the Teamwork Works campaign? Sign the open letter now at teamwork.org.au 

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