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What is the NDIS?

Learn more about the NDIS and what it could mean for you or a loved one.

Written by
Dan McCutcheon

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) seems like it's in the news every five minutes at the moment. The disability support scheme that now supports approximately 550,000 Australians living with a disability has become a complex beast. In this post we look at how the NDIS came about, the principles of the NDIS, who is eligible and what the future might look like. 

How did the NDIS come about?

In 2010 the Productivity Commission received submissions from over 1,000 people living with disabilities and those working in the disability sector. The message was clear- the existing State government systems were not working. In 2013 the legislation for a nation-wide disability support system (the National Disability Insurance Scheme) was passed. The Gillard Labor government introduced the NDIS with trial sites in 2013 and commenced rolling out across Australia in 2016. The current minister for the NDIS Bill Shorten played a key role in establishing the NDIS and WA was the final state to join the NDIS in 2018. 

Who is eligible? To be eligible for the NDIS you need to be:

  1. an Australian citizen.
  2. Aged under 65 (or become eligible for the NDIS while under 65).
  3. Permanently and significantly impacted by your disability across a number of areas in your life. 

The Principles of the NDIS

  1. Person-centred choice and control; people living with disabilities are assumed to have capacity to make their own decisions and are able to exercise choice and control over who supports them and how these supports are provided. 
  2. Capacity building; the idea behind the NDIS is that as people receive NDIS support they become more capable. Ideally this means people reduce their reliance on paid supports providing a dual benefit where people can lead more independent and empowered lives and the government spends less money over time. 
  3. Social insurance; the NDIS is a social insurance model. Disability arises socially rather than medically (i.e. it is the way society is set-up that disables people rather than the disability itself) and the NDIS provides guaranteed lifelong support to those who need it. 
  4. Social inclusion and participation in the community.
  5. Economic participation (employment).
  6. Community engagement (raising the profile of disability in the community to create awareness, promote inclusion and change outdated societal attitudes). 

What does the future look like for the NDIS?

Crystal-gazing is tricky business but key changes signalled by the current NDIS Review indicate:

  • The NDIS isn't going anywhere. It may change in some ways (most definitely), but Australians have fought way too hard and too long to let the NDIS fail. 
  • Increased focus on measurable outcomes of support. The NDIS is already a goal-oriented model but this will only increase as the Scheme looks to track the quality of support providers and individual progress towards goals. 
  • More targeted strategies to support people into the workforce. This is an area the NDIA hasn’t seen as much progress in as it would have liked. 
  • Market stewardship. In regional and remote areas particularly in states like WA & Queensland, thin markets (where demand for services outstrips supply) is common. People living with disabilities in these areas must not be disadvantaged and must have access to quality supports. 
  • A renewed focus on the LAC (Local Area Coordinator) role to ensure it is fulfilling its original intent which was to capacity-build and provide linkages and inclusion within the local community rather than develop NDIS plans.
  • Increased oversight on providers (particularly unregistered providers) to reduce incidence of fraud and improve consistency, quality and safety of supports. 
  • Increased focus on the sustainability of the Scheme. The NDIS currently costs around $30 billion to administer with the lates NDIS financial sustainability report projecting an increase to $89 billion by 2032. Reduction of waste, inefficiencies and fraud will help to reduce costs as well as re-negotiation of responsibilities and cost sharing between the State and Commonwealth governments. 
  • The Independent Review Panel undertaking the NDIS Review will deliver its final report in October 2023 which will have significant ramifications for the Scheme.
Learn more about the NDIS and what it could mean for you or a loved one.
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