The Federal Government’s Budget for 2022/23 includes a greater focus on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and people with disability with an allocated $166.6 billion for the sector, however, the funding has been met with concerns over wasteful spending.
It’s the first Labor Federal Budget in ten years with Treasurer Jim Chalmers providing renewed attention to the NDIS.
With the NDIS expected to cost more than $50 billion per year by 2025/26 – and potentially more than $100 billion in the foreseeable future, Treasurer Chalmers says Labor’s focus is on achieving value for money.
“Our task is to put people with a disability at the centre of the NDIS. In order to do that, we need to make sure we’re getting value for money for every dollar we spend,” says Mr Chalmers.
“It will always be a central future of the services that a Federal Government should and will provide to people with disabilities.”
Labor has committed $166.6 billion to the NDIS over four years, an increase of $8.8 billion on the Liberal Government’s March budget, to ensure funding matches the expected growth in participants’ plans.
The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) will also receive $385 million across the 2023/24 financial year, and $158.2 million for 380 new permanent staff.
A $126 million committed to creating a new NDIS fraud taskforce is expected to recoup $291.5 million from NDIS providers over the next four years, delivering savings of $165 million.
That’s paired with a combined $23.6 million to support NDIS participants through the appeals process, as well as the introduction of new operational plans to get NDIS participants out of hospital more quickly.
NDIS Minister Bill Shorten says the improvements to the NDIA administrative process will help “ensure that people with disability do not languish in hospital unnecessarily”.
“Labor’s announcement of a cross-agency fraud fusion taskforce will help defend the Scheme from crooks and help deliver our pledge to crack down on NDIS fraudsters,” says Minister Shorten.
The Budget also features several key initiatives for people with disability, including:
- $12.4 million to better resolve NDIS appeals disputes, including reducing the number of appeals and providing earlier incomes
- $21.2 million to support NDIS participants and their families with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT)
- $787.1 million over four years to reduce the cost of medicine on the PBS from $42.50 to $30 from 1 January 2023
- $10.3 million to expand Sport4all across 80 local government areas (LGAs), providing people with disability and First Nations people with disability more opportunities to participate in sport
- $19.4 million to extend the Disability Employment Services (DES) program for two years
- $5 million to fund autism research, including early intervention services and a national autism strategy
- $485.5 million to the introduction of 20,000 Commonwealth-supported university places for under-represented groups, including people with disability
- $1 billion to provide 480,000 fee-free TAFE and community-based education places for priority groups, including people with disability, and to develop a National Skills Agreement to support their education and training
There is also a wide range of funding going toward the health sector, which will have a positive flow on effect to people living with disability.
New opportunities for people with disability
Where the Liberal Government’s March Budget fell short in supporting people with disability, Labor has pledged funding to a whole host of disability supports.
Samantha Connor, People with Disability Australia (PWDA) President, says renewed attention to the NDIS is welcomed.
“The 17 percent rise to support costs and an increase in individual supports will see benefits flow to NDIS participants,” says Ms Connor.
“This Budget has the potential to reduce some key stressors for people with disability who are NDIS participants.”
Ms Connor adds that the fee-free vocational education places can deliver meaningful career opportunities as it removes the affordability barrier many people with disability face when attempting to access higher education.
Carolyn Hodge, PWDA Deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO) says the Budget investment in housing also addresses a high priority concern for people with disability.
“With housing the number one issue in our disability advocacy services, we encourage all Governments to ensure a continued focus on providing accessible social housing for people with disability – including safe, secure and accessible homes for women with disability escaping violence,” says Ms Hodge.
Medical support is hit and miss
A range of health and medical funding in this Federal Budget will impact people with disability positively, but some changes may not be as beneficial as others.
The reduction of the maximum co-payment for medication under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) is one of the most welcomed changes. Each script under the PBS will cost no more than $30, down from $42.50 to $30 per script.
It’s expected to save 3.6 million Australians more than $190 million per year in out-of-pocket costs.
However, concerns have been raised by PWDA as investments into ongoing COVID-19 management do not specifically address targeted measures for people with disability, including income support.
“While we welcome the provision of $808.2 million in 2022-23 to extend elements of the Government’s response to COVID-19 until 31 December 2022, we hold concerns about the lack of targeted measures for people with disability and the cessation of the response. COVID is not over!” says Ms Connor.
Elsewhere, almost $50 million has been invested into bulk-billed video telehealth psychiatry consultations for rural and remote Australians, but there are calls for additional training and funding for similar ongoing support for NDIS participants.
Dr Annie Banbury, Head of Clinical Research at Coviu, says the NDIS must have telehealth options to ensure all participants can access information and supports.
“Last night’s Federal Budget announcement that 380 permanent staff will be provided to the NDIS is an important step in recognising the need for more comprehensive support for Australians living with a disability,” Dr Banbury says.
“Telehealth and virtual healthcare is integral to the success of the NDIS as it allows rural and remote Australians equitable access to service providers.
“These additional supports represent a move in the right direction towards disability aid in Australia, but for this to be implemented effectively there needs to be further consideration to educate NDIS providers and consumers on the role of telehealth and virtual care in disability care.”
To read the full Budget report online, visit the Government’s Budget October 2022-23 website.