A report released by The Productivity Commission comes with a number of recommendations after it was revealed that a lack of supports accessed by National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants is largely behind costs being ‘broadly on-track’ with the National Disability Insurance Agency’s (NDIA’s) long-term modelling.
The 533-page final study report calls for governments and the NDIA to start planning for a slower intake of participants and ensure current support is not withdrawn too early.
It also states that there needs to be greater emphasis on pre-planning, in-depth planning conversations, reporting on the quality of plans, and more specialised training for planners.
Commissioner Angela MacRae says one of the key issues with the rollout of the NDIS is the intake speed of participants.
“The scale, pace and nature of the changes that the NDIS is driving are unprecedented,” she explains.
“A key concern that has emerged from our extensive consultations is the speed of participant intake.
“This is impacting on planning processes, the quality of plans, supporting infrastructure and market development.”
The Commission’s recommendations released alongside the report include:
- A shift towards price monitoring and regulation, independent of the NDIA
- Better coordination among governments to develop markets
- A targeted approach to skilled migration to increase the disability workforce
- Better equipping participants to exercise choice
Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter says that the problems identified by the Productivity Commission are ‘known issues and risks’.
He also says the Government agrees with the Commission’s recommendation that there is a need to balance participant intake with the quality of plans and participant outcomes.
“As the report finds, the NDIS is already improving the lives of many participants as well as their families and carers, giving people the power to choose the support they need, when and where they need it,” Minister Porter says.
“I agree that there is a need for greater focus on quality and participant experience and take very seriously the importance of striking this balance correctly but want to provide assurance that the Government will not be delaying the rollout to any area covered by a bilateral agreement.”
He goes on to say that the Government ‘acknowledges’ the number of people entering the NDIS is less than originally estimated and adds that this experience has been ‘absolutely consistent’ during the NDIS trials and since commencement of transition to the full scheme on 1 july 2016.
“We welcome the Commission’s acknowledgement that with the benefit of hindsight, the participant intake schedule originally recommended by the commission was highly ambitious and was unlikely to have been met,” Minister Porter explains.
He adds that another trend carried through from trials to transition is that people who are new to the NDIS and not already connected to disability services have not been approaching the scheme as quickly as anticipated.
“These trends have allowed Governments to take a flexible and responsible approach to transition, acknowledging that bilateral agreements are based on the Productivity Commission’s original estimates, and it is too soon to say whether these estimates are correct,” Minister Porter says.
Expected to support 475,000 people with a disability once it is fully implemented, Social Policy Commissioner Richard Spencer says the NDIS has the potential to change lives.
“If implemented well, the NDIS will substantially improve the wellbeing of people with a disability, and Australians more generally,” he says.
“Key challenges identified in the study report include development of support services that will be needed under the new scheme and growing the disability care workforce.
“There is enormous goodwill behind the NDIS; now is the time to put the goodwill into action.”
Despite the recommendations and concerns raised in the report, Minister Porter says the rollout schedule will remain on track.
“The NDIS will be available to all eligible participants at the time scheduled in the bilateral agreements between the Commonwealth, States and Territories,” he says.
“This rollout schedule is on track and by July 2018 the NDIS will be available to all eligible people across New South Wales and South Australia, and in all other states and territories (with the exception of WA) by July 2019.
“We will not be changing the rollout timetable—to do so would delay people’s access to the NDIS and access to the supports and benefits it provides.
“Significant work is already underway by the NDIA to improve participant and provider experiences and interactions with the scheme following a comprehensive review of the participant and provider pathway.”
Minister Porter adds that the Government is ‘committed’ to ensuring all participants have a consistent and positive experience with the NDIS and that it is a ‘life-changing reform’.
The full study report about National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Costs can be accessed via the Commissioner’s website.