The Federal Government recently announced that they have put the budget into surplus, but outlined that an estimated $4.6 billion was not spent on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) over the 2018-2019 budget.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg stated yesterday that the Federal budget was in balance for the first time in eleven years, however, the Labor camp and disability advocates were quick to point out this was at the expense of people with disability.
Shadow Treasurer, Minister Jim Chalmers, sited concerns with the underspending on the NDIS, which was “propping up their budget by denying Australians with a disability the care they need, deserve and were promised”.
“The defining feature of the 2018-19 Final Budget Outcome is a $4.6 billion underspend in the National Disability Insurance Scheme,” says Minister Chalmers.
“Even with a $4.6 billion underspend on the NDIS, higher iron ore prices and a lower dollar boosting profits and the bottom line, the Budget is still in deficit.
“The Government shouldn’t be patting themselves on the back about today’s numbers… Short-changing Australians with a disability is not an economic policy.”
Shadow Minister for the NDIS, Bill Shorten, posted on his twitter, “Very disappointing that this morning - on the day it emerges the [Government] has ripped $4.6 [billion] from people with disability - #NDIS Minister @stuartrobertmp was missing from the chamber during discussion of his own bill…”
Disability advocate, Dylan Alcott, released a short statement on his social media expressing shock about the Government’s announcement on the budget.
“Pretty devastated to read today that [Australia] went into ‘budget surplus’ today due to $4.6 [billion] ‘saved’ on NDIS funding due to delays. I see the heartbroken families of people who try and try to get funding but can’t, robbing them to be independent, contributing members of society. Fix it,” says Mr Alcott.
The Government suggests in their final budget outcome overview that States and Territories were to blame for this underspend of funds as well as a slow shift of people with disability onto the NDIS.
The report states, “This decrease largely reflects lower-than-estimated contributions to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) from states and territories, as a result of the slower-than-expected transition of participants into the NDIS.”
Romola Hollywood, Director, Policy and Advocacy at People with Disability Australia, says, "We are very concerned about the size of the NDIS underspend, as it clearly shows that the current system isn’t working.
"We hear every day from people with disability who need the essential supports that the NDIS is meant to provide, and who are facing long delays in getting access and then in getting services.
"The staffing cap at the NDIA needs to be removed as a matter of urgency, so that the Agency has enough staff to start addressing the huge delays that people with disability are experiencing, and also hires more people with disability."
People With Disability Australia (PWDA) were concerned about the underspending back in March when Government released information showing an underspend on the NDIS of $3.78 billion.
While PWDA was happy to see a $527 million commitment from the Government to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation against people with disability back in April, they were disappointed the same can’t be said for the NDIS.
The underspend has not been new to the sector, with most disability peak bodies aware of the fact since early this year, but disability advocates and peak bodies alike have raised concerns that the Government hasn’t attempted to rectify this over the last five months.