Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Bill Shorten has called out a lack of State and Territory Government funding for disability supports as one of the issues facing the NDIS.
Speaking on ABC Radio RN Breakfast, Minister Shorten says the original agreement was that the Federal Government and State Governments would fund the Scheme in a 50-50 split.
However, due to the States being “more adept negotiators” than the previous Liberal Government, Minister Shorten says the Commonwealth is now bearing the brunt of the funding – up to 66 percent.
“What’s happened is, now the NDIS exists, everything becomes an NDIS matter,” he explains.
When pressed over whether the Albanese Government would insist on funding being split 50-50 with the States, Minister Shorten answered, “There’s clearly a role for provision of services outside of the NDIS.”
He went on to discuss the role the new National Disability Strategy, which is currently being reviewed, will have in setting up disability support outside the NDIS, such as in employment.
“It can’t afford to be the only lifeboat in the ocean for people with disability, it was designed for the most profoundly and severely impaired,” says Minister Shorten.
“The work of including Australians with disability isn’t just about the NDIS and it’s got to get all that attention to take pressure off the Scheme.”
Another State responsibility, the education systems, could also be letting children with developmental delay down, Minister Shorten believes, causing more parents to look for support from the NDIS and driving growth in participant numbers above expectations.
“I don’t blame someone for seeking support for their child, what it does make me wonder is, are the State school systems providing support for kids with developmental and learning delays, are they doing enough?” he says.
“I think we’ve got a challenge in our schooling system to see how we’re helping kids with developmental delays and we’ve got to work it through with the States.”
The support of children with disability in schools has also been investigated by the Disability Royal Commission in several hearings, which uncovered shocking stories of a lack of understanding of students’ needs and a lack of accommodations for their learning.
To address the issues in education, as well as issues in the costs and services under NDIS, Minister Shorten announced last week at the Melbourne Institute Economic and Social Outlook Conference that the NDIA will appoint a senior executive for Market Stewardship.
This senior executive will oversee market interventions, pricing, and mainstream services and be key to reducing wasted funds and addressing the areas where costs can be better used.
“This will be a significant appointment and one which will make a real difference to the lives of many,” Minister Shorten told the Conference.
“It will also help [National Disability Insurance Agency] NDIA to work more closely with States and Territories.
“For example, we need the school system to do more for the spiralling numbers of children with developmental delay entering the NDIS – more than 47,000 at the end of June.”
Despite discussing problem areas with State disability support and funding, Minister Shorten did stress that not all of the issues with the NDIS have been caused by the States.
He highlighted that in May, around the time of the Federal Election, there were 1,400 people in hospital who were eligible for the NDIS and medically fit for discharge, but were waiting in hospital for 160 days on average due to “red tape” in the Scheme.
This in turn places a high burden of costs on State Governments, which fund the expensive hospital beds that people with disability are forced to wait in while their community supports and accommodation are set up.
Moving people out of hospital and into more appropriate settings has been a focus of Minister Shorten and State Governments over the past few months.
To further address funding issues and the ongoing cost concerns which surround the NDIS, Minister Shorten has brought forward a review of the Scheme to determine where it is going wrong.
“I want to be crystal clear about something,” Minister Shorten explains.
“People with disability are not to blame for any inadequacies in the current design of the NDIS.
“It has led to a scheme where providers have incentives to deliver more services, rather than outcomes for participants.”
He says while many service providers are doing the right thing, he believes some could be charging inflated prices for services because the Scheme hasn’t been “well managed”.
New appointments to the NDIA Board of people with lived experience of disability, a crackdown on those rorting the system for financial gain and funding to reduce the backlog of Administrative Appeals Tribunal cases over participant plans, have also been touted as steps towards improving the NDIS.