A new report by the National Institute of Labour Studies (NILS), at South Australia’s Flinders University has found the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is failing some of its most vulnerable participants.
The $22 billion scheme is currently being rolled out across Australia to ensure people with disability receive the support they need to live a fulfilling life.
The evaluation, funded by the Department of Social Services since 2003, analysed supply and demand of support services, the disability sector and its workforce, choice and control, reasonable and necessary supports, wellbeing, participation and aspirations, fairness, equity and access, mainstream interface, older people with disability and the NDIS in the Northern Territory.
The report, published last month revealed the NDIS works well for majority of participants, but approximately one third of people with a disability currently receiving NDIS support, feel no better off, with between 10 to 20 percent feeling ‘worse off’.
It also found ‘people with a developmental or congenital disability were most satisfied that their supports were reasonable and necessary, while people with an intellectual, mental or psychosocial disability were least satisfied’.
However, the people who feel satisfied with their NDIS support are those who can strongly advocate for themselves and navitage NDIS processes, disadvantaging those with intellectual disabilities.
“While in general the NDIS is leading to increased levels and quality of services and support, not all people with disability have experienced improved outcomes under the NDIS,” the report says.
Jon Martin, Secretariat for the Australian Autism Alliance says engagement is key.
“The NDIS has been built on the principle of choice and control but, unfortunately, it has assumed that individual participants have the capacity and capability to advocate for themselves.”
“There needs to be greater focus on enabling participants to ensure that they are able to effectively engage with both the NDIS and mainstream services,” he says.
Mr Martin is also calling on the NDIS to become more ‘autism-friendly’.
“A lack of autism knowledge by planners is leading to poor plans, resulting in frustration for many participants and families and an increased number of plan appeals and reviews.”
“There needs to be a focus on building the capacity of people on the spectrum to effectively engage with the NDIS.”
The report also revealed one fifth of NDIS participants felt they currently had little control and choice over their supports. This was attributed to lack of service providers, long waiting lists for services, limited provider information and inflexibility of service provision.
The NDIS has also had a negative impact on the availability and cost of services for people with disability who are receiving NDIS support.
Additionally to this, access to specific supports for family members and carers was considered limited.
Despite many providers expanding their services and staff numbers to meet demand, the supply of disability supports is not growing at a fast enough rate to meet the additional demand created by the NDIS.
Of the shortages, allied health services, early intervention supports, respite and accommodation services were mentioned.
This is paired by ongoing concerns about funding, pricing structures and financial sustainability of the Scheme.
On April 26, the Federal Government announced it would scrap the increased Medicare levy used to fund the NDIS, due to an improved budget position.
Particular supports which were considered to be underfunded in NDIS plans included family supports, alternative therapies, social and recreational activities, and respite.
The researchers recommended improved training, career opportunities and strategies to manage workplace stress to resolve increasing concerns about skills and knowledge gaps, high workloads, stress and considerable levels of staff turnover within the NDIA.
Despite this, the evaluation found the NDIS has been built around sound principles and has been delivering the outcomes it was designed to deliver, both important features of the scheme that cannot be ignored.
Minister for Social Services, Dan Tehan has commended the study, saying it offers the transparency required throughout the implementation of the NDIS.
He says the study highlighted criticisms that are currently being addressed, with work being undertaken over the last six months.
Mr Tehan met with disability ministers across Australia last week to acknowledge the issues raised and discuss how they will continue to be addressed during the major reform.
“We’re continuing to focus on getting it right and addressing those areas where we’re not,” he says.
The full report can be read here.