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Sweeping Disability Reforms: Gillard Backs NDIS

10 August 2011 at 5:13 pm
Staff Reporter
Australia is set to get a National Disability Insurance Scheme following the Gillard Government’s release of the Productivity Commission’s report into disability care and support.

Staff Reporter | 10 August 2011 at 5:13 pm


Sweeping Disability Reforms: Gillard Backs NDIS
10 August 2011 at 5:13 pm

Australia is set to get a National Disability Insurance Scheme following the Gillard Government’s release of the Productivity Commission’s report into disability care and support.

The Gillard Government today announced that it will start work immediately with State and Territory Governments on measures that will build the foundations for a National Disability Insurance Scheme, following the release of the Productivity Commission's final report into the matter.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will provide insurance cover for all Australians in the event that they, or a family member, acquire a disability.

The scheme will provide individually tailored care and support to around 410,000 people with significant disabilities.

The report recommended that funding for the scheme – projected to cost around $6.3 billion per year – be a core function of government, just like Medicare.

A separate no-fault insurance scheme was recommended for people requiring lifetime care and support for catastrophic injuries, such as major brain or spinal cord injuries.

The major report found that the current disability support system in Australia is underfunded, unfair, fragment and inefficient, and that most people in Australia cannot adequately prepare for the financial impacts of significant disability.

The report says the costs of lifetime care can be so substantial that the risks and costs involved need to be pooled.

It says the NDIS would fund long-term care and support for people with significant disabilities – but not income replacement. The report says the benefits of the NDIS would significantly outweigh the costs.

The Productivity Commission has proposed a 7-year timeline for the full implementation of the Scheme, beginning with a trial in Victoria in 2014. The Scheme would then be widened to include the other States and Territories, covering all Australians by the end of 2018-19.

The Government says it will start working with the States and Territories to:

  • Deliver an immediate, additional $10 million, consistent with the PC recommendations, to support this technical policy work;
  • Move to establish a COAG Select Council of Ministers from the Commonwealth, States and Territories to lead reform in this area at COAG next month;
  • Take steps to establish an Advisory Group to the Select Council, led by Dr Jeff Harmer, to provide expert advice on delivering the foundations for reform and preparation for launch.

The Productivity Commission says the Australian Government currently provides funding to the disability sector of around $2.3 billion, while state and territory governments provide funding of around $4.7 billion – a total of over $7 billion and this funding is subject to the vagaries of governments’ budget cycles.

The Productivity Commission proposes several options for funding – with its preferred option being that the Australian Government should finance the entire costs of the NDIS, through an insurance fund financed by a combinations of ‘cuts in existing lower-priority expenditure, fiscal drag, and if necessary, tax increases’.

Disability groups around Australia have welcomed the release of the final report and the recommendation to implement the NDIS.

Disability advocacy organisation, People with Disability Australia Inc (PWD) congratulated the government for supporting the vision of a NDIS, which it says will revolutionise the way in which people with disability access their supports in Australia.

President of PWD Jan Daisley says PWD welcomes the sweeping reforms recommended by the report, including individualised funding systems as an essential backbone to a new disability service system in Australia.

Daisley welcomes the $10 million funding to commence technical work towards the scheme, however she says these funds should be used in a manner which involves community consultation and direct input from people with disability.

Daisley says PWD stresses the need for the inclusion of people with disability on the NDIS select advisory committee and to ensure that these people are chosen via a nomination process which goes directly to a national group, rather than via states.

She says it is people with disability themselves – as consumers – who will be driving this new system. Capacity building within Australia’s peak and advocacy sector must be built to assist those people with disability who may require assistance in understanding how they can shape the support they are entitled to.

Not for Profit welfare organisation UnitingCare Australia praised the announcement, saying that together with the aged care announcement earlier this week, these reforms signal that the Federal Government is stepping up to the social challenges of the time.

Uniting Care Australia’s National Director, Lin Hatfield Dodds says the expertise and commitment of communities and carers has built the momentum for this reform, and this experience will be essential for the successful design and implementation of the changes.

The Prime Minister will now seek to establish a Select Council on Disability Reform at the next meeting of the Council of Australian Governments, to bring together Commonwealth and State Treasurers and Disability Ministers.

The Select Council would be supported by an advisory group of experts and leaders on disability reform to be led by by Dr Jeff Harmer AO. The government says it will nominate disability advocates Mr Bruce Bonyhady AM and Dr Rhonda Galbally AO to this group.

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