The Difference Between the WA NDIS and the Real NDIS
2 March 2017 at 9:33 am
The WA National Disability Insurance Scheme is a deeply flawed agreement imposing unnecessary financial costs on all West Australians, writes the man credited with being the father of the NDIS, Bruce Bonyhady.
For 30 years I have worked, largely as a volunteer, for decent support and respect for people with disability.
The campaign which I helped to establish and which won the support of Australians, all governments and all political parties for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was called Every Australian Counts.
Now there is the real prospect that every Australian will count – except West Australians – because of an agreement between the Barnett government, which it signed just a few hours before going into caretaker mode, and the Commonwealth government, to adopt a “WA-delivered” version of the NDIS.
This deeply flawed agreement also imposes unnecessary financial costs on all West Australians.
This so-called “WA NDIS” is not the NDIS and as West Australians go to the polls, they deserve to know the facts:
The first word in NDIS is “national” because it is designed to be equitable for all Australians, to be portable across the country and to end the postcode lottery which existed before. A separate bureaucracy is a waste of WA taxpayers’ funds and will not be able to deliver this equity.
Second, this intergovernmental agreement was made without consultation with people with disability, their families and carers. Given that the NDIS was supposed to put people with disability in the driver’s seat, the decision itself contradicts a foundation principle of the NDIS and is a worrying sign for the way the WA NDIS will be run.
Third, the WA NDIS is based on 39,097 West Australians being eligible. The most reliable actuarial estimate is 50,000. What will happen to the 11,000 West Australians with significant disabilities who are now slated to miss out on the NDIS and where will the funding come from to pay for their essential needs? These are 11,000 very vulnerable West Australians, plus their families, who now face the prospect of great uncertainty.
Fourth, there will be a significant delay in bringing West Australians onto the scheme. All eligible participants across Australia will have joined the NDIS by mid-2019, except in WA. Over 12,000 people will still be waiting for the NDIS, plus the 11,000 who have not been counted in this agreement.
Fifth, the deal commits the WA government to meet administration costs which are being met by the Commonwealth in all other jurisdictions. This unnecessary and unfair cost on WA taxpayers will quickly rise to $140 million per annum. In addition WA has agreed to pay at least 75 per cent of any cost overruns, while this risk is capped at 25 per cent in all other jurisdictions.
Sixth, the WA version of “control and choice” means disability service providers get paid six months in advance, leaving people with disability without any real control and choice. This means the WA bureaucracy and disability service providers will continue to have the real power rather than people with disabilities and their families.
The truth is that the WA version of the NDIS is the traditional welfare disability model that has been operating for decades in WA. Initially, it was designated “MyWay”. Confoundingly, no one knew who “My” referred to, because it was certainly not people with disability or their families or carers. Last year, the name of the WA approach was changed from “MyWay” to “WA NDIS”, in a move calculated to show alignment with the real NDIS. It was a lick of paint. Nothing else changed.
Meanwhile, the Commonwealth has undermined its own commitments to a truly equitable national scheme by opting for a short-sighted and misguided shift of financial costs on to WA, hurting all West Australians.
The one saving grace is that the agreement which has been signed is not binding, and so there will be an opportunity for the next WA government to enter new negotiations with the Commonwealth without incurring any penalties.
Therefore, an urgent priority for the next WA government should be to immediately abandon this deal, and ensure that Canberra agrees to the full and equitable NDIS that provides the same opportunities as for all other Australians and that does not disadvantage West Australian taxpayers.
It is essential that the new deal commits WA to operate under the same national legislation as the rest of the country, as this is the only way to guarantee equity. The renegotiations must reflect the values of the NDIS and so must be transparent, evidence-based and shaped by input from people with disability, their families and carers.
So, as West Australians go to the polls on 11 March, there is a huge amount at stake.
People with disability and their advocates are now running a new campaign, NoDISadvantage. They will not be ignored or silenced.
And before they cast their votes, all West Australians should know how each political party will ensure that there is “NoDISadvantage” for West Australians.
About the author: Bruce Bonyhady is an economist, has two adult sons with disabilities and was the inaugural chairman of the NDIA.