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NSW Commits to Full-Scheme NDIS, but Advocacy Concerns Remain

28 May 2018 at 9:14 am
Luke Michael
New South Wales has become the first state to officially sign up to the full roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, but concerns have been raised the deal may see disability advocacy funding “thrown out with the bathwater”.

Luke Michael | 28 May 2018 at 9:14 am


NSW Commits to Full-Scheme NDIS, but Advocacy Concerns Remain
28 May 2018 at 9:14 am

New South Wales has become the first state to officially sign up to the full roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, but concerns have been raised the deal may see disability advocacy funding “thrown out with the bathwater”.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a “landmark agreement” between the NSW and Commonwealth governments on Friday, committing NSW to the full rollout of the NDIS.

Aligning with recommendations from the 2017 Productivity Commission Review of NDIS Costs, the NSW government has agreed to escalate its annual funding contribution to the scheme by 4 per cent per year, to keep pace with population and price increases.

In turn, the federal government will pay the balance of NDIS costs in the state, “providing certainty that the NDIS will remain fully funded into the future”.

Together the two governments will use shared funding to establish a NDIS reserve from 1 July next year, enabling NSW to access $3.1 billion of DisabilityCare Australia Fund payments between 2018-19 and 2023-24.

Turnbull lauded the agreement.

“It will deliver certainty on the long-term arrangements for the NDIS, and represents an important step in ensuring the financial sustainability of the NDIS in the future,” Turnbull said.

“The agreement… reflects the Australian and New South Wales governments’ shared responsibility for the NDIS and locks in arrangements for both governments to make ongoing, up-front funding contributions to the scheme.

“This is a significant milestone in the delivery of one of the most important social reforms in our nation’s history. It places people at the centre of the system, and gives them choice and control over the services they receive.”

But disability advocacy groups have expressed concerns with the “finer details” of the agreement, especially in regards to what it means for disability advocacy funding.

Mark Grierson, the executive officer of Disability Advocacy NSW, told Pro Bono News while it was good to see a commitment to the scheme’s full roll out, the future of disability advocacy funding remained unclear.

“My concerns are still around not knowing the finer details, and [whether] they discussed the interface between essential existing services stuck between the NDIS and the old system, for example advocacy and health services,” Grierson said.

“I would have really hoped that they talked about that sort of thing, but I doubt it because I haven’t seen the details.

“The NSW government seems to want to get rid of disability services and put it all onto the NDIS. And things like advocacy and other essential services that are caught between are thrown out with the bathwater.”

Disability advocacy funding in NSW has been a contentious issue in recent times, with the state government indicating in 2017 they would no longer fund specific disability advocacy services under the full scheme NDIS.  

After persistent campaigning from advocates, the NSW government announced in April that up to $26 million would be available for advocacy services until 2020.  

But Grierson said disability advocacy in NSW was still under threat, and admitted he was unsure how this latest deal would affect state government advocacy funding.

“[April’s announcement] was only a temporary fix and many of the services have lost funding already because they’ve got some ILC (Information, Linkages and Capacity Building) funding. So there’s a real disconnect there,” he said.

“It’s great to see that quantum of dollars committed [on Friday] and to have that sorted out to a certain extent, but there really needs to be a bit of drilling down into the impact on services and people with disabilities.”

Physical Disability Council of NSW executive officer Serena Ovens, told Pro Bono News that she shared Grierson’s concerns.

“We’re cautiously happy that they’ve decided to put more funds towards the NDIS, but for organisations like ours, we’re a little bit concerned that NSW is still just divesting all its money out of NSW organisations and directly to the NDIS, and expecting that will cover everything to do with disability in the future,” Ovens said.

“And we know that’s not the case, it has a particular remit and will only protect and ensure a certain amount of people, so there’s a little bit of concern as to whether this is just another step in the process of them alleviating all their responsibility and duties in regards to the NSW disability public.”

In wake of Friday’s announcement, Ovens said NSW disability advocacy groups would continue their campaign to secure long-term funding for their services.

“We’ll be working with the NSW government to secure long-term ongoing funding, and for them to understand that it’s not the federal government’s responsibility and that the NDIS isn’t the be all and end all,” she said.

“It’s good to hear that there’s more funding in general for the NDIS, but knowing that the security is there for everybody else and for the state is really important, and that doesn’t tend to be what we think we’ll see with this.”

This NDIS full scheme agreement for NSW will take effect from 1 July 2018.  

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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