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Productivity Commission Calls for More Inclusive National Disability Agreement

1 February 2019 at 5:18 pm
Luke Michael
Australia needs to replace its “outdated” National Disability Agreement to achieve better outcomes for the 3.8 million Australians with disability not supported by the National Disability Insurance Scheme, a Productivity Commission report says.

Luke Michael | 1 February 2019 at 5:18 pm


Productivity Commission Calls for More Inclusive National Disability Agreement
1 February 2019 at 5:18 pm

Australia needs to replace its “outdated” National Disability Agreement to achieve better outcomes for the 3.8 million Australians with disability not supported by the National Disability Insurance Scheme, a Productivity Commission report says.  

The Productivity Commission’s review of the NDA found the current agreement – introduced in 2009 before the NDIS commenced – did not reflect the current policy landscape and was not clear around who was responsible for advocacy services and support for people with psychosocial disability.  

The report said a new NDA should be an overarching agreement covering all people with disability, their families and carers, and unify all aspects of disability policy in Australia while reflecting the role of the National Disability Strategy and the NDIS.

“The current National Disability Agreement (NDA) no longer serves its purpose, has a weak influence on policy, and its performance targets show no progress in improving the wellbeing of people with disability,” the report said.

Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald AM said with so much focus on the NDIS, limited attention had been placed on achieving better outcomes for the many people with disability not supported through the scheme.     

“There has been very little progress in meeting previously agreed goals such as raising labour force participation rates for people with disability or improving the wellbeing of carers,” Roberts said.

“We have identified key gaps in the areas of advocacy services, support for carers, and supports for people with disabilities arising from mental health conditions, as well as access to community and inclusion programs.”

Fitzgerald told Pro Bono News the NDA ­– a high-level agreement between the Commonwealth and state and territory governments that set out responsibilities for disability services – was the most effective instrument to drive government action for people with disability.

“A new agreement between the Australian governments would firstly set out very clear goals and objectives as to what we’re trying to achieve for people with disability,” he said.

“We also need to understand the extent of service gaps on a state-by-state basis and explain in the agreement how the state and territory governments, and the Commonwealth will address those gaps by identifying the roles and responsibilities of each jurisdiction.”

As well as service gaps, the report said barriers people with disability faced in accessing mainstream services such as housing, transport, health, and education should also be addressed.

The commissioner said a nationally consistent performance reporting framework for tracking progress against those outcomes was needed to hold governments to account.

“We’ve recommended a common single performance measuring framework for both the National Disability Strategy and the NDA and think the NDIS framework should be at least consistent or aligned to those,” Fitzgerald said.

The report recommended this reporting framework be publicly released and tabled in Parliament every two years.

Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher said the federal government welcomed the report and recognised the disability policy landscape had changed significantly since the agreement was first signed in 2008

“The Australian government will continue to work with all governments, people with disability and the disability sector to consider the findings and recommendations of the report as we develop a new strategy for the next decade and beyond,” Fletcher said.

He said work had already started on developing a new National Disability Strategy for beyond 2020, adding that public consultation would start later this year.  

“It is imperative that states and territories continue to provide equal access to mainstream services, such as health, education and transport, so that people with disability can benefit from the same services that are available to, and [on] which all Australians rely,” he said.

People with Disability Australia also welcomed the report, calling it an opportunity for all levels of government to take action to deliver on inclusion for the 4.3 million Australians with disability.

Therese Sands, co-CEO of PWDA, said people with disability were sick of the gaps in services, programs and infrastructure delivered by different levels of government, and hoped a new NDA would end the blame game.             

“People with disability tell us every day about how this is impacting on their lives – they are missing out on essential services, facing barriers to employment, transport, housing, education and health and getting stuck between different levels of governments who are passing the buck,” Sands said.

PWDA argued strongly for the new NDA to have clear responsibilities, accountability measures and performance reporting, and Sands said she looked forward to seeing how this evolved.

“Many of the emerging issues with the NDIS are because of the lack of clarity around the relationship and interface between mainstream services, state-based disability supports and the NDIS,” she said.

“A new and significantly redeveloped NDA can ensure that all people with disability in Australia can access and participate fully in all aspects of community life.”

The Productivity Commission called for a new NDA to be agreed to by the start of 2020 and independently reviewed every five years.

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

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

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