Advocates fight plan to use surplus NDIS funds to boost budget
Thursday, 28th March 2019 at 4:55 pm
Disability groups are demanding that the Morrison government keep any unspent National Disability Insurance Scheme money within the scheme, after reports emerged the funds will be used to boost the budget bottom line.
The Australian Financial Review reported on Tuesday that pre-budget deliberations have involved discussion over whether to use an estimated $2.5 billion in unspent NDIS funds to reduce the deficit for this financial year.
This has angered disability groups, who say any excess funds should be used to fix the scheme’s implementation problems rather than to fill a hole in the budget.
Kirsten Deane, the director of Every Australian Counts, said the Morrison government should not build a budget surplus on the backs of people with disability and their families.
“The underspend in the NDIS is the direct result of problems with the way the scheme is rolling out. People are waiting too long to enter the scheme – and once they do enter they are waiting too long for the support they desperately need,” Deane said.
Deane said she had heard heartbreaking stories of people being left without vital equipment and ending up in hospital as a result of NDIS issues.
“We have heard of families pushed to breaking point because they have been unable to get the help their child needs,” she said.
“We have heard of people hospitalised as a direct result of the stress they have been put under as they try and navigate their way through the red tape and bureaucracy.”
David Moody, acting CEO of National Disability Services (NDS), said these issues were due in large part to the government’s failure to spend on the scheme, which prevented many providers from delivering high quality services that people with disability expected.
“Both sides are guaranteeing that the NDIS is fully funded, however we need certainty that this funding isn’t going to be compromised by other budget pressures and the political cycle,” Moody said.
He said if these funds weren’t given to the NDIS, it would mean providers and people with disability were being unfairly used to improve the government’s budget position.
This funding speculation comes amid an NDS campaign urging the government to prioritise the NDIS and divert funds towards providers in next week’s budget or risk the scheme’s failure.
People with Disability Australia meanwhile, in their pre-budget submission, have called for a $45 million investment into Specialist Disability Accommodation and $800 million towards increasing Commonwealth Rent Assistance for those with disability.
NDS lobbying has already garnered results, with The Australian reporting that the National Disability Insurance Agency board will meet this week to approve price rises of up to 15 per cent for providers.
This move – expected to cost more than $500 million over the next 15 months – reportedly came after a direct intervention from Prime Minister Scot Morrision’s office.
A government spokesperson told Pro Bono News budget spending for programs would vary depending on demand, but said the NDIS was fully-funded and remained financially sustainable.