The NDIS needs a new plan
3 December 2019 at 8:15 am
UWA White Paper calls for fit-for-purpose disability system in Australia
The National Disability Insurance Scheme is not working for everyone and change is needed now, a new report has found.
A comprehensive white paper from the University of Western Australia analysed 63 reports that have been written on the NDIS since it was first launched in 2013.
It paints a damning picture of how the system is currently being managed, and argues a significant part of the problem is the lack of an industry plan focused on reforming the Australian disability services system as a whole, rather than the NDIS as a standalone element.
This, combined with a short-term approach to problem solving, the report argues, has resulted in a system that only works for some service users and providers.
“It is increasingly evident that it leaves major gaps in terms of responsibility allocation and funding capacity between state/territory and the Commonwealth governments in critical service areas such as housing, health, education and employment,” the report said.
“It also leaves states and territories to pick up the bill when people with disability are diverted to other health and welfare systems due to supply breakdown.”
Read more: A Brief History of the NDIS – Timeline
Report co-author Penny Knight, research fellow at UWA and managing director of BaxterLawley, told Pro Bono News the aim of the paper was to shake up people’s thinking and encourage them to take a more mature view.
“The aim of the white paper is to try and draw a line under the work that has been done and encourage people to step back and think from a wider perspective on is this heading in the right direction and where could we go that would be better of this,” Knight said.
She said there were some fundamental assumptions underpinning the way the NDIS had been developed and rolled out that had not been questioned and were causing problems.
Some of the assumptions are explicit, such as around the existence of a functional market, some are more implicit assumptions about the efficiency of the sector.
“The expectation was that after six years we would start to see competition driving efficiency and reducing prices, that is based on the assumption that the existing system was inefficient and was overcharging, and what we’re seeing is the opposite, prices have actually gone up,” Knight said.
“So that assumption is implicit but it’s never challenged.”
The white paper, designed to describe a way forward, warns there is a significant risk that ignoring the mounting evidence could cause “destruction” in terms of the system’s capacity to deliver appropriate and fit for purpose services and supports, increasing difficulty for people with disability and cost for governments.
It cautioned that people with disability were “the shock absorbers” for any volatility caused by poor policy and practice.
Some of the issues highlighted included: a break down in pre-existing inter-governmental and intra-governmental service structures; increased uncertainty preventing investment and expansion by service providers; significant workforce issues; and pricing based on funding availability rather than sound data on needs and costs of services.
Knight said while the system worked well for some people, the concern was that it didn’t work well for everyone.
“Our concern is that, as much as we want to have support for disability, we actually have to build it so it aligns with those mainstream services, not create a completely separate model of governance,” she said.
“While it sits as it does, it is quite separated and isolated, which is inefficient and also results in poor service outcomes for many people.”
The paper is calling for the development of an industry plan and local decision-making framework as a priority.