Shorten answers question of ‘what’s next’ for the NDIS
17 June 2022 at 4:44 pm
“The intent of the NDIS was to see the whole person, not just their impairment”
Newly-appointed minister for the NDIS, Bill Shorten, has outlined what he thinks the future of the NDIS will look like and has promised to rebuild trust between people with disability and the federal government.
Speaking to a virtual audience as part of DSC’s national Where To From Here conference, Shorten described the federal government’s priorities for the NDIS and the role he believes the scheme should play in the community.
Shorten said there had been a “catastrophic erosion of the trust between the disability sector and government”, and said the new federal government would work to restore that trust as a first step to rebuilding the NDIS.
But he stressed that his speech was just an outline of the future direction of the NDIS, and said the process of shaping the NDIS “is a journey”.
Reflecting on the birth of the scheme, Shorten said the NDIS was initially intended to invest in and empower people with disability and change their lives.
He said he had been shocked when, as the newly appointed parliamentary secretary for disabilities in 2007, he had come across the “entrenched unfairness” faced by Australians with disability.
And although the NDIS was launched successfully in 2013 with bipartisan support, Shorten said he was “not convinced that we have received the wholehearted, enthusiastic excitement from subsequent conservative governments”.
“I’ve dedicated the past three years as shadow minister for the NDIS to speaking up, to being a voice, to shining a light on the former conservative Morrison government’s lack of understanding about the value and the worth of investing in people with disability,” Shorten said.
“Now we have this exciting opportunity to return the NDIS to its original intent. The intent of the NDIS was to value people with disability, not measure their price in a rationed budget. The intent of the NDIS was to see the whole person, not just their impairment.
“The intent of the NDIS was that it would be a scheme which was designed and implemented and run with people disability, not just on behalf of people with disabilities,” he added.
As part of his presentation, Shorten read a speech given by nine-year-old Henry, who lives with autism.
Shorten said Henry’s mother had told him how much the NDIS had helped her son so far, and how the NDIS could be improved by making it simpler to navigate and better integrated with other areas, like the school system.
He added that Henry’s speech had reminded him of the NDIS’ purpose and he pledged to evolve the NDIS through co-design into a scheme that “is both effective and empathetic”.
“Otherwise, we will be letting down participants, their families and ultimately our entire community,” Shorten said.
He said the new federal government would be focused on the “quality of the spend” on the NDIS, rather than purely the bottom-line.
An effective and empathetic NDIS, he said, would offer a return on investment in the form of stronger and more meaningful social and economic connections for people with disability. The financial return on investment would reduce future costs as well in areas like health and housing.
“This is what the original Productivity Commission study, which helped establish the NDIS, was talking about,” Shorten said.
As the new minister for the NDIS, he said he planned to work with participants to find the supports they needed.
He added that providers needed to have “the right incentives and support” to deliver on what they promised participants.
The minister also said he felt more should be done for people with disability who are not part of the NDIS.
“The NDIS cannot fulfil the potential of its promise if it is the only lifeboat in the ocean for people with disability to swim to,” he said, adding that federal, state and territory governments needed “to ensure that they don’t wash their hands of disability merely because the NDIS exists, because the NDIS can’t replace and was never intended to be the be all and end all for everyone with a disability in this country”.
For example, the school system still needed to support kids to learn and reach their potential, Shorten explained, and the health system still needed to provide supports to people with health problems.
Addressing the growing number of cases at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Shorten said he wanted to “find alternative, less costly ways to resolve disputes”.
“If we can tackle both the legacy cases and provide a better, fairer future process to people who want to appeal decisions, this will help significantly rebuild the trust of participants, their families and the community at large,” the minister said.
As part of the speech, Shorten recommitted to the government’s NDIS election pledges, including:
- co-designing improvements to the scheme with people with disability;
- increasing the number of people with disability who work at the NDIA;
- improving the design, operation and sustainability of the NDIS;
- stopping cuts to plans;
- lifting staff caps at the NDIS;
- clamping down on fraud and waste within the scheme; and
- improving the planning and appeals processes.
“I look forward to working with all of you to make the NDIS the best scheme in the world for people living with profound and severe disability,” Shorten said, ending his speech with the words of Henry: “why shouldn’t we aim for the sky?”