By Julia Squire, CEO, Ability Options
This year will mark a decade since the inception of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and the last couple of weeks have brought more detail on the Federal Government’s thinking around the NDIS, its purpose, and its viability in the long run.
It is concerning that media and political commentary in recent years, months, weeks and days has focused on negatives.
Some of this commentary does highlight the need to look at some, often individual, Providers who might not be operating in the way they should, but a lot is ill informed and baseless.
This sort of commentary undermines trust in the NDIS and in the Providers who, in the main, are committed, credible, honest and capable. It undermines the work our incredible staff do and the trust our participants have.
Of course, there can be some ‘bad apples’, but these should not drive the opinions of all in our community. There has to be a balance and, in his recent National Press Club (NPC) address, the Minister for the NDIS, Hon Bill Shorten MP said this too.
He also said that a corrective course is needed to get the scheme “back on track”. The Minister was one of the architects of the NDIS and he remains a strong advocate for the scheme and, most importantly, the people it serves.
We believe the basic principles of the NDIS are sound and form an integral part of our mission at Ability Options to support people who need assistance to achieve their aspirations and inclusion in the community, and any reform needs to keep that as its focus. The NDIS needs to be here to stay, and it was good to see this reflected in his address.
The NDIS was fought for to remove the barriers people with disability face in society that had previously left them disadvantaged, disassociated, and excluded with, at best different access to support in different states. It is here to give Australians living with disability the same opportunities as anyone else in our communities and to be included.
When Minister Shorten addressed the National Press Club on 18 April, I was relieved to hear him say the NDIS is here to stay.
“The National Disability Insurance Scheme […] is not going away,” he said.
Minister Shorten reiterated how important the NDIS is in improving the lives of people with disability and that, whilst it is important that it works efficiently and without fraud, the scheme remains a clear Government priority.
He said this corrective course is needed to bring the scheme back to its initial goal, and reassured the sector we will not be alone in achieving this end.
“Correcting course will not be easy,” he said, “it will take time and require the kind of collective effort you showed during the campaign to fight for the NDIS in the first place”.
“I will work with and for you every step along the way.”
A decade on from the inception of the NDIS, this year marks the start of focused support for people with disability and a historic milestone that began the shift to positive change in our society.
In his National Press Club address, Minister Shorten reflected on some of the lives of people living with disability the NDIS has helped.
“Kevin, a 47-year-old First Nations man is into arts, crafts and woodwork. He also has an intellectual disability and requires 24-hour care. When he lost his mum, Sally, Kevin’s dad Greg took over sole responsibility of his son’s care. Thanks to the NDIS, Kevin is learning to garden and cook and further develop his social skills,” Minister Shorten said.
“People like Avi – a six-year-old from Darwin who loves playing wheelchair basketball and being with her friends, but happens to have a rare genetic neuromuscular disorder. The supports received through the NDIS make Avi stronger and more independent every day. Not only that, the assistance enables Avi’s mum, Bethan, a former ballet dancer, to open her own Baby Ballet school.”
This is why the people who work in the disability sector do what they do; why you and I do what we do.
“If not us, then who?”
It’s an expression that I am often reminded of when I hear stories of the participants we support and our goal of inclusion.
Many of the people we support have complex needs and they deserve the same opportunities to have a full life. When we are chosen by participants, their families and guardians, whatever their needs and choices are, we always ask ourselves, “if not us, who?”
It was refreshing to hear the Minister reiterate to the ABC the review of the NDIS is not looking to slash support packages as the government works on longer-term plans and fraud crackdown.
Whilst this doesn’t completely reflect our experiences in recent weeks, months and years, we are getting very good at advocating for the needs of our participants and, even more importantly, supporting them to advocate for themselves.
It was also good to see the Minister identify his six policy directions for systemic reform to the NDIS:
- Increasing the capability of the NDIA workforce
- Moving to longer term planning for participants
- Addressing spiralling costs to the scheme
- Review of the supported independent living (SIL) supports
- Targeting the misuse of NDIS funds and
- Increasing mainstream supports
While we await the findings of the NDIS review, which are planned to be sent to Minister Shorten in October this year, he made it clear one of the corrective actions to be taken is to remove a layer of unnecessary bureaucracy that prevents some people who need assistance from accessing it.
We are playing our part in this Review through our advocacy, and encouraging everyone to put in their thoughts and through our involvement in NDS and my role as Deputy Chair of the NDS NSW State Committee.
Minister Shorten announced that the NDIS Review will be an overhaul of the scheme, saying it will lead to more care workers, longer care plans, more at-home care, and will target misuse of the scheme. He also said it will also see an increase in inclusion through education and infrastructure.
We will watch this carefully, we will engage in it and we will look to support the Minister to make the decisions needed to support the NDIS, reform the way NDIA operates where needed and recognise and support participant choices and the Providers and staff who are so committed to its enduring success.