The National Disability Insurance Scheme has undergone its ten-year review and released its historic final report. This report continues to be a topic of discussion for a sector that looks to its recommendations with hope for a more inclusive Australia. Ability Options’ CEO Julia Squire says she, like many in the sector, is eager to see how these recommendations may improve outcomes for people with disability and bring about a true sense of inclusion in Australia. Julia sat down with our Communications team to discuss her take on the Review’s final report and share her optimism for the future of the sector.
So, Julia, you have had time to sit and reflect on the NDIS Review’s final report. What are your thoughts on some of the biggest headline recommendations in the report?
Yes, the Christmas break gave me a bit of time to think through the ten-year NDIS Review’s recommendations. Whilst we wait for the Federal and State Governments to consider them, my overriding sense now is optimism that the NDIS will improve.
The Review’s final report presents opportunities that will give participants and families a more joined up ‘ecosystem’ as the Review calls it, not just the NDIS, to make sure that they are safe, can choose high quality supports and are included in their communities. It also provides reassurances that they don’t fall through gaps or get left behind.
It was also good to read that some of the biggest concerns for service providers could be addressed if the recommendations are enacted in the way we hope and that the Disability Workforce will have improved career pathways and conditions of employment. This all depends on the responses of all levels of Government.
I see the recommendations falling into a few headings:
First and most important: Inclusion
Making sure all people with disability can choose support which enables them to be included in their communities, provided by a joined-up ecosystem, not just the NDIS. This is a huge recommended step forward and one we must hold all Governments to account to deliver this and support them in doing so. Inclusion is at our core and heart in Ability Options, and we strive for it every day.
Quality and choice
There are several recommendations that look to both improve quality in the sector, much as a result of the Disability Royal Commission I believe, but also to recognise quality so that those service providers who do their jobs well are rewarded for that. This is welcome. The work to make sure choice and control is genuine is complicated but I am optimistic that choices will become real for everyone.
Homes and living
There is a nod to the recommendations made in the Disability Royal Commission’s final report in the NDIS Review’s final report. I’m hopeful there are ways to make sure that funding for housing and living supports is fair and consistent, and will support participants to exercise genuine choice and control over their living arrangements.
The proposed reform of pricing and payments frameworks to improve incentives for providers to deliver quality supports to participants is welcome in principle and having an independent price authority should eliminate the conflicts we see in price setting now. This is really important for the sector’s sustainability and credibility.
The idea of all participants having help to navigate the system, rather than just a few who have Support Coordination funding, is an important one. The details will be important, however, to see this recommendation being effective. Our Support Coordinators do an awesome job and I think we have real opportunities to grow into and provide the new service depending on what the tender looks like when it is drafted and if the Government accepts that recommendation.
There are various statements in the Review document about supporting the workforce. Without blowing our trumpet too much, I know that we already do a lot of work to provide extra benefits, career progression opportunities and supporting our employees. If this Review means we can do more and that we are funded to more then we will implement these aspects as fast as we can. Right now, the costs of most of what we do are not funded. We still invest as much as we can because we know that having great staff who are happy, supported and safe, means our mission gets delivered today, tomorrow and long term.
Reducing or eliminating restrictive practices
We have invested much in expertise, time and resources in recent years to reduce restrictive practices. Eliminating them wherever we can – and doing so safely – has been part of our human rights focus for several years.
You mentioned inclusion is one of the main focus points for Ability Options going ahead of this review, how will the organisation respond to the recommendations surrounding inclusion?
We have always focused on inclusion and human rights – certainly under my watch! Making sure that we contribute to Australia’s society, being truly inclusive and ensuring anyone we support in both our disability and employment divisions is able to be fully included in their communities is key to our vision and mission.
So, we’ll look to support all Governments in their quest for inclusion as well as do the things we do daily to be an inclusive employer and service provider.
What about the review makes you excited for the future of supporting people with disability?
I think with the ten-year NDIS Review, there is a very substantial opportunity to ensure the significant difficulties participants face in Australia today are addressed for the long term.
Both the Disability Royal Commission and the NDIS Review spent huge amounts of time talking to participants and families, so they heard very clearly what those who contributed think and about their experiences.
This is very important. Added to that, the NDIS Review engaged with our peak sector body and many service providers to hear our thoughts as well. It is true, I think, that many people who have had positive experiences did not see the need to engage with either the Disability Royal Commission or the NDIS Review, and I know the Review team worked especially hard with its remit to listen to a broad group of people, along with consultations with State Governments and Unions.
As such, the Review has based its recommendations on a substantial bank of evidence, opinion and thinking. We now have every opportunity to make Australia inclusive for all people with a disability and I am really excited about the next five years, as we move towards this positive future with an ecosystem that works.
Thank you, Julia. It’s clear there are many opportunities coming from this historic 10-year review of the NDIS. I look forward to sitting down with you again when we hear the Government’s response.