Saturday, 1 July marks a decade of supporting people living with disability through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). As we approach its anniversary, we reflect on the journey and its effectiveness.
The NDIS was a landmark initiative fought for by people with disability, allies and advocates which allowed people living with disability to regain choice and control over their lives through quality supports and services. It was called “the largest social reform since Medicare”.
It has opened the doors to a wide range of tailored, person-focussed support services for almost 600,000 Australians, fostering independence and participation in society.
The scheme has highlighted the need and instrumental value of assistive technology for participants. But it has also made a difference to people with disability who have goals of getting out into their communities and making social connections.
From NDIS participants William and Leeanne, who found a safe haven through the scheme, to the changing conversations bringing inclusion and accessibility for people with a gaming interest from the likes of big companies like Sony, the NDIS has imparted positive change to the lives of people with disability.
The NDIS has been instrumental in raising public awareness and understanding of disability issues, challenging outdated and incorrect beliefs about disability, and promoting inclusivity. It has sparked crucial conversations about the rights and capabilities of people with disability, pushing for a more inclusive Australia.
Ability Options’ Chief Operating Officer – Disability Services Luke Hughes said while the achievements of the NDIS are many, the scheme has room to improve.
“Ability Options is proud of its ongoing role in building a better Australia. Recognising and valuing the diverse abilities of all Australians has offered hope and opportunities to many and augmented national prosperity,” he said, “But the job is not finished, and our mission goes on”.
One of the key concerns many participants have is the level of “frustrating bureaucracy” involved in accessing and navigating the Scheme, which many participants are feeling – some have even called it a “burden”.
While this is the subject of the ongoing NDIS review, streamlining and simplifying processes, including the application process, planning meetings, and ongoing reviews, would significantly improve the participant experience.
Another significant issue is the proper utilisation of NDIS funding, which can lead to gaps in service provision and inadequate funding and support for participants with complex needs, and conversely, overfunding at times for participants with less complex needs.
Long waiting times, reduced availability of services and disparities in access based on geographical location have also been raised as concerns. The NDIS has also seen fraudulent providers prey upon innocent people, which has contributed to the scheme overhaul.
As the NDIS reaches its ten-year milestone, it is essential to celebrate its achievements in empowering individuals with disabilities and promoting inclusivity.
However, it is equally vital to acknowledge the areas where the scheme has fallen short and advocate for further improvements. Streamlining processes, ensuring adequate funding, and prioritising early intervention are key areas that require attention.
As an organisation, we maintain our advocacy for a strong NDIS, just as we did before the 2022 federal election. Let us use this anniversary as a further opportunity to engage in constructive dialogue, listen to the experiences of participants, and work collaboratively to create a truly inclusive and effective NDIS that meets the diverse needs of all Australians with disabilities and the wider community.
By striving for continuous improvement, we can ensure that the NDIS fulfils its promise of empowering individuals, fostering independence, and creating a society where everyone can thrive.