Understanding the NDIS; Mr Hockey, it’s not that hard…

This morning on ABC Radio National, I was slightly astonished to hear the Shadow Treasurer say that no one understand the NDIS and that none of the details are known. I’m sure that came as a surprise to all the myriad of groups who have taken the time to read the legislation and the rules, and make submissions over the last six months.

I’m sure it was also a surprise to the Parliamentary Library, who have done a briefing note on it, or any of the people involved with the design of the NDIS, now known as DisabilityCare Australia.

The basic structure of the scheme has been public for sometime, but as the 0.5% levy has been announced today, I thought an explainer about what exactly is on the table could be useful.

Over the last year, I’ve been critical of the design of the NDIS and still am. This piece is about what is on the table, rather than what I would actually want disability funding to look like.

Currently, disability services are generally funded with direct block grants to organisations, who then deliver supports. These services have historically been significantly underfunded, so services have been rationed, and eligibility very restricted. Disability support became a lottery – if a disability was acquired, for example, in a car accident (in some states), then the support outcomes were completely different from other accidents.

Families carry a huge amount of the care burden, estimated to be worth billions of dollars a year. Carer groups have advocated strongly for recognition and a change to the way disability support is funded and delivered.

There is some shift in this funding model at the state level, with many moving to an individualised funding model already, in conjunction with the proposed NDIS. How the state and federal issues will play out will be tackled through the launches, but NSW, for one, has committed to a parallel roll out of their new disability support model, alongside the NDIS.

The legislation, that has passed, and the rules that are being worked on now, both lay out the specifics of how the NDIS will work. What’s clear in that, is that many people’s expectations about the scope of the NDIS will not be met.

Ok, let’s get to the details. The NDIS will cover people with a permanent disability, acquired under the age of 65. That disability has to impact on communication, social interaction, learning, mobility, self-care, self-management; and the person’s capacity for social and economic participation. And it must be a lifetime disability.

Once someone is eligible for the NDIS (and for the next three years, this will only be in the launch site areas), then they have to make a plan. This plan is to cover what kind of supports they need, and the rules, in particular, are really specific about what that means. The supports have to directly relate to the disability and not cover any services that are, or should, be covered by other agencies or laws (such as the Disability Discrimination Act.)

For example, for work-related supports, the NDIS will fund supports that are

“related to daily living that a person would require irrespective of whether they are working or looking for work (including personal care and support to be ready for work). The NDIS may also be responsible for the costs of transport to and from work which are over and above those which would be payable by a person without disability.”

But not:

work-specific support to people with disability related to recruitment processes, work arrangements or the working environment where these are required as reasonable adjustments under Commonwealth, State or Territory anti-discrimination legislation, including workplace modifications, work-specific aids and equipment, and transport between work activities.”
(From the draft Rules – Support for participants)

The plan will then go to the Agency (the department that will run the NDIS) for approval. If needed, the person applying for the plan can have a nominee designated, who will administer the plan. There are lots of rules about who can be a nominee and what they will need to do.

Once the plan is approved, the person with the disability can go and source the supports they need. This is where things get a little tricky. If the person, or their nominee, is administering their own plan, the only restriction they have on where the supports come from is that they have a bank account and an ABN. For those that have the Agency run their plan, they have to use registered providers of supports, who have to jump through a whole lot more hoops than that.

Some in the disability sector are raising concerns about what this will mean, while the campaign to support the NDIS sees no problem with a system where “for the first time people with disabilities and their families will become a large, informed consumer market able to pay for a variety of reasonably-priced goods and services to support their lives.”

Already, community groups are looking at ways to learn to market themselves in this brave, new world of disability funding and a wide range of projects are going on, funding by the Federal Government, looking at how to get ready.

From July 1 this year, the NDIS will start in launch sites in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia. The ACT will join in from 2014 and the NT in 2017. In the first lot of launches, only NSW and Victoria will host the full scheme, with Tasmania and SA focused on children and young people.

In NSW, people living in the Newcastle local government area, and living at the Stockton Large Residential Centre will start on the NDIS from this year, with those in the Lake Macquarie and Maitland areas following in subsequent years.

Groups in the area have been meeting up to discuss the change and how it will work. The NSW State Government has awarded the contract for local coordinators (who will work across both the state and federal programs) to St Vincent de Paul. This week, an expo is being held with most local disability groups attending. The local transition agency has outlined here how they think the scheme will work.

The same things are happening in Geelong, where they are also pushing to host the head office of the NDIS.

The point of these launch sites is to test out the way the NDIS is structured, including the rules, and see what further refinements are needed. They are also a chance for people with disability and disability support organisations to get used to a different way of getting and delivering services. The full scheme is not to be rolled out until 2018.

So, I call bullshit on the idea that there are no details available about the scheme. Whether it will meet the huge expectations that have been built up around what it will deliver, is a whole other story.

Please drop any questions into the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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About bluntshovels

Freelance writer, with an unhealthy interest in Senate committees.
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2 Responses to Understanding the NDIS; Mr Hockey, it’s not that hard…

  1. Carla says:

    I realise this is quite some time since you posted this column, but in case other people are reading it now something important needs to be clarified.

    Your wording is that if you have a permanent disability ACQUIRED UNDER THE AGE OF 65 you will be eligible for the NDIS. That is absolutely wrong. You have to be under 65 when the NDIS comes to your area – when you acquired your disability is not taken into account. So it doesn’t matter that you have been blind since birth, or had MS for 30 years, if you turned 65 the day before the NDIS comes, you are not eligible.

    This change, which looks so small on paper, has permanently excluded thousands of people with disabilities from a scheme that their taxes have and are paying for. And there is virtually no provision in aged care services for people with existing significant disabilities, as opposed to age-related conditions. (Which is why I find calling their website “everyaustraliancounts.com.au” pretty appauling.)

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