BY any measure, the National Disability Insurance Scheme is one of the biggest social reforms Australia has undertaken in the modern era.
In simple terms, the NDIS aims to take Commonwealth control of disability funding and policy, with NSW and most other states privatising what disability services they have, along the way.
Indeed, as Disability Services Minister Ray Williams told state parliament last month: “One of the successful features of the NDIS from the perspective of NSW has been our transferring of services from the government to the non-government sector.”
Mr Williams said the NDIS would eventually fund 140,000 people in NSW, with 70,000 people already signed up and 60,000 having care plans in place. He said the NSW government would contribute $3.2 billion next year to the NDIS, which would in turn generate up to $7 billion for the state economy, and create employment for up to 28,000 to 30,000 people.
On Sunday – the United Nations’ International Day of People with Disability – the National Disability Insurance Agency issued a similarly laudatory account of the NDIS, saying the scheme was “empowering Australians with disability and building inclusive communities and workplaces”.
But there is another way to look at the NDIS and its associated impacts, and that’s through the eyes of people who are forced, as a last resort, to take their complaints to the media.
In the time since the NDIS was launched at a handful of trial sites, including the Hunter, the Newcastle Herald has highlighted the plights of those whose experiences of the NDIS have not matched the rhetoric. In the latest of these situations, a Lake Macquarie grandmother says she has had to relinquish care of her autistic and disabled granddaughter because of problems with NDIS funding and respite care.
As a result, she says her granddaughter has been placed into state government “out-of-home” care in a motel room with around-the-clock supervision, costing $15,000 a week, or far more – in the long term – than it would have cost the public purse had her granddaughter’s funding not been cut.
An organisation as big as the NDIS will always face disputes about the way it operates, but in promising such comprehensive help to people with disability, our politicians and their bureaucrats have a huge responsibility to make it work, and properly.