NDIS at Risk of Privatisation: 2016 Budget
27th May 2016
With all the hype about superannuation measures, tax changes and lack of initiatives on housing, a small bit of critical information has been left out of the public eye. The 2016 Budget papers reveal a demonstrably sly and inconsistent move by the federal government that could well destroy the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). That is the reduction in staff for the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) from the projected 10,595 to a ‘maximum of 3,000’.
Further, as Rick Wallace reports in The Australian on 4 May 2016, the Budget 2016 papers state that the purpose of the reduction in staffing is ‘to use more efficient non-government models to achieve the same outcomes’.
Why is this a problem?
The NDIS is expected to be fully rolled out around the country by 2019. It is expected that some 460,000 people with disability will rely on the NDIS. That is not to mention the families of these people, easily another couple of hundred thousand people.
Successive federal governments, and the Productivity Commission 2013, have excitedly claimed that the NDIS will ‘revolutionise’ the disability support sector. Jobs will be created, the sector will be revived, people with a disability will be given personalised service and supports in a person-centred approach. That is, the person with disability will be given choice and control over their lives and be able to direct their care and support needs.
So the largest social policy change since Medicare, which has already been rushed, underfunded, insufficiently planned and with significant structural deficits, is essentially to be privatised. The NDIA itself has made submissions to recent inquiries into the progress of the NDIS, submitting that a number of structural changes are still necessary. See reports from Ernst & Young in December 2015 and the Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS in November 2015.
My 2 cents’ worth
Surely this scheme should be properly developed before it is discarded from government control? There is too much work yet to be done to ensure that a fair, sustainable and effective NDIS is implemented, to be talking about possibly off-loading administration to the private sector.
I make no comment on the advantages or disadvantages of this step, should it ultimately be considered. This post is not intended to be a political dissertation about privatisation. I simply make the criticism that at present we have an embryonic, poorly designed, poorly funded scheme, and it is premature for the government to be looking at non-government models of administration. People with disability (which could afflict and therefore include any one of us), their families (that could be any one of us) and disability sector workers deserve to have an operational, fair and sustainable NDIS before further large-scale changes are made.
Why not do this now? Some will criticise me and respond that changing now to a non-governmental model will be more cost-effective and efficient. I'd suggest the reasons why this should not occur (at least for now) are as follows:
- There is no information available as to whether any private enterprise could even manage the NDIS administration;
- There is no costing model to demonstrate the comparative cost to government or the private sector managing the NDIS;
- There is already great complexity in the NDIS and this will add further to it;
- The oversight of the NDIS itself is also already complicated: a Joint Committee, Ernst & Young involvement, NDIA board, the relevant Minister;
- Just try searching NDIS Inquiry and see the volume of inquiries/material already undertaken, yet still significant problems and deficits exist: these are not just teething issues, either;
- Every inquiry report about the NDIS has yielded significant community submissions about problems being encountered. The reports have made large numbers of recommendations to structural and other changes; and
- As the most important social policy change since Medicare (as is regularly reported), we should have a minster and government responsible, rather than finger-pointing to another entity should issues arise.
I have said it before: the NDIS affects real people and our politicians should recognise this and not use it for political purposes.
Greg Spinda is a Partner at Carew Lawyers and practices in all areas of personal injury and TPD/income protection. Greg is completing a Masters of Law (Health Law) at QUT, with a focus on the NDIS & NIIS. Greg is a committee member of the Queensland branch of the ALA and the QLS Practice Management Course committee.
The views and opinions expressed in these articles are the authors' and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).