The great promise of the National Disability Insurance Scheme was about giving people with disability “choice and control” in their lives.
The current reality for many people, however, is frustration and uncertainty.
With the rollout of the NDIS a lot of state and federal government funding got rolled in together. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it has led to a lack of clarity about the types of support people are eligible for, and where that support should come from.
This, in turn, has led to a whole lot of buck-passing, funding holes and dead ends.
It’s important to take a step back so it’s clear what we’re talking about. The NDIS provides support for people with disability through individualised funding packages, information and referral services (such as Local Area Coordinators and grant-based projects).
A lot of attention is currently paid to NDIS individual packages, despite only about 10 per cent of people with disabilities being eligible to access this part of the scheme.
For the other 90 per cent, things are much less clear. The ‘Information and Capacity Building’ part of the scheme—which includes information and referral services, and targeted projects—has a limited capacity to support people fairly and equally due to resourcing and funding constraints.
There is also ongoing confusion and a lack of coordination between the NDIS and other government-run service systems, like health, education, justice, housin, out-of-home care and so on
For example, some people are left strandard in hospital because they can’t access funding or appropriate services in their communities.
Some others are unable to leave jail due to lack of clarity around service provision.
So much for choice and control.
There are students and families who face uncertainty about whether their support needs at school are covered by the NDIS or the Department of Education. This lack of clarity often leads families to the point of throwing their hands up in the air and either (a) missing out on support or (b) paying for services out-of-pocket.
Most people with disability don’t care where funding for services comes from, solong as the system is clear, manageable and reliable.
Currently, it requires a lot of knowledge and persistence just to find the ‘front door’ of the system – the NDIS entry point.
If you’re a strong self-advocate with a good support network you might be able to navigate this maze. If you don’t have those advantages it’s extremely difficult.
Most people with disability don’t care where funding for services comes from, as long as the system is clear, manageable and reliable.
This leads to a perverse situation where the people most in need are the ones most likely to get left behind.
For anyone living in poverty, or with multiple disabilities, or from a culturally diverse background, the system can act as a barrier rather than a support network.
There are three things we need to stop.
We need to stop the handballing.
We need to stop passing of blame and responsibility.
And we need to stop plugging funding holes with ad hoc cash injections.
Rather than small band-aid fixes, we need a big picture, long-term strategy to fix the current funding mess.
Because people with disability deserve choice and control in their lives, not buck-passing and dead ends.
- Rhiannon Wapling is a VCOSS policy advisor working on disability.