A Fundamental Shift

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a significant social and economic reform and one that should make a hugely positive difference to people with disability and their families. It also represents a huge structural change for the whole disability sector. It is interesting times!

An important aspect of the NDIS is that it is seeking to redress the disadvantage that many Australians living with disability experience and ensure that they will have the necessary support to participate more fully in social and economic life.

The Productivity Commission’s report on Disability Care and Support in Australia concluded that the current disability system is unfair, fragmented, underfunded and inefficient. It has been a lottery of who has received funding and who hasn’t. People have had very little flexibility, choice and control over the support they received.

Bruce Bonyhady, chairman of the NDIA, noted that in the current system many people with disabilities have been ‘passive recipients of a mass-market, one-size-fits-all welfare approach’. This welfare model discouraged many people from participating in social and economic life. Many parents, who wanted or needed to work, couldn’t, because they were required to provide full time care for a family member. Many people with disabilities couldn’t work because they didn’t have adequate support to pursue work or other meaningful participation in their communities.

This is set to change.

The NDIS represents a fundamental shift about the purpose of funding from a welfare model to one of entitlement and rights; it is an insurance model, not unlike Medicare. Every working Australian is paying into the scheme, so every Australian can draw from the scheme if needed. The insurance approach is central to the sustainability of the scheme.

In this new model the question is not only related to what support do you need to manage your disability, or to ensure carers are given a break, but what support do you also need to achieve your hopes and aspirations. Essentially the social and economic reform component is about INVESTING in people with disabilities by encouraging their social and economic participation as well as that of their families and carers. This is a key objective of the scheme and with this in mind it’s important that people take full advantage of this opportunity.