In the Spotlight: An Exclusive Update from CEO Stuart Schonell

It was great to get both the Disability Royal Commission (DRC) report and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) review so close together and they both contained much food for thought.

Only 12% of people with disability are on the NDIS. That is a staggeringly small percentage considering the cost of the NDIS. Since the introduction of the NDIS many of the 88% of people with disability not on it have struggled with a lack of services. The Review has recognised this and requested governments to agree to “foundational” support for those with disability outside of the NDIS.

The review has recommended support coordinators be replaced with a new role – navigators. General navigators would deal with all people with disability under the age of 65 regardless of whether they were in the NDIS. This will help those not on the NDIS find and use mainstream services and foundational support.

The review has recommended a new needs assessment process to provide greater consistency in funding decisions and more choice and control. This will mean greater flexibility in how participants can spend their budget. The review also recommended a stronger focus on supported decision making so people with disability can make decisions about their lives.

There were several disappointing aspects of the review, and these were also areas where we thought the DRC report failed us. Once again thin markets, areas where there are few disability service providers and many unregistered providers who do not always do the right thing, were not adequately addressed in the review. The review recommended a new registration framework where everyone providing support needs some form of registration. While this sounds good in principle, we are concerned about the impact it might have on small towns where services are already lacking. If providers, including retailers selling consumables, all have to register, and some decide it is too onerous to do so, some towns may end up with less support.

We also have some concerns over the new approach to eligibility. While we endorse the recommendation for a social model of disability used in assessments, we are unsure how this is going to work in practice. We are also concerned about the suggestion that everyone currently on the NDIS should reapply. It was hard enough the first time and with so few specialists in regional areas this could be a real problem for country people living with disability.

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