Issues Cheat Sheet: National Disability Insurance Scheme

31 October 2012

There has been a lot of talk lately about the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Most of the talk has (of course) centred on quibbles between state and federal parties as to how much funding each side should kick in. Now, with funding matters apparently cleared, the details of the scheme are beginning to emerge and we are starting to hear more about how some of our nation’s most disadvantaged will benefit.

A Failing System

According to the NDIS website, the current system of support for those with a disability is “failing”, as services and support depend on “where [you] live, what disability [you] have, and how [you] attained that disability”. Basically, our disability support system is fractured by state and territory borders and dependant on the services offered there.

The NDIS aims to rectify this by transcending borders. Under the scheme, people with a disability will be assessed to determine their need and then given a tailored package of funding for items that will support the person across their lifetime, such as mobility aids. There will be a focus on early intervention, especially if this will improve that person’s quality of life. People will be given the money directly, so that they will have control over how to use it.

The disabilities covered range from severe physical impairments to mental conditions such as autism, and the money can be used for carers, respite and equipment.

The rollout of the NDIS is set to begin slowly, initially with trial versions happening in various states. From mid-2013, around 10,000 people will have access to the scheme, and this number will increase to 20,000 the following year. During the trials, individuals will be assessed on their needs and a NDIS support package will be provided to them. The trials will form the basis of the future model of the NDIS.

An Expensive Alternative

Obviously, someone needs to provide the money that will fund those with disabilities who access the scheme, and that is where most of the politics come in. The federal government allowed $1 billion from this year’s budget to cover the initial administrative costs of the scheme and has ruled out increasing income tax to beef up their coffers. Federal money was also set aside for support packages for those with a permanent disability.

To top up the funding pool, state governments had to also contribute. But at the Council of Australia Governments meeting in July, a funny thing happened: while state Labor governments agreed to contribute their share, Liberal governments including Victoria complained that the NDIS was too expensive (Victoria was asked to chip in $40 million to help conduct a trial in the Barwon region).

This was in spite of the fact that Tony Abbott himself supports the NDIS (shock horror!), declaring in April, “When it comes to NDIS, I am Dr Yes”.

On 13 August an agreement was finally reached with Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu, who declared that a trial would go ahead in the Barwon area as proposed after agreeing to put in more money to fund it.

This means that the NDIS can begin to be rolled out in Victoria, providing a much more streamlined service to the disabled.


At the federal level, the NDIS can be considered a bipartisan success: Labor and Liberal governments working together for the good of the people. However the reluctance of certain state governments to come to the party was low. If the NDIS is designed to improve someone’s quality of life, doesn’t that make the expenditure worthwhile?

Now, if only there was such bipartisan cooperation on other issues, we might have more good news coming out of Canberra.

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