The Productivity Commission’s final report on NDIS costs, released today, has found the Scheme’s costs are “broadly on track” with the National Disability Insurance Agency’s (NDIA) long-term modelling. Which sounds great but, as the report points out, this is largely because NDIS participants aren’t yet using all of the available services and supports in their plans.
The report also has a slight whack at the NDIA, saying the agency has focused too much on signing up new participants and not enough on planning processes, the quality of plans, supporting infrastructure and market development.
Overall, the report confirms what VCOSS and our members have been saying: while the NDIS is improving the lives of many people with disability, not everyone is benefiting.
Today’s report finds people who are most disadvantage and marginalised are at greater risk of poor outcomes, including people with psychosocial disability, complex needs, multiple disabilities, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, people who are socially isolated, experiencing homelessness and people transitioning into the community from the criminal justice system.
It also finds the NDIA’s approach to setting price caps to date has “hindered market development” by discouraging the provision of some disability supports. In some cases, this has “led to poor participant outcomes, especially for those with complex needs.” 
That’s policy speak for ‘has made life harder than necessary for people with a disability’.
The Productivity Commission report urges governments and the NDIA to make improvements to the way the NDIS is being implemented, including:
- PROVIDING more pre-planning and in-depth planning conversations
- DELIVERING more specialised training for planners
- ENSURING all planners have general understanding about different types of disability
- IMPLEMENTING a psychosocial gateway to ensure people with psychosocial disability have access to specialised staff, receive face-to-face support and providing outreach to engage people who are unlikely to approach the scheme
- ENSURING planners identify the amount of respite care that is reasonable and necessary under an individualised support package
- FIXING ‘thin markets’ through several funding arrangements including block-funding and clarifying Provider of Last Resort arrangements
- ALLOCATING ‘support coordination’ to participants on the basis of need, rather than for a fixed time period, and
- FUNDING Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) at the full scheme amount of $131 million for each year during the transition.
The report also recommends that federal, state and territory governments continue to fund disability advocacy to 2019-20 by an amount that “at least matches the per capita contribution of disability advocacy funding announced by the Australian Government”. This would equate to an extra $2.1 million per annum in Victoria.
Finally, the Productivity Commission makes a number of recommendations for the NDIA to capture and publicly report on a wide range of data, including more detailed participant outcomes, and highlights the stewardship role federal, state and territory governments have in relation to disability and mainstream services.
As with any large social reform, we expect some transitional issues to emerge.
What’s important is how policy makers and the relevant agencies respond to these issues.
Yesterday’s announcement by the NDIA to trial the new participant pathway to improve outcomes for people with disability is a positive step.
The NDIS provides an enormous opportunity to improve the lives of people with disability, their families and carers but it must be effectively designed and adequately resourced.
The NDIS cannot be allowed to fail. We must get this right.
With Anna Burke.