The National Disability Insurance Scheme is a major Australian social reform of the last 20 years, but does it provide enough individual choice, asks Catholic Social Services Australia's Dr Brenton Prosser. Source: ACBC Media Blog.
The NDIS was a central feature in the Budget speeches of both the Treasurer and the Opposition Leader earlier this month. Public debate centred on $1.6 billion of allocated (but unspent) funding going back into the Government’s projected $7.1 billion surplus. The Budget also allocated over $527 million for a Royal Commission into the mistreatment of people with a disability.
But the question that remains with many of us is: Why was more not invested to improve choice and dignity for those in and around the scheme?
The NDIS is arguably the most advanced of market-based consumer social service delivery models in this nation. In Australia and overseas, such models are expanding with the aim to give participants more choice and control over the services they receive.
There have been concerns about the NDIS, particularly the speed of its rollout, barriers to access and pricing within the scheme. Beyond this, there have been wider debates about the suitability of market-based schemes for use with complex human and social conditions.
In Australia, the framework for disability service delivery is a highly complex mixture of public and private systems, with funding shared between the Commonwealth, state and territory governments.
What Catholic Social Services Australia hears from our national network of social service providers is that participants (and their carers) encountering the system and the NDIS for the first time find it complex and confusing. One of the chief concerns that they have raised is that many are not well placed to exercise genuine informed choice due to a lack of awareness of options.
Anecdotally, and from what we are hearing from our members, it seems that people with more resources and social networks use them to find someone to help them navigate this maze. But what about vulnerable groups who are disengaged from government systems, who can’t secure internet access, who have poor health literacy and experience mental or other health issues?
As one of our member chief executive officers observed to me recently: “If our skilled professionals and experienced carers struggle to get information and navigate the system, how do we expect our people with severe and complex needs to be able to?”
– Dr Prosser is director of research at Catholic Social Services Australia.
The NDIS: an important choice for the election (ACBC Media Blog)