The NDIS Disability Review and Federal Budget for 2022-23: What We Can Expect

In an article published by Provider Institute on 8 September 2022, we reported the Minister for The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), Bill Shorten MP stated a ten year review of the NDIS, which was originally scheduled for mid-2023, would now be brought forward. The Independent Review would include people with disability across all forums.

The NDIS Disability Review

On 18 October 2022, Mr Shorten held a press conference announcing the Review is commencing immediately. The Minister said the Review was necessary as “the scheme is increasing in costs while not delivering on things Participants needed”.

Mr Shorten announced the NDIS is facing “an increase in projected costs over the next four years of $8.8 billion”. In his announcement, Mr Shorten said the NDIS was “arguably Australia’s best addition to the social framework of Australian society in the 21st century”, and confirmed the scheme was now forecast to escalate to a staggering $50 billion annually by 2025-26. He did affirm however, the Review will not be about cost-cutting, despite escalating costs.

As part of the announcement, Mr Shorten said, “The Independent Review into the NDIS was an election commitment to improve the wellbeing of Australians with disability and ensure the Scheme’s sustainability so that future generations receive the benefit of the NDIS”.

“The NDIS Review will restore the Australian community’s trust and confidence in this critically important Scheme. We will take into account what people already said even if it was not acted on previously,” he said.

“It will apply best-practice policy design that supports people with disability through genuine engagement and co-design with people with a lived experience.”

“This will include First Nations people, people from CALD communities and different socio-economic groups, and people of all ages, genders and sexualities”.

Mr Shorten said while the NDIS was a crucial service for many people, it could be improved.

“We can improve the processes and cut out the bureaucracy, but it won’t be at the expense of our people with disability and their dreams and their hopes.”

“I absolutely want the scheme to be sustainable, I want to see what we can do to moderate the growth-cost trajectory”.

“There’s a job to be done to make it sustainable, to rein in costs, but (I’m not going to) scare every person with a disability, to be up at midnight wondering if their package is going to get unreasonably cut.”

“What I say to people with disability, the half a million plus participants, their families, the people who work with them and service providers is that the NDIS should be better than it is.”

“The NDIS Review will work with participants, their families and carers, as well as providers and workers to put people with disability back at the centre of the NDIS”.

A final report, including opportunities for reform, will be delivered by the Panel to Disability Reform Ministers by no later than the end of October next year.

The Independent Review Panel comprises of Co-Chairs Professor Bruce Bonyhardy, a disability reformer and economist, and Ms Lisa Paul AO PSM, a former federal departmental head, as well as Panel Members Mr Kevin Cocks AM, Ms Judy Brewer AO, Dr Stephen King, Mr Dougie Herd and Ms Kirsten Deane OAM.

The first phase of the independent review will look at the design, operations and sustainability of the NDIS which will be led by Prof Bonyhardy, while the second phase led by Ms Paul, will also look at ways to make the market and workforce more responsive, supportive and sustainable.

The NDIS is a major reform of disability support in Australia. The NDIS emerged from years of discussions about problems with the existing disability support arrangements, the need for reform, and proposals for new models of disability support.

Over recent years, several NDIS Reforms and Inquiries have been undertaken, which include a Productivity Commission, a Senate Inquiry into Disability Services, The Australia 2020 Summit and the National Disability Strategy. A Disability Investment Group was also established to explore innovative funding ideas from the private sector to help people with disability and their families, and a Productivity Commission Report investigated the feasibility of new approaches for funding and delivering long-term disability care and support. An independent review into the NDIS was also undertaken by an independent expert, Mr David Tune AO PSM, known as The Tune Review. Various Inquiries into specific aspects of the Scheme have also been undertaken, all with improved Participant experience as the central focus.

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability was established in 2019 in response to community concern about widespread reports of violence against, and the neglect, abuse and exploitation of, people with disability. Originally due to be completed by April 2022, a request has been submitted to extend the Inquiry until September 2023.

Federal Budget

In its first Federal Budget on Tuesday 25 October, 2022, the Albanese Government has confirmed total funding for the NDIS will reach $166.6 billion over 4 years. This will ensure funding for expected growth in participants’ plans. A number of initiatives have also been earmarked for funding to improve the NDIS. This seems to align with Mr Shorten’s comments about keeping participant’s needs at the forefront of the scheme.

$126.3 million will be funded to establish a cross-agency Fraud Fusion Taskforce to bolster fraud detection in the NDIS. The budget will allocate $21.2 million over 3 years to support people with disability and their families to resolve disputes over NDIS decisions and to access advocacy and legal assistance. This will include the backlog of Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) cases involving NDIS participants. A further $12 million will help develop and implement an expert pathway to resolve disputes before they reach the AAT.

As an immediate action, the Government will support Australians with disability to access NDIS funding more efficiently by investing $158.2 million for an additional 380 permanent staff for the National Disability Insurance Agency. This is welcome news (provided the training and support for those staff to be competent in their roles is in place).

To promote a more inclusive Australia, funding will be allocated to expand the Sport4All programme at a cost of $10.3 million. Its expansion to 80 local government areas across Australia will help engage people with disability in community sport, including 53,000 First Nations people with disability.

The newly announced Independent Review will also receive $18.1 million over two years.

Despite multiple reviews into the Scheme in recent years, there is the hope that this particular Review along with the promised additional funding from Federal and State contributions, will ensure the 4.4 million Australians living with disability receive the action and support they need to live a better life. They deserve greater independence and better employment opportunities and the choice and control they were promised when then Scheme was originally designed. And along with that, hope that there will be support for providers to deliver services that actually meet the needs of people with disability, within a reasonably allocated budget.

It is refreshing to see appointments to the NDIA Board include people with lived experience, notably the recent appointment of Australian Paralympic champion and disability advocate, Kurt Fearnley AO (in September 2022). But it is also important that as service providers in the Scheme and being involved at the ground level, you are across what’s happening and provide feedback and suggestions where appropriate to help improve outcomes. Provider Institute strongly encourages all providers to participate in the Review, and to subscribe to the updates. With the first webinar and engagement activities already happening, you can register for updates here.