What is the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)?

A support worker assisting a child using a wheelchair with their smartphone.
The introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in 2013, and the capacity for people to self direct their paid support, has been a true game changer for people with disability and their families in particular, and the disability sector in general.

A brief history of the NDIS

Prior to the introduction of the NDIS, there had been years of discussion about the numerous problems in the disability sector and the dire need for reform.

In 2010, these discussions led to the Commonwealth Government asking the Productivity Commission to undertake a public inquiry into a National Disability Long-term Care and Support Scheme.

Important milestones

March 2013: The National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 was passed in Parliament

July 2013: The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) was established to implement the Scheme

July 2013: NDIS trial commenced in four States: NSW, Tasmania, SA and Vic

July 2016: The NDIS began the transition to full Scheme across Australia

2019: The Scheme reached full rollout

2021: The National Disability Insurance Act 2013 was reviewed and updated.

What is the NDIS?

The NDIS is Australia’s first national disability scheme designed to provide people with disability, who meet the eligibility criteria, the support and services they need to live and enjoy their life. It provides a new way of delivering support, in that it moves away from the State-run, block-funded systems that existed before and provides funding directly to people with disability via an individual, funded plan.

The NDIS exists in two main forms:

  • NDIS Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) – for children 0-6yrs
  • NDIS for eligible Australians 7-65yrs.

The name says it all:

  • National: available to all Australian regardless of where they live in Australia
  • Disability: provides support to eligible people with intellectual, physical, sensory, cognitive and psychosocial disability
  • Insurance: support will be provided to any eligible Australian child or adult who is born with, or acquires a permanent disability
  • Scheme: The programmatic structure through which planning and the distribution of funds occurs.

Who manages the NDIS?

The NDIS is overseen by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), which is the Commonwealth Governments statutory authority established under the National Disability Insurance Act 2013, to implement and manage the NDIS.

The NDIA has a Board of Directors and a Chief Executive Officer. The NDIA is responsible for the following functions:

  • To deliver the NDIS
  • To manage, and advise and report on the financial sustainability of the NDIS
  • To develop and enhance the disability sector
  • To build community awareness of disability
  • To collect, analyse and exchange data about disability and supports for people with disability
  • To undertake relevant research
  • Any other functions conferred on the Agency by or under the NDIS Act.

What governs how the NDIS works and how decisions are made

Operational Guidelines

The Operational Guidelines assist the NDIA to make decisions and are based on the NDIS Act and the NDIS Rules. They provide guidance to the decision makers on how to apply the Act and they help people understand how the NDIA applies the Act in the daily operations of the NDIS.

The guidelines are divided into 10 parts and cover things like:

  • Access to the NDIS
  • Planning
  • Including specific types of supports in plans
  • Specialist Disability Accommodation
  • Child representatives
  • Nominees
  • Registered providers
  • Compensation
  • Information handling
  • Review of decisions

NDIS rules

There are numerous rules that provide detailed instructions on the operation of the NDIS. They cover topics such as:

  • Becoming a participant
  • Supports for participants
  • Children
  • Nominees
  • Code of Conduct
  • Participants plans
  • Worker screening
  • Plan Management
  • Provider registration and practice standards
  • Specialist Disability Accommodation.