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On 20th October 2022, a live webinar was hosted by disability advocacy group Every Australian Counts to discuss the NDIS Review. The webinar featured Minister for the NDIS and Hon Bill Shorten MP, co-Chairs Professor Bruce Bonyhady AM and Lisa Paul AO PSM, and independent panel members Kevin Cocks AM, Judy Brewer AO, Dr Stephen King, Dougie Herd and Kirsten Deane OAM.
The NDIS was founded on 1st July 2013 and whilst a review at the 10-year mark was always intended, it has been brought forward. Minister Shorten was very keen to point out how very important the review is and how it will shape the NDIS moving forward.
“I’m excited about the process of change,” he said. “For many people, the development of the scheme has been a positive proposition and experience and at the very least, the fact that so much unmet need has emerged in the last nine years shows the need for this scheme.
“There have been too many negative experiences in my opinion. Too much red tape, rapid, unfair cuts to people’s schemes … and we want to rebuild trust.”
He went on to explain that appointing Kurt Fearnley AO as the Chair of the NDIA was part of rebuilding that trust.
What could the NDIS Review entail?
Shorten said the NDIS Review would take into account the viewpoints of people in the disability community and also look at ways that waste can be avoided. “We want to change the view of the scheme to being not just a series of line items, but a serious investment. The media often ask about the cost of the NDIS, but don’t talk about the benefits.”
Part 1 of the review, which will be led by Dr Bruce Bonyhady AM, will examine the design, operation, and sustainability of the scheme.
Part 2, which will be led by Lisa Paul AO, will analyse ways to build a more responsive, supportive, and sustainable market and workforce.
The overarching objective of both would be to put people with disability back at the centre of the NDIS. “The review”, Shorten said, “aims to empower people and give them agency in their lives, provide hope and give them more positive outcomes.
“We want to get the scheme back on track, re-orient it to be a co-designed scheme, an optimistic experience for participants.”
The panel will deliver the final report, including opportunities for reform, to Disability Reform Ministers by October 2023. For more details on objectives of each of these parts, please visit the NDIS review website.
“Not reinventing the wheel”
During the webinar, both Bruce and Lisa admitted the scheme needs to improve.
“We’re not going to reinvent the wheel,” Lisa said. “The scheme needs to be simpler, fairer, more predictable. We want to get the scheme to a point where a person with disability or their parent or carer can have confidence that the person with disability will be ok when their carer/family are not around. We want this to be a scheme of pride, not just for NDIS participants, but for all Australians.”
She also said that the panel is committed to working closely with people who are poorly served by the scheme, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people whose first language isn’t English, and those who have very complex needs and/or who live in regional and remote communities.
“We need to get back to the original intent of the scheme which is independence,” she said. “We want to sit down with workers and their employers in the scheme because they are responsible for services that are safe, consistent, appropriate and affordable.”
“We can make this the best scheme in the world”
Bruce talked about the need to go from “playing defence to playing offence”.
“We can make this scheme the best in the world,” he said. “We’ve been meeting with people with disability about their ideas as to what should happen to ensure the scheme delivers. We need to put people with disability back at the centre of the scheme and shift the debate. We need to look at the NDIS as an insurance scheme, an investment, one that supports people’s social and economic participation.”
He also said that with nearly ten years of data and evidence to draw upon, the NDIA is now in a far better-informed position to build the best disability support system possible.
Questions and answers about the review
Here are some of the interesting questions that came up during the course of the webinar.
Do we really need a year-long review?
Lisa responded to the question, explaining that a year may seem like a long time, but it was important to work on not just what needed to be done, but how it should be done, and that that takes time.
“We don’t want to come out with a 2,000-page review that just gets put on the shelf,” she said. “And besides, if we see things that could be done now, we’ll implement them sooner.”
How will people be able to contribute to the review?
Every Australian Counts Campaign Manager Kirsten Deane responded that all the submissions that people have made over the last few years, including evidence given to the Royal Commission, will be reviewed.
Moving forward, she said, “We want to have multiple ways for people to have their voices heard. Written submissions don’t work for everyone. We want to hear from people you don’t usually hear from at big government meetings, round tables and so on. It’s our job to work with you to get the recommendations you put forward. This will only work if we all work together.”
Can family members be involved, and if so, how?
Former NDIS coordinator Dougie Herd answered the question, saying, “We need to make sure we’ve got processes going on in all kinds of places and ways for those voices to be heard so we can get this right.”
In conclusion, Shorten said he and his office are committed to improving the NDIS. “I want to do everything in my power along with the leadership team and people with disability and the people who love and support them, to get this right,” he said.