In April, a Flinders University review of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) reported that 10% to 20% of people feel worse off under the scheme, despite increases in funding. They highlighted that the scheme seemed to work better for those who can “strongly advocate for themselves”, and was particularly bad for those with intellectual disabilities.
The NDIS is a voucher scheme – an attempt to apply free-market principles to disability support services. It was sold to us by Labor as a way for those with disabilities to exercise ‘choice’ – but this does not mean providing decent, fully-funded services. Instead it means providing participants with a ‘NDIS plan’ that contains funding which they can spend at competing providers.
In practise there is an opaque, bureaucratic process to allocate funding to participants – participants cannot view drafts of their NDIS plan before they are finalised.
In the long run, this voucher-style funding will mean the erosion of essential services. In Victoria, funding has already been diverted away from existing mental health services. Mental Health Victoria has estimated 1000 jobs will be lost in the community mental health sector over the next year as services are defunded and the money redirected to the NDIS. In many cases people who relied on these services are not allowed to access the NDIS – there have already been reports of people with long-term mental illnesses being denied NDIS plans.
There is more than enough wealth in society to properly fund disability services – those who need healthcare should not need to compete for funding.
We need properly funded, publicly owned and accountable disability services that are free at the point of access. Qualified social, disability and mental health workers should be employed to ensure people can actually receive the services they need – not a new unaccountable bureaucracy.
By David Elliott