Mind the gaps

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is one of the biggest social reforms in recent decades. But as the roll out of this landmark reform nears completion, gaps are emerging.

At its core, the NDIS changes the way disability services are funded across the country. Governments will no longer be funding disability service providers, instead allocating funding packages to individuals to purchase the services they need. Consequently, federal, state and territory government funding to disability services is slowly being withdrawn on the assumption that this income will be replaced by funding from NDIS participants.

Although it is early days still, it is already clear that there are a number of people and organisations who will be worse off under this new system.

Not everyone who was accessing disability support services before the NDIS are eligible for them now, owing to their age, residency or because they do not meet disability requirements. For example, The Guardian reported that individuals with severe mental illness have been routinely denied funding support under the NDIS.

Another demographic left out is over 65s. People over the age of 65 can access home care support services via My Aged Care through individualised funding packages, similar to the NDIS.

However, these funding packages are considerably smaller. A funding package for someone with high level needs can only access, at most $49,500 via My Aged Care, whereas, there is no upper limit for someone covered by the NDIS and the average is $36,049 whilst the average for those covered via My Aged Care is significantly lower.

This is all well and good for people over 65 who need help around the house, but what about people over 65 who live with a disability and need assistive technology, such as a wheelchair? They have the option of using all their aged care funding to buy a wheelchair and go without the support services they need or go without a wheelchair and receive support to stay at home. What kind of choice is that?

Another causality of funding changes under the NDIS are state based disability advocacy services.

From July 2018, the NSW Government is withdrawing funding for NSW advocacy organisations, despite the Productivity Commission's recommendation for state governments to maintain their funding to advocacy groups.

Without this funding many advocacy organisations will be forced to close, which will leave significant gaps in representation for people with a disability. This funding cut also comes at a pivotal period of disruption in the roll out of the NDIS when people are in need of more information and advocacy to help them transition to this new scheme.