Teething problems do not justify cutbacks to NDIS, says peak body


The head of Australia’s peak body for non-government disability services says it is “too early” to call for  delays to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. 

Source: Sydney Morning Herald – Teething problems do not justify cutbacks to NDIS, says peak body

National Disability Services chief executive Ken Baker says that despite a recent report that identified problems with the agency implementing the NDIS – such as an IT system that was not fit for purpose and a lack of clear guidance to staff – none of the problems were “insurmountable”.

Dr Baker cautioned that the rollout of the NDIS, which has so far launched trial sites in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, was still in very early days.

“We’re nine months in to a six year implementation,” he said.

Dr Baker added that the full national rollout was not due to start until 2016, giving the National Disability Insurance Agency plenty of time to fix issues along the way.

“There’s no urgency with this,” he said. “I think its too early to call for a slow down.”

The report, released last month, which found “large number of significant problems” at the NDIA has been accompanied by two quarterly reports that show the cost of care and support packages being rolled out was 30 per cent higher in the first three months of the trials than budgeted averages and 15 per cent higher in the second six months.

Dr Baker noted that this data was “very early” and only based on a small number of people.

“There is no cause to be alarmed about a cost blowout,” he said.

Labor and the Greens are convinced that the Coalition government is setting the scene to tinker with the NDIS through either a cut or a delay to the full national rollout.

While Treasurer Joe Hockey has warned of a “tsunami of expenditure” coming on programs such as the NDIS, Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield has confirmed that he has asked the NDIS board to provide further advice about the “time lines” for the scheme.

Every Australian Counts national campaign director John Della Bosca said that there was “anxiety and concern” about a delay to the rollout amongst NDIS supporters.

“Australians with disability have waited too long for a system of support that allows for their full participation in the community. Unfortunately, Australians with disability are used to being let down by politicians and bureaucrats.”

But Mr Della Bosca has taken heart form the fact that before the election, the Coalition pledged to “retain” Labor’s timeline and “maintain” announced funding for the scheme.

“I’ve had my differences with the Prime Minister over the years. But I do not believe Tony Abbott wants the NDIS to become his carbon tax. I don’t think he’ll cave to the pressure and give into NDIS delays or cuts,” he said.

Yesterday, Senator Fifield hit out at what he described as Labor’s “partisan scaremongering” over the NDIS, saying “the government will deliver the NDIS in full”.