NDIS hiccups are expected, as with any large-scale social reform
The agreement to launch the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in 2012 was met with great excitement. It also came with large expectations about the transformation this would bring in terms of services and outcomes for people with disability.
Disability services were widely recognised to be in a parlous state and there was bipartisan support for the development of a national scheme that would address their identified inadequacies. In recent months, this enthusiasm and excitement has been replaced by a more critical discourse. National rollout of the scheme began last year, but already there have been reports of the NDIS being “plagued with problems”.
However, one of the problems with judging success and failure is that they often look the same part way through. We shouldn’t be surprised that such a huge reform process is encountering challenges in the implementation process and these issues don’t mean that the NDIS is failing overall.
Problems with the scheme
The online portal that facilitates payments to providers received extensive critical attention for delays and technical glitches. In November 2016, the NDIS was criticised for struggling to meet enrolment targets. From July to September 2016, only 7,440 people were enrolled in the scheme instead of the targeted 20,264.
This problem was rectified in the next three months, when 26,000 people signed up to the scheme. But in return, there was criticism this had been at the expense of the quality of the planning process.
Then came concerns about a potential cost blowout due to the increased prevalence of autism, debates over state and federal responsibilities and reported workforce shortages. Due to this, the Productivity Commission was asked to undertake an independent review into the overall costs of the scheme, its value for money and long-term sustainability.
Recently we have seen extensive reporting on the failures of the scheme and concerns that the various pressures on it might be overwhelming. There also seems to be agreement from some quarters that the implementation of the NDIS is failing.
By 2020 the NDIS is expected to have around 460,000 participants at a cost of A$22 billion. It should empower people with disability and their families and support individuals to participate more fully in society and the economy.
Such a process involves massive changes to several areas. These include who delivers services and how; power relationships between people with disability, their families and service providers; and the involvement of people with disability in Australian economic and social life.
This vast reform is being implemented at break-neck speed. Different levels of government are rushing to divest themselves of the provision of disability services, create a market for disability services and individualise services all at the same time.
Helen Dickinson, The Conversation, 18 April 2017
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