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CEO address to the Council for Economic Development of Australia

Wed, 19 Feb 2020, 10:31 AM

From the CEO, Speech, 14 February 2020

I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet, the Ngunnawal people, and pay my respects to the elders, both past and present.

I would also like thank the Council for Economic Development of Australia for inviting me here today to share with you how the National Disability Insurance Scheme will shape Australia’s social and economic progress in the years ahead.

The NDIS is a significant and world-first policy reform for Australia.

The scale of what we are trying to achieve is just huge.  A national scheme across our huge country; aimed at providing individual customised packages of supports to be self-directed by the participant, to half a million of our fellow Australians.

It will shape future policy solutions considered by governments globally to deliver better economic and social outcomes not just for the most vulnerable but for all citizens.

Today I am going to talk to you about:

  • the purpose and progress on the NDIS,
  • the impact of the NDIS on the economy and the future of employment in Australia,
  • the role of service excellence and my vision for the experience of NDIS participants.

NDIS purpose and progress

The NDIS was born out of the drive to “do better” almost ten years ago.

Before the NDIS, funding for disability support would go to an organisation. As a person with a disability, you might not have had any choice about which organisation gave you support. You might not have had a say in who supported you and how. Support was capped, inequitable and dependent entirely on where you lived.

By transferring the purchasing power from governments to individuals, the NDIS has created one of the largest market opportunities in recent history. And by giving people choice and control over their own lives , the NDIS gives people with a disability the tools to make the kinds of decisions about their lives that so many of us take for granted.

Big decisions like where to live and with whom, and daily decisions like when to eat and when to shower.

Over time, the NDIS has been shown to open up all kinds of new pathways for participants and their families and carers.

Ultimately, the NDIS means that hundreds of thousands of Australians who have been locked out of shaping and leading their communities have the opportunity to change the fabric of Australia for the better.

It is a world first reform that in just six years has:

  • brought together eight state and territory systems into one,
  • become available across the whole country following a progressive roll out,
  • grown quickly to deliver supports to more than 338,000 people, 40 per cent of whom have never received supports before,
  • increased participation in social and community activities by 14% for participants aged 15 years and up who have been in the Scheme for three or more years, and
  • decreased the number of young people in residential aged care under the age of 65 years by 13% between March 2017 and September 2019.

As a transformational reform, the path to ensuring the NDIS delivers on its promise has been challenging.

And while the NDIS is working well for lots of participants, it is true that with an undertaking of this size there will be things we can do better – we haven’t got it right for every person, every time but we are getting there.

I talk to a lot of participants and no one has ever said they want to go back to the way it was.

For context, never again will so many participants enter the scheme in such a compressed time period. We are moving closer to a mature scheme, where new participants join due to changes in life circumstance and existing participants are able to focus on achieving their goals through full and flexible use of their plan.

Wait times have been a concern for both the Agency and our participants – with the Agency sometimes taking too long to make decisions and settle participant plans. It is pleasing to see in our latest quarterly report the:

  • average time taken to determine eligibility is now 4 days, well below the 21 day target,
  • wait times, on average for a first plan are 42% lower for adults and 58% lower for kids compared to 6 months ago,
  • the number of children waiting more than 50 days for a plan has reduced from 1,686 to 712 over the October – December 2019 quarter.

While these results are encouraging, the drive to “do better” that launched the NDIS into being almost ten years ago is still calling.

But first, I want to talk to you about Cameron and the power of the right supports for a participant.

Cameron McMullen, 35, is a quadriplegic from Ulladulla in New South Wales.

Prior to breaking his neck during a swimming accident nine years ago, Cameron was very busy running his own business and raising two young sons.

After the accident he was largely housebound and unable to work or participate fully in family life.

When he joined the NDIS in 2017 his main goal was to drive again with a vehicle modified using his plan funds. He bought a van, modified it, went through the relicensing process and recently took delivery of the van.

Since then he has been regularly taking his sons to sporting activities, secured work as a delivery driver, and volunteered to deliver food to bushfire-hit communities on the NSW south coast.

The modifications he was able to get for his van as part of his NDIS plan, have totally changed Cameron’s life.

From Cameron’s example, I want to broaden out to consider the impact of the NDIS on the economy and the future of work in Australia.

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Read: the full speech at NDIS: Latest news

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