Yesterday, Minister Fifield spoke about the NDIA’s Quarterly Report in Parliament. Importantly he reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to rolling out the NDIS in full.
As well as outlining average spending on NDIS packages he also confirmed that that the Government has made full provision for the roll out in the budget.
The details of the full NDIS rollout, due to commence in July 2016, will be negotiated with states in 2015.
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Senator BUSHBY (Tasmania—Chief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:44): My question is to the Assistant Minister for Social Services, Senator Fifield. Can the minister update the Senate on the latest quarterly results on the operation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme?
Senator FIFIELD (Victoria—Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Social Services) (14:44): I am pleased to be able to provide an update on the latest quarterly results for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which were released on Friday. The latest quarterly figures include an update on the new trial sites here in the ACT, the Barkly region of the Northern Territory and the Perth Hills area of WA, which all commenced on 1 July this year. These new sites joined trial sites in the Hunter area of New South Wales and in the Barwon region in my state, as well is in South Australia and Tasmania, and they all commenced in July 2013.
The report shows that at the end of September this year there were 8,880 people with disabilities who had an approved NDIS plan at a total cost of $395.3 million. This represents 77 per cent of the bilateral target, which is holding steady since the last quarterly report. The cost of the average NDIS package, excluding the Stockton Centre residents in Newcastle, is $35,207, which is a slight increase on the previous quarter but does remain below the expected full scheme average of $36,750. The average length of time from application to commencement of services remained steady since last quarter at 95 days. Importantly, participant satisfaction levels remain very high, particularly in your home state, Mr President, and Senator Bushby’s home state of Tasmania. It has the highest satisfaction rate of any trial site at 98 per cent.
I take this opportunity to very importantly congratulate and acknowledge the staff of the NDIS agency for their continued efforts at the trial sites. I think it is important to acknowledge and recognise that, for the staff of the NDIS agency, it is more than a job. They know when they get up every day that they are making a contribution to improving the quality of life of fellow Australians.
Senator BUSHBY (Tasmania—Chief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:46): Mr President, I have a supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate on how the Commonwealth intends to progress the scheme in the new year?
Senator FIFIELD (Victoria—Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Social Services) (14:46): I can advise the Senate that negotiations with each state and territory will commence next year on the transition to the full scheme. Currently, we have a number of trials in place. The detail as to how we transition to the full scheme in each jurisdiction is yet to be determined. This detail will be finalised through a series of bilateral agreements to be negotiated between the Commonwealth and each jurisdiction.
The trial sites are doing what they were intended to do, which was to provide valuable insights into the scheme for the agency and all levels of government so that we could learn lessons and help inform the full scheme rollout. I look forward to working with my state and territory colleagues as we nut out the details as to how we will all get to where we want to be, and that is having a nationwide NDIS that delivers the better deal that people with disability deserve.
Senator BUSHBY (Tasmania—Chief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:47): Mr President, I have a further supplementary question. Can the minister provide the Senate with an update on Commonwealth funding for the NDIS?
Senator FIFIELD (Victoria—Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Social Services) (14:47): The government is, indeed, committed to rolling out the NDIS in full and has made full provision for it in the budget over the forward estimates. I remind colleagues that there is no good social policy without good economic policy, which is why it is so very important that the government is able to give effect to its economic strategy. Repairing the budget and paying back debt is the way to ensure a strong economy, and a strong economy is the ultimate guarantee for the NDIS, something which I know colleagues on all sides of this chamber are very keen to see rolled out in full. I emphasise again that the Abbott government has fully provided for the NDIS in the forward estimates in the May budget and is 100 per cent committed to rolling out the scheme in full.