Opinion | 18 February 2015

A scorecard on the NDIS trials

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hearing evidence from advocate witness Kerry Telford from SA as part of NDIS Jury

As we near two years since the start of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) we are beginning to get a handle on how this complex reform is living up to its promise to improve the lives of people with disability through choice, control and person centred support within an insurance approach.

It is not like the NDIS has been short of oversight: there has been a bewildering array of reviews, evaluations and assessments on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) undertaken by senior bureaucrats, researchers, politicians and those building the scheme.

These are appropriate processes but you could be forgiven for thinking that the NDIS, meant to be a person centred scheme, is being scrutinised by every conceivable stakeholder, consultant and commentator in the land except those actually paying for it and using it.

Beyond plans and costs

While costs and plan numbers – outlined in the Annual Report of the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) released in October 2014 – seem to be on track there are areas which require attention.

These include;

  • increasing the capacity of people to control funding (the number of people directly self-managing is low);
  • rolling out information and early intervention services to ensure the scheme is sustainable;
  • growing the service market;
  • and getting to grips with the service interface with housing, employment, education and health.

The interface issues, especially around employment services, require reform beyond the NDIS and should be shaping a continued Government disability reform agenda.

Some levels of Government are also withdrawing too quickly from their disability services before the NDIS even arrives. This includes the Australian Government itself which is backing away from a range of supports, in areas like information, which will be needed to underpin the Information, Linkages and Capacity Building side of the Scheme.

Who gets a say?

As we shape a verdict it’s time to reconnect the two major actors in this nation building reform. Namely, the Australian people who responded to woeful stories of unmet need with open hearts and wallets by funding the NDIS and those of us with disability they sought to pull up into better lives, independence and opportunities.

Putting the scheme back in touch with those paying the premium and ordinary people with disabilities is a good solution for a growing scheme. It’s a step towards ‘’closing the deal’’.

While some responded with alarm to the decision by Government to rename “launch” sites “trial” sites the reality is that an investment predicted by the National Commission of Audit to reach $25 billion per annum at maturity demands intense scrutiny.

We all need to hear where it is doing well and where it is replicating the old system. Now is our chance to get it right before bureaucratic arteries harden and we get locked into business as usual.

We the people

For that reason People with Disability Australia is working with project partners to deliver a new ambitious grassroots examination of the NDIS which will unite people with disabilities and those paying for the scheme in determining how it is delivering on the reform vision mooted by the Productivity Commission in 2011.

Instead of rendering that verdict in house we are handing the task back to the real owners of this national reform.

Let the trial begin

A trial of a serious national investment deserves a real jury with real evidence and testimony, so we are using a Citizens Jury, which has been independently selected by the renowned New Democracy Foundation, to enable a group of ordinary people to render a scorecard on this scheme after hearing from the real experts in the room – those actually receiving disability services under the new NDIS.

Our jury will be ordinary taxpayers while the expert witnesses will be participants with a disability drawn directly from seven trial sites, including people whose voices have not been heard from before.

They will be encouraged to ask hard questions and it is pleasing that the Agency itself has embraced this process as an opportunity to learn, build and learn.

We will present the results to the Australian public through a scorecard delivered to every member of the State, Territory and Commonwealth Parliaments who signed up to the scheme. A balanced scorecard will enable people to see the results of their investment alongside areas where we must do better.

It’s our way of acknowledging the trust, support and common sense shown by the real owners of the NDIS – all of us.

Craig Wallace is the President of People with Disability Australia

The NDIS Jury is being held from 17-20 February 2015

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