News | 20 September 2019

So what’s the real story behind the NDIS underspend?

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A yellow question mark inside a speech bubble, over a green circle.

Yes that is Billion with a capital B.

The underspend got lots of media attention – as it should. But what did not get any attention is WHY there is such a large underspend.

But everyone here knows there is one simple reason why – because the scheme isn’t working the way it should. The way we want it to. The way it was intended.


So what’s the story?

  1. People are coming into the NDIS slower than expected. That is because some of the data that was provided by the states was pretty dodgy and the National Disability Insurance Agency have spent a lot of time trying to clean it up. But it is also because there are not enough staff to process applications. Just ask all those families and kids who have been waiting for Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI).
  2. People are also coming into the scheme slower than expected because there is no one to help you with applying for the scheme – or to help you when things go wrong. Just ask the people we have spoken to who have applied multiple times – only to be finally accepted.
  3. Lots of the people who have already come into the NDIS were either people who already received some support or who were desperately waiting. Or they were people who had heard about the scheme and figured they might eligible. They made their way to the doors as quick as they could. But who is helping people who have never heard of the NDIS but who really need support? Anyone? Anyone?
  4. People are not spending all the funds they have been allocated. That’s because most people who have an NDIS plan don’t have anyone to help them get going and get funds out the door. And don’t get us started about how Local Area Coordinators are supposed to do that – many don’t.
  5. The scheme is bureaucratic, complicated, confusing and there is a woeful lack of clear simple communication to help you to know what to do. People are confused, stressed anxious and scared. And the end result – funds unspent.
  6. People get funding in their plan for things they didn’t ask for and no funding for things they did. And they can’t move it around. So they run out of funds in one area and have money left in another. All we can say is – arrgghhhh!
  7. People are waiting, waiting, waiting for supports – particularly for equipment and home mods.
  8. Reviews. Backlog. Enough said.
  9. Transport, transport, transport. People have funding in their plan to do things – but no funding to get there. So money remains unspent.
    People have funds in their plans to do things – but no funding to get there. So funds remain unspent.
  10. No services. Sometimes people have funds – and nowhere to spend them. While this is true everywhere, it is particularly true in regional and remote areas. And it is especially true for people who have complex needs. And there is a desperate shortage of workers – despite knowing about this for years nothing much has been done about it.

And they are just a few of the reasons why the scheme is underspent – we know you will suggest plenty more.

But let’s be clear about one thing. People are NOT spending funds because they don’t need help – they just can’t work their way through the system to get it.

And that’s what we want to see fixed. We don’t want to keep talking about the underspend – we want to focus on the reasons for it. And change them.

We think the scheme should be run like a real insurance scheme – if there are NDIS funds left at the end of the year they should either be saved for a rainy day or reinvested back into the scheme to improve it.

Not simply and quietly disappear.


So what’s next?

  1. When the Minister for the NDIS was asked about the underspend in Parliament this week he said “ Not a single participant has seen a decrease”. Well we think it’s time for a bit of a fact check on that one. If you or your family member is waiting to get into the scheme, waiting for a plan, waiting for equipment, waiting for a review, have had your plan cut or had something you really need rejected or anything else – We want to hear from you. Just drop us a line on our Facebook page or send us a quick email at . We will bundle up all your stories and get our Every Australian Counts champions to deliver them to the Minister – just so he can hear loud and clear how this underspend really affects us.
  2. We want everyone to get involved in the Tune review of the NDIS Act and Rules. When this review finishes at the end of the year, Mr Tune will make recommendations and the NDIS legislation will change. Again we need to make sure the review focuses on the things that matter most to us. So please do whatever you can to get involved – attend a consultation, make a submission, fill in the survey. You can find out about all these things here. Or you can get involved in our Every Australian Counts submission – we will tell you how next week.
  3. We will shortly launch a new campaign to get everyone in our community to go and see their local MP. We want every single MP across the country to get on board with the task of getting the NDIS back on track. So again stay tuned. But if you want to get the jump and get going – here’s a copy of our handy guide to give to your local MP – it’s based on all the great feedback and ideas we have heard from people across the country

Screenshot of the one page Guide for MPs PDF. The three main sections are written inside large red cogs.


If you want to read more – here’s some media coverage of the last few days

Minister defends $4.6b NDIS underspend

Dodgy Data Blamed for NDIS Underspend

Dylan Alcott ‘Devastated’ at Multi-Billion Dollar NDIS Underspend

Australia’s Budget Effectively in Balance After $4.6 Billion Underspend on NDIS

Federal Government Budget Billions Better Off Than expected with Deficit Down to $690 million


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