Given the latest round of speculation and criticism of the NDIS in the press here in Australia, you’d be right to assume that all is not going well in the nationwide rollout of this world-first scheme.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was sold to the nation as a way to properly support people with disability. It was designed to empower, assist and focus on people with a disability and their families. It was supposed to make lives easier, promote inclusion and prevent further discrimination and disadvantage in society because of disability.
The NDIS site itself claims, “The NDIS will mean peace of mind for every Australian – for anyone who has, or might acquire, a disability.”
Unfortunately, the NDIS that has been rolled out to the nation has not met any of those aims.
Take a look in any disability facebook group and you’ll be assailed by the many desperate posts from those who have been knocked back from participating in the scheme or who have received packages that leave them worse off than before. The fear, the anger, the deperation and the despair, is palpable.
It’s also disconcerting that the goal posts are forever changing. For instance, the autism community is on a knife edge as it awaits further tightening of NDIS eligibility criteria, amid a flurry of articles claiming that autism has no right to be included in the NDIS at all.
People with disability are scared. Families are overwhelmed. Providers are unable to help. The NDIA (the organisation who administers the NDIS) is floundering as it struggles to meet unrealistic government targets.
The Real Tragedy of the NDIS
The real tragedy of the NDIS lies in the broken promises, shattered trust and a generation that will never feel comfortable or secure in their day to day lives.
The real tragedy of the NDIS lies in the ignorant comments of the masses, claiming people with disability are a burden. The comments sections on major news sites dealing with this issue are a poisonous, toxic wasterland of hate, discrimination and ignorance.
The real tragedy of the NDIS lies in the missed opportunity we have as a society to help address the ingrained power imbalance between those considered ‘abled’ and ‘disabled’. We have the chance to invest in the future and see just how far we can come when we give people the right supports and assistance to thrive.
The real tragedy of the NDIS is the commodification of human life. The scheme was envisioned as an investment in the future – it was always going to cost a lot now but future savings would make the initial cost worthwhile. Sadly, people with disability are being knocked back and essentially told they are not worthy of investment, that their needs are not important, because it’s costing way too much.
How Can We Avert This Tragedy?
It’s still not too late to avert this tragedy, but we need to do a few things first:
- Stop and immediately review how the NDIA is administering the scheme. It’s inconsistent, infelxible and ineffective (the amount of appeals lodged in the last year alone highlight this). The NDIS needs to be flexible to meet the individual needs of each participant and the NDIA needs to reflect this flexibility. The NDIA also needs to be more transparent so decisions are clearly understood. This will help the community into the future.
- There needs to be bipartisan support for introducing the proposed 0.5% increase to the Medicare Levy to ensure the NDIS is fully funded into the future. The government cannot guarantee funding without it and it’s clearly not fully funded if the NDIA is being pressured to reduce costs, tighten eligibility requirements and limit plan amounts. Community uncertainty would be addressed if future funding is guaranteed.
- Change the way we talk about the NDIS. Instead of looking at it as a burden on the economy and a drain on the public purse, let’s see the NDIS for what it was designed to be. As a proactive way to support the community, enhance workforce participation, reduce government welfare, invest in the future, improve outcomes for people with disability and be a true safety net for anyone who needs it, whenever they need it.
My family is one of the lucky ones. We are better off under the NDIS. My kids are getting the support they need and they have a real chance to thrive and make their mark on the world.
Every individual deserves this same chance.
That’s why we need to revisit the NDIS so it does what it’s actually designed to do – to provide insurance for all of us, should we face disability. To empower, support and improve the lives of people with disability. To make life easier and less disadvantaged for all.
The real tragedy of the NDIS is in the current inequity of access (inconsistent decisions & lack of advocacy support), the short-sighted focus on the cost of the scheme (which is, in fact, wise investment) and the lack of certainty in funding and in eligibility.
The NDIS is supposed to be so much more than it currently is. We can do better than this.
We need to do better than this.