Speech by The Hon Jane Prentice MP

Committee for Economic Development of Australia Health Series


Good afternoon everyone.

I will start by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet, and pay my respects to their elders – past and present and emerging.

One of the biggest social reforms in Australian history is the creation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme – the NDIS.

Nationally, we now have more than 100,000 participants in the Scheme and we have a large and complex task ahead of us, as we continue to gradually transition to around 460,000 Australians with disability.

The NDIS is now in its fourth year of operation. Its three year trial has ended, and we are 16 months into transition to full scheme.

The NDIS offers significant hope for a better future for people with disability, and since its inception, we have seen it bring with it a new way of doing business for disability services.

It also represents a profound shift in the way people with disability participate in their community and a smarter and fairer way of providing support.

The NDIS means that all people with disability, no matter who they are, have the opportunity to achieve their goals.

We have learned many valuable lessons along the way. The NDIS is a major change, so it is important to get it right. That is why it is being gradually rolled out across Australia over several years.

In Queensland, the NDIS started rolling out in January 2016, and as at 30 June this year, more than 7,400 Queenslanders now have an approved NDIS plan in place.

Once the Scheme is fully mature, we expect to have around 90,000 Queenslanders in the Scheme. The total estimated national cost of the Scheme will be about $21 billion per annum at full Scheme in 2019-20.

The NDIS marks a deliberate departure from a welfare-based model, where the costs of providing disability support were viewed through a short to medium-term lens.

Instead, the NDIS is insurance – it takes a lifetime approach; it takes a long-term view of people’s support needs to ensure that they get the right supports early, rather than waiting until they reach crisis point before we help them.

By investing in people early and focusing strongly on improving participants’ outcomes, the NDIS maximises opportunities and minimises costs over a person’s lifetime.

The NDIS is the opposite of the one-size fits all approach. Each NDIS participant will develop their own personalised plan for their reasonable and necessary support needs, which can change over time, as their needs and goals change.

In this way, the NDIS moves away from service system models that are based on block funding for standardised supports and towards a truly participant-centred support system.

The economic and social benefits realised through the NDIS will grow over time. Importantly, its benefits will be shared with the whole Australian community as people with disability live ordinary, productive lives.

As you are no doubt aware, the Productivity Commission recently released its report on NDIS Costs.

The Productivity Commission has been instrumental in designing the NDIS and their insights and comments in this report are welcome.

The report acknowledges the extraordinary level of commitment to the success and sustainability of the NDIS across all levels of government, participants, families and carers, providers and the community.

The NDIS started with a number of trial sites in several states and territories. During the three-year trial period from 1 July 2013, around 30,000 people joined the NDIS. This represented about 85 per cent of the participant intake estimates in the bilateral agreements (made between governments) to guide the Scheme during trial.

On 1 July 2016 the NDIS moved from its trial period into the transition towards full Scheme rollout.

At 30 June this year, at the end of the first year of transition, more than 100,000 participants were benefitting from the NDIS, again representing around 85 per cent of the bilateral participant intake estimates nationally.

While the number of people connecting to the NDIS has been slower than initially expected, I want to make clear that the NDIS continues to rollout to new areas as planned.

The Commonwealth remains committed to the current NDIS rollout schedules we have agreed with state and territory governments.

We are on track and adapting and responding flexibly to changes on the ground.

As an example, earlier this year the Queensland and Commonwealth Governments agreed to bring forward the rollout of the NDIS in Ipswich, Bundaberg and Rockhampton. This allowed those people to start benefiting from the NDIS up to three months earlier than originally planned.

The Productivity Commission also noted the importance of balancing participant intake with the quality of plans and participant outcomes.

The Commonwealth agrees unequivocally with this recommendation.

I have personally heard from participants, families and providers whose experiences with the NDIS so far have not given them confidence in the way the Scheme is administered or in the supports it delivers.

The NDIS is a participant-centred reform. Significant work is already underway by the National Disability Insurance Agency to ensure participants are at the centre of everything they do.

The NDIA has recently released the details of a new pathway designed to improve the experience and interactions participants and providers have with the NDIS.

This pathway will include face-to-face engagement for all plan development, a clearer focus on outcomes and goals, and tailored pathways to ensure appropriate responses for all participants, including those with psychosocial disability, children, people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and people with more complex needs.

The NDIS will also improve the NDIS portal and tools and introduce more straightforward processes that will reduce the administrative cost for providers.

Having learned from the past, the new pathway will now be progressively piloted and tested over the coming months before being rolled out nationally.

The NDIS is bringing with it new opportunities for businesses to grow, diversify and innovate to meet the scale and type of service demand created by the Scheme’s rollout and participant-centred approach.

The Scheme is driving one of the largest job creation opportunities in Australia. The disability support workforce is expected to more than double by full roll-out – from 73,600 full time equivalent workers at July 2013 to around 162,000 workers by full scheme in 2020. Nationally this means one in five new jobs will be in the sector.

These will be new jobs for specialist practitioners like physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, social workers and psychologists. There are also jobs for support workers, case managers and office based roles like finance and administration, customer service and community engagement.

Developing a robust NDIS market and workforce is a shared responsibility for Commonwealth and State governments, and together we are providing significant investment to support the disability sector to transition to the NDIS and improve market knowledge.

The COAG Disability Reform Council has published an Integrated NDIS Market, Sector and Workforce Strategy that outlines a vision for a mature NDIS market.

Data to measure market supply is still emerging. We have some information about service supply through data collected by the NDIA’s provider registration process.

There continues to be steady growth in provider registrations in both the Queensland and National markets, with around a 40 per cent and 30 per cent increase respectively between 1 April and 30 June 2017. The number of new supports providers are offering to participants is also increasing substantially.

As well as direct support through the NDIS, the Australian Government is also providing funding for programs that are vital to the Scheme’s success.

The Commonwealth Government’s Sector Development Fund is crucial to this work. Through it the Australian Government has invested around $6.3million in Queensland to realise the vision of a flourishing support market driven by the choices of people with disability.

This funding has helped Queensland providers expand and diversify the workforce, develop their services, business planning and financial management capabilities and enable local workforce solutions to meet local community needs.

The Australian Government has also recently committed an additional $33 million over three years, through the national Boosting Local Care Workforce initiative, to help deliver jobs for people in the disability and aged care sectors.

The initiative targets rural, regional and outer-metropolitan areas that require strong workforce growth in order to meet participant demand.

At this point is important to acknowledge that, while the NDIS aims to significantly improve the lives of Australians with disability, it is not intended to replace all the services and supports they use.

The NDIS provides supports that are reasonable and necessary, taking into account the supports already available to a person including support from their family or other carers, or from other government service systems such as health, education and housing.

We can see that more than three quarters of NDIS participants in Queensland are also accessing mainstream supports and that this proportion is growing as the NDIS rolls out.

Commonwealth, state and territory governments continue to work collaboratively with the NDIA to ensure NDIS participants receive supports from the appropriate system at the appropriate time.

Part of this work includes defining specific roles and responsibilities for the NDIS and those other service systems, and ensuring that all systems are working in parallel to support participants to achieve the best outcomes, and to ensure that no person falls through the cracks.

Looking ahead to the next 12 months and the continued roll-out of the Scheme, the challenges can appear daunting – but the opportunities and the benefits of the NDIS outweigh the challenges many times over.

We must remember this is just the first step. We all have a role to play in the NDIS journey.

I am absolutely committed to supporting an NDIS that empowers people with disability to achieve their goals in inclusive communities and workplaces, and hope that you will join me in ensuring that this life-changing reform is a success.