The biggest reform since Medicare – the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) – is due for expansion past its nine trial sites from July this year.
An historical win for people with a disability, their families and the wider community, the NDIS will more than double the current level of funding available for people aged 0-60.
Working to provide reasonable and necessary benefits, including personal care, therapies and essential equipment, the scheme focuses on maximising independence and social and economic participation.
Operating in trial sites since 2013, the scheme is continually evolving to meet the needs of people with a disability. One recent example of its evolution is its response to supporting the single largest group represented on the NDIS – the autism community.
In 2013, it was estimated that 1 in 4 people on the NDIS will have autism. That estimate has significantly increased, with some regions having 50% of its participants on the spectrum.
Between 2003-06, the number of people diagnosed with autism almost doubled and has doubled every three years since.
Coverage of the NDIS in the first quarter of 2016 has centred on concerns of a budget blowout because of the unexpected rise in autism diagnosis. However, the NDIA – the agency responsible for the scheme – maintains that the scheme remains on budget and on time.
The impending roll-out comes with a mixture of welcomed relief and confusion from experts and people living with autism for two reasons.
First, the NDIS was primarily built with the adult population in mind, not enough focus was dedicated in the building stages of the scheme towards children and their families.
Second, there are concerns that families won’t have the tools and functional language needed to act as advocates on behalf of their child. Some families will do this well, however, the majority won’t have the ability to articulate how, for example, a tantrum affects their daily living.
It’s clear that there are still holes in the system.
Fortunately, the agency recognises this and is beginning to fill in these holes by calling on expert advice to meet the needs of people living with a disability.
In the case of supporting children with autism, the NDIS will adopt a family centred approach – known as Early Childhood Early Intervention, or ECEI for short.
Looking at the scheme through a social and economic impact lens, its potential to change the disability landscape in Australia is undeniable. When fully operational in 2019, 460,000 people with a disability will benefit from the NDIS. In addition, it will:
- Streamline a broken and jumbled system.
- Boost GDP by 1 percent by 2050.
- Create major business opportunities in adjacent sectors (such as health, aged care, local government, and community based services).
- Generate 60,000 – 70,000 new jobs.
- Transform the use of technology in rural and remote areas.
- House the richest database on disability – worldwide.
The impending July roll-out will almost certainly reveal more gaping holes, lead to more questions and generate more debate on the level of support we provide to Australians with a disability.
On the flip side, it will almost certainly create more economic and social opportunities than ever before.
Brace yourself, change is coming.