NDIS – Now for the Hard Work!


Rebuttal readers generally hate politics, particularly national politics. I know this because readership generally drops at the mere mention of both Abbott and Gillard. An exception was the article about Bernie Brookes which broke all records – But that was more, I suspect, because it was the flavour of the moment. Yesterday was Budget Day so in this version of The Rebuttal I thought I would make comment on the funding of the NDIS….. ZZZZZZZZZZZZ Do try to concentrate because,  nevertheless,  what follows is an important observation.

The NDIS will be funded in full by 2019. Measures have been put in place to ensure that the scheme will continue. In doing so Labor have ensured that the roll-out of the NDIS will not be hampered even if the Government changes. According to Labor figures the NDIS will provide care and support for 410 000 people with a disability.

We should not be celebrating just yet. Even though the NDIS is now part of legislation and even though it has the support of both sides of politics, there is much work to do. Now is the time that people with a disability must remain diligent and vocal or they may well find themselves with a program that is developed that is not quite what they envisioned.

Of late I have had a few discussions about the Governments view of “Self Directed Funding”. I strongly believe that the Governments vision for this and the vision of people with a disability and their carers is poles apart. I believe the Governments vision is that funding will be allocated to the individual. These individuals will then use this money to purchase supports from an approved list of suppliers. In this sense they can only choose what the Government views as appropriate. A better way of seeing this is self directed entitlement.

Now the vision of people with a disability, I believe, is very different. I believe they feel that self directed funding is just that. The only criteria they believe should be there is that this funding be used for their supports and services. In this sense if a person with a disability chooses to use a friend or family member to carry out their care they should be able to do that and pay them. After all isn’t this what choice is all about? They might choose to go on holiday overseas and choose to pay a colleague to go with them so that they are cared for on holiday. That colleague can be a friend or a family member and be paid for.

As far as the way people with a disability are thinking I do not believe the Government, or any of the politicians for that matter, are on the same page. The proof, as they say, will be in the detail. Me thinks we all need to be watching carefully as the trial NDIS regions begin to commence in June or July. This will give an indication of just how autonomous the Government believes self directed funding should be. There may be some rude shocks.

The second issue we need to be looking at is just how far reaching the NDIS will be. Officially the Government is using a figure of 410 000 people. Now in 2004 the Centre for Population Studies in Epidemiology in South Australia suggested that there were 3.25 million people or 16.6% of the population with a hearing loss.[1] Now not all of these will require support but many will and that figure does not include people under 15 years of age. Suffice to say 3.25 million is 7 times more than the numbers that  the Government are claiming will benefit from the NDIS. So are the deaf being considered as part of the NDIS? The short answer is no! Hearing Rehabilitation, assistive technology, hearing aid replacement and maintenance, interpreters, captioning and so on, all things that are vital, none are really being considered as part of the NDIS.

I mean the number of people with Autism in Australia is said to be 1 out of every 166 people or approximately 136 213 people.  In Australia over 700 000 people are said to have an intellectual or developmental disability. There are said to be 292 700 people who are Blind or vision impaired and there are a whopping 3.4 million who have some form of physical disability[2] .

Now if we add up the numbers for autism, vision impairment, intellectual/developmental and physical disability this comes to 4 528 913. The Government figure of 410 000 people being supported by the NDIS only equates to 9% of that figure. It is worth noting that I have not included the statistics for hearing loss in this figure and we have not even touched on mental health yet.

I accept not all the people who have a disability will require support under the NDIS but 9% of the population of people with a disability, and that is excluding hearing loss, seems proportionally low. The figures are not adding up. It’s clear to me that there is much work to be done. The Governments thinking and the thinking of people with a disability are poles apart. The NDIS is here YAY!  BUT the hard work has really only just begun.

13 thoughts on “NDIS – Now for the Hard Work!

  1. The NDIS rules list sensory disabilities and the need for assistance with communication as included criteria for participation. They also list hearing aids and speech pathology as examples of services that can be received. Please explain where is the evidence that deaf people aren’t included – numbers alone are not evidence that deaf people or any other specific group is excluded from the NDIS. Also, the rules state that registered providers must be used when the NDIS agency manages a persons funding for them. This doesn’t mean everyone has to use only registered providers. Please explain where is the evidence that everyone must use only registered providers?

    • It is an observation Karen. 410 000 clearly is scratching the surface of the need. This is the official Government figure .. It does not match up with the actual disability data and hints thay the Government is thinking very narrowly in their definition of disability. My observation is that the deaf are not considered a priority .. Time will tell hence my suggestion that the work to develop the NDIS has only just started and asking these types of questions based on Government comments is important as part of the NDIS development. I will celebrate as hard as anyone if my observations are wrong … As I said at the start I was making important observations. You may not agree with the observation but the available data certainly is not matching with the Govt data of 410 000

      My comment on registered providers is based on attending a number of sessions on the NDIS. I asked specific questions in relation to directing funding. The answers I received indicated that funds would need to be directed towards approved supports and services – I received one specific answer that this line of thinking was to discourage payment of associates such as family for the delivery of care and support. The proof, as I say, will be in the detail as the first parts of the NDIS roll-out shortly. Again if I am wrong I will celebrate. But certainly it is a concern for me at the moment.

      As advocates it is important that we make these observations and raise them. More importantly we need to watch closely as the NDIS is rolled out. I hope the deaf are included under the NDIS but as it stands, firstly the figure of 410 000 the Government is using does not seem to have the coverage we are all envisioning and secondly how supports and funding are controlled or “self directed” needs to be watched closely.

      Watch and ask these tough questions is what I advise. As I said the real work in developing the NDIS has just started and we need to catch the early warning signs. Definitely that 410 000 is one of them.

      Another issue an experienced advocate has raised is that with the focus on CARE the Government has neglected debate on necessary infrastructure devopments to increase participation and inclusion. NDIS is only part of the answer. We have to make sure the NDIS does not detract from other necessary developments and investments that are needed, and there are many.

      Thanks for the questions. I hope I have answered them. Feel free to challenge me further. It is an important discussion to have.


      • An observation. Ok. Everyone is entitled to their own observations. As an advocate I need to deal with facts and evidence and in the many meetings I’ve been to with government about the NDIS they have consistently said their approach is as I described in the rules. Certainly if it turns out to be otherwise we will advocate vigorously to fix it. In the meantime we at Deaf Australia are trying to ensure the deaf community has accurate info about what the rules say on what they can expect, and observations claiming something different are liable to make all this even more confusing for many people.

      • I appreciate the view Karen but do not agree with the approach of waiting to see OTHERWISE.

        One must read and try to interpret the information that is coming out. As an advocate if what the rules say and what the Government say appear to be conflicting now is the time to challenge it. We both know the Government is saying the NDIS is targeted at 410 000 people with a disability which is a very small proportion of the overeall figure. This could be an indication of where the Government is heading and certainly if they are targeting only 410 000 many will miss out on any predicted benefits of the NDIS.

        The other thing to be diligent about is the model for “self Directed” funding. Again if you wait until it is all happening it is often too late to undo. Like you I attend many meetings and briefings on the issue and in my view what is being said does not gel with the reality. the first warning we should have heeded was that name – DisabilityCare – The branding said a lot.

        Facts change, Rules change and Governments Uturn. My advice – take it or leave it, and I suspect you will leave it – is challenge now and do not wait to see if things are “Otherwise.”

      • My point is that what I’m hearing from government is not different from what the rules say. If evidence, as distinct from observation or opinion, becomes available that something different is going to happen then of course we will advocate for what we believe should happen. Observations and opinions aren’t evidence. The number 410,000 is not evidence that deaf people are excluded etc. I’m happy to agree to disagree.

        Sent from my iPhone

      • Not evidence Karen but an indication that should ring alarm bells enough to raise questions… And it’s not about right or wrong … Different view points are good .. Thanks for responding, I appreciate it.

      • This is timely considering what we are discusiing .. This is what an opposition should do!

        Time to come clean on the NDIS

        Senator Mitch Fifield, Shadow Minister for Disabilities said recently:

        “The primary legislation which has passed the parliament does have a broad outline of the eligibility of the National Disability Insurance Scheme but the Government have yet, to date, release the full NDIS rules, the regulations, and the Government have yet to release the NDIS assessment tool.

        “Now, assessment tools and rules aren’t a theoretical exercise, they’re not a theoretical mechanism if you’re a parent of a child with a disability or if you’re an adult with a disability. They are fundamental to determining the sort of support you have and also the sort of opportunities that you will have in your life.

        “So, we do, with the greatest of respect and in a cooperative spirit, ask the Government to release those details now.”

    • Hi Karen,

      One of my biggest concerns is the seeming lack of awareness around sensory disabilities (such as deafness and hearing loss) and the fact that the main NDIS lobby group has not captioned their online videos for many years.

      Not only did this alienate me from fully supporting the call for an NDIS, it demonstrates that when the NDIS has to be “prioritized” and “focused” on meeting a larger than anticipated demand that people who are Deaf or have a hearing loss will be a very easy target for exclusion.

      The NDIS lobby group was largely led and funded by the peak body, National Disability Services (NDS). They have traditionally had very little to do with sensory disabilities such as deafness and hearing loss.

      Like Gary, I hope I’m wrong but it is hard to look past the examples such as those listed above….

      • I understand, Michael and I agree there are issues like the lack of captioning – and Auslan translations – on the Count Me In website and I have raised that a number of times with those responsible including telling John Della Bosca it was an issue last year in a presentation I made to a large audience at a NWDP breakfast at NSW Parliament House. That sort of example we are continuing to advocate about. I just get concerned when people present opinions as if they are facts, I don’t think it helps, it just confuses already confused people more.

      • Thanks Michael. And Karen I think you might be being a tad harsh. All the article does is point out that the numbers are not adding up. It points out that the early stages of the development of the NDIS is the time to watch closely and ask the hard questions. However, there is one particular passage where I should have pointed out that this was my opinion. This is the line where I suggested the Government is not considering the deaf in the NDIS … I should have said, as I have throughout the article for other arguments, that I BELIEVED that this was the case and that this was my opinion alone. I accept though that there are some provisions for deafness in the NDIS … But Although this is the case, with the numbers the Government-is quoting, provision for the deaf does not look a priority. And that number 410 000 is a fact, as are the other numbers quoted within.

        As I said now is the time to ask the tough questions. We have all been caught out before.

        I also believe in the intelligence of the people that read The Rebuttal to understand the article is purely an opinion piece. They will use the information within to makeup their own mind on the issues. Like you they will either agree or disagree.

  2. Gary I think Karen’s comments perhaps reinforce what I have been saying. We need to be careful not to be snowed by the NDIS. There are other issues affecting the rest of the 3.6 million people with disabilities in this country that are really at risk of being pushed under the carpet. The pressure needs to continue to change culture and infrastructure towards an inclusive society. Now is not the time to get defensive like Karen seems to be but rather to set the next agenda to get some real change. Other countries are actively setting inclusive community agendas and we are not. The NDIS is about support the next agenda has to be about Equality and Inclusion.

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