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NDIS: If We Break It, We’ll All Pay For It

If you read the news, it’s easy to believe the NDIS is in a cataclysmic spiral. But it’s not time to give up hope yet, write Vanessa & Roland.

By Vanessa Toy

Updated 15 Apr 202428 May 2018

Many ‘expert’ NDIS commentators seem to be coming out of the woodwork to grab their 15 minutes of fame lately, with an almost daily onslaught of ignorant, negative commentary about the scheme. When you combine this with the Australian newspaper's ongoing campaign to destroy the NDIS, there is so much more grief out there than joy. 

As humans, we are wired to more readily receive negative news. We’re more upset by criticisms than we are flattered by compliments and we’re more shocked by failed NDIS planning meetings than we are pleased by successful ones. Some researchers suggest the ratio is one to five: that we require five times as many positive experiences to register the same impact as a negative one.

So it’s no wonder that the deluge of negative NDIS news stories is building up resentment in ourselves and in our organisations. It’s destroying morale, which makes the whole thing a sadly self-fulfilling prophecy: if we believe the NDIS is doomed to be bad, we let it flounder or we even contribute to its demise. We shrug our shoulders in collective defeat, instead of making the effort to shape the Scheme to live up to its potential.

At DSC, we thought it was time to remind us all about the positives the NDIS can bring with the right stewardship. We asked our many Consultants who have lived experience of the NDIS to give us a little NDIS sunshine.  This is what they said:

Breaking down funding silos: For some participants with dual diagnoses, particularly with a mix of mental illness and disability, the individualised, rights-based funding approach of the NDIS is a revelation. No longer doing the shuffle between mental health and disability and having both systems refuse to provide services. Many people are now able to have their support needs adequately funded and can shop around for providers and workers who are skilled in working with the complexities of both diagnoses.

Thinking outside the box: Providers and participants are slowly starting to make the most of the flexibility offered by the NDIS and engage in conversations about how to do things differently. This is especially true for participants who hadn’t seen an Allied Health professional in years, who now have access to supports and apps they needed, but never knew about. New business models are popping up everywhere, trying to win 'customers' by offering them services and products they never had before. 

Making accessibility fashionable: The sheer scale of the NDIS is bringing accessibility into the spotlight in other parts of the economy. We love seeing companies like Apple, Microsoft and Bupa targeting their offerings to serve their customers with disability.

Highlighting the inaccessibility of other government systems: While the interface between NDIS & other mainstream service systems is the subject of a lot of political scrapping, it has highlighted the barriers to inclusion in these systems that long pre-dates NDIS. The Scheme’s insistence that it is not there to fill gaps in other systems will help force the improvement in the accessibility of mainstream services. Over time this should lead to decreased need for funded or segregated supports, bringing us closer to an ordinary life for Australians with disability.

Building capacity. There is a lot of talk about 'reasonable and necessary' and 'choice and control'. But when the rubber hits the road, the Scheme it has its focus squarely on 'lifetime costs'.  The NDIS is responsible for an individuals disability related costs for life, and the best way to reduce these costs is to build everyones' capacity.  Build the individual's capacity to do things for themselves, build the community's capacity to include all its members.  You have to love that business driver.

Job Creation: One in five jobs created in Australia over the next few years will be funded by the NDIS. The workforce growth is often described as a problem, but it also represents a fabulous opportunity to get people into jobs that really matter! It’s a challenge being taken up by smart providers who see the need to be 'employers of choice' and by the many participants, parents and carers opening their own thriving NDIS service providers.

Strong foundations: You may be surprised, but we believe the NDIS is a well designed scheme with great legislation supported by some skilled craftsmanship from the Productivity Commission. Remember, they described the system before the NDIS as 'underfunded, unfair, fragmented, inefficient'? The NDIS moves us to a rights-based framework so that people get what they need as a right, rather than having to be grateful for hand outs or charity. Take continence as an example – having enough continence products so you can access the community rather than a measly hand out from the Federal Government, is life changing. The vast majority of people are much better off at the individual level, and are getting funded in the way they never have before.

Support for those who never had it: What’s often missed in the often inaccurate articles about NDIS cost blowouts is that double the funding is coming down the pipe to support tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of people who were not previously receiving any support at all. Many of these people are newly arrived refugees and school-aged children, who are likely to have significantly changed life outcomes as a result of the NDIS’ investment in them and their families.

A Cautionary Tale… 

A Carpenter tells his Master he wishes to stop working as he is old and his body hurts. The Master agrees, but says he needs to build one last house. The Carpenter agrees but his heart is not in it and his work is not his usual high quality. When the house is finished, the Master hands over the keys to the Carpenter and gifts him the home as a thank you for all his years of dedication. Immediately, the Carpenter regrets not doing his usual best on his final house. A regret he now has to live with.

The message? Don’t do the NDIS by half. There are so many people who have fought so hard to give us this opportunity and we now have a once in history chance to finally get it right. The foundations are true, it’s now up to all the Carpenters – the NDIA, providers and participants - to build something really worthwhile. People with disability, their families, friends deserve the best efforts of everyone involved.


* This article is credited to Vanessa & Roland but many people at DSC contributed to the text. Our whole team cares deeply about the success of the NDIS.


Vanessa Toy

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