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What the Federal Budget means for the NDIS

Sara and Jess unpack what budget night heralded for the disability sector, including: $14.4bn cut from projected NDIS growth, funding to respond to the NDIS Review, consultation on Navigation services, revamping disability employment services, changes to some social security payments, and oh-so-many committees!

By Sara Gingold and Jessica Quilty

Updated 17 May 202415 May 20245 min read
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Another year, another federal budget.

As the cost of the NDIS continues to grow, the budget has gone from being a source of curiosity for the disability community to a period of high anxiety.  A lot of us are nervous about what the next announcement might be, what the next news article will say, and how it might impact our lives.

So what does the 2024/25 budget mean for the NDIS and disability sector? Let’s get tangled into the weeds- and hopefully come out the other side a bit more clear eyed than we went in.

Cuts in projected growth

NDIS Minister Bill Shorten’s post-budget press release said that government reforms to the NDIS will curtail the Scheme’s growth by $14.4bn over the next four years. Consequently, the NDIS will only increase by $1.5bn over the next five years from January 2024 (the move from 4 to 5 year timelines is confusing- but probably not that consequential). 

This moderation in growth was heralded as one of the biggest savings of the budget. The only catch is that it's all based on reforms proposed in the Getting NDIS Back on Track Bill- which has not yet passed parliament. It’s a bit of a case of counting your chickens before they hatch. And even if the Bill does pass parliament, we don’t have a detailed breakdown of how it will  deliver the promised savings. There has to be more to these projects than divination sprinkled with a bit of maths, right?

Between the financial years of 2022/23 and 2023/24, the NDIS grew from $36.9bn to $44.3bn.  That’s a growth rate of 20%. In April last year, National Cabinet agreed to curtail the growth of the Scheme to 8% per annum.

Responding to NDIS Review

The budget commits $129.8m over 2 years for design and consultation with the disability community to respond to the findings of the NDIS Review. If that sounds vague to you, then your assessment is correct. It's unclear which of the NDIS Review’s 26 recommendations and 139 supporting actions this money will be focused on.

What we do know is that two new working group/ committees will be established: 

  • NDIS Implementation Advisory Committee- that will oversee the implementation of the government’s response to the Review. It will consist of representatives from the disability sector, governments and other experts, and reports to the Disability Reform Ministerial Council every 6 months.
  • NDIS Implementation Working Group- that will coordinate the response to the NDIS Review across government.

It’s also worth noting that while the budget commits funding to addressing the findings of the NDIS Review, it remains pretty silent on funding to implement the the Disability Royal Commission recommendations.

Navigation

The NDIS Review recommended phasing out the roles of Support Coordinators, Psychosocial Recovery Coaches, Plan Managers, and Partners in the Community, and eventually replacing them with a new Navigation service available to all people with disability. The government hasn’t yet formally responded to this recommendation. However, the budget includes a $20m investment over two years to design and consult on a future navigation model. Minister Shorten’s press release acknowledges that the disability community wants a ‘careful transition to any future navigation model.’ It also promised to work closely with the disability sector, including support coordinators and plan managers.

Reforming NDIS Pricing

The budget promises $5.3m over the next year to do the ‘preliminary work’ to reform the process for setting NDIS price caps. The aim is to ‘strengthen transparency, predictability, and alignment.’ As part of this process, the government will consider the NDIS Review’s recommendation to transfer the responsibility for advising on price caps from the NDIA to the Independent Health and Aged Care Pricing Authority (IHACPA).

NDIS Evidence Advisory Committee

The budget commits $45.5 million over four years to establish an NDIS Evidence Advisory Committee (NDIS EAC). The NDIS EAC will advise governments on which therapeutic supports are likely to be beneficial, safe and cost effective. This is in line with a recommendation from the NDIS Review.

The NDIS EAC is not to be confused with the grassroots NDIS campaign group Every Australian Counts (EAC). Nor is it to be confused with the NDIS Independent Advisory Council (IAC), which is a council of people with lived experience who advise the NDIS Board. There are so many acronyms in this sector, and only 26 letters in the English alphabet. We’re bound to get into confusing territory eventually. 

Foundational Supports

The budget had surprisingly little to say about foundational supports, given they are key to the government’s plan to reduce the growth of the NDIS. Though earlier in the year the government did commit $11.6m to develop the Foundational Supports Strategy. We know the government wants to move quickly. The Foundational Supports Strategy is due to be released later this year. And the  DSS website says that foundational supports will begin to be commissioned in mid-2025, and fully rolled out by mid-2027.

This timeline probably means that next year’s budget is going to be a big one for foundational supports, and hopefully we’ll begin to see some pretty substantial commitments.

Jobseeker

People on Jobseeker who are unable to work more than 14 hours a week will see a slight increase in their payments. This cohort includes many people with disability who have limited working capacity, but have been unable to access the Disability Support Pension. The Jobseeker rate for these people will increase by $54.90 a fortnight. But it will still be well below the Henderson Poverty Line.

Changes to the Carer Payment

The government has increased the number of hours carers can work without having their Carer Payment cancelled. Carers can now work 100 hours over 4 weeks, compared to the current limit of 25 hours.

Travel time, education and volunteer activities will no longer count towards a carer’s work hours. People will also be able to use Temporary Cessation of Care days to occasionally work extra hours when the person they are supporting is in respite.

For people who go over the new limit, their Carer Payment will now be suspended for 6 months rather than cancelled altogether. This means recipients won’t need to reapply if their work circumstances change later- no small matter considering the pain-in-the-arse it is to apply for Centrelink payments.

Revamping the disability employment system

We’ve known for a while now that the existing Disability Employment System is set to be replaced from 1 July 2025. This budget commits an extra $227.6m to develop the new Specialist Disability Employment Program, bringing the total commitment to $5.4bn over 5 years. The new program will include a digital platform for providers and participants. Eligibility will also expand to include volunteers and people with less than 8 hours a week of work capacity.

The budget also includes $23.3m over 4 years to establish a Disability Employment Centre of Excellence. The Centre of Excellence will build the capacity of employment service providers. And with a name like that, they better be nothing short of excellent.

National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline and the Complaints Resolution and Referral Service

$2.6m of additional support has been directed to the continued delivery of the National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline and Complaints Resolution and Referral Service. These programs provide a channel to report abuse and neglect of people with disability and raise complaints about Australian Government funded disability services outside the NDIS.

NDIS Commission

$160.7 million has been allocated to the NDIS Commission’s information technology upgrade. The recent Boland Review highlighted serious gaps in the Commission’s current system so this is no doubt an important investment.  

Fighting fraud

The government has also committed $83.9m over 2 years to boost the fraud detection capabilities of the NDIA’s IT system.

Mental Health

The budget has included some new investments in mental health, including:

  • $558m over 8 years to establish a digital mental health service.
  • The development of 61 free Medicare mental health centres.
  • $71.7 million over four years to fund primary health networks to provide mental health nurse and allied health services for people waiting for specialist appointments.

There are a range of other budget measures that will impact people with disability including measures aimed to address the rising cost of living and investments in health. If you want to dive deep into the details, grab a very large cuppa (maybe a pot) and head over to https://budget.gov.au/.

If you just want the basics, you can start by checking out the Ministers press release pages.

Minister Rishworth

Minister Shorten

The Department of Social Services also has a dedicated budget page, with fact sheets and press releases about changes impacting the social sector. 

Artwork by Melissa Pym. Check out Mel’s linktr.ee.

Authors

Sara Gingold
Jessica Quilty

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