Analysis of Design gives rise to fears for NDIS – Dr Simon Duffy, Centre for Welfare Reform

We know the Federal government is rushing the design, rushing the legislation and rushing the trials. Why the rush is a good question given that the Productivity Commission said the trials should not start until 2014 to enable the government to provide for this complex national Scheme.  Dr Simon Duffy director of the Centre for Welfare Reform in the UK, has recently visited Australia at the invitation of the South Australian government to examine what is being done in preparation for an NDIS. What follow is Dr Simon Duffy’s initial critique:

The commitment by the Federal government of Australia to launch the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) has the potential to be one of the most exciting instruments for turning disability rights into real rights. However, much will depend on the details of how the NDIS is designed. Early indications give grave cause for concern.

Dr Duffy says:

The current design seems to have the following features:

  1. A Federally controlled bureaucracy will deliver a care management service
  2. There will be no overall budget for the bureaucracy to work within
  3. There will be no strategic role for States, except as service providers
  4. Budgets will be developed by paid Facilitators who will develop a Plan with the person
  5. Funds will be released in accordance with that Plan to citizens or services
  6. The Plan is the central control mechanism and people must work to their Plan and their success at achieving agreed Outcomes will be monitored
  7. All of this will be delivered through a computer system that still needs to be designed but, into which, everybody must be linked
  8. The details of this centralised system will be locked into detailed legislation

Versions of this kind of model have been tried in other countries before now – this kind of model leads quickly to cost inflation and then in turn to inappropriate rationing by bureaucratic control.

I have spent 22 years trying to design decent and affordable systems of individualised funding in the UK. I’ve been lucky enough to also explore other international models. The decision by Australia to develop NDIS was seen by many of us as one of the most exciting international development for people with disabilities – an insurance model that would deliver real entitlements and put people with disabilities in control of their own lives.

However, as it is currently imagined, I think that Australia is in danger of building the world’s worst system of individualised funding.

I do not make this judgement lightly, and it is certainly not what I hoped to find.

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