Disability providers have raised concerns about measures to rein in spending on the National Disability Insurance Scheme after the Morrison government signalled its cost was becoming unsustainable, with more people accessing the service than expected.
The nation’s peak body for non-government disability service organisations – National Disability Services – on Monday said the value of the scheme to participants could not be underestimated and any cost reduction needed to consider Australians with disabilities first.
It comes as The Australian revealed that the scheme’s 472,000 participants received $2.15bn in July, 3 per cent more than estimated in a sustainability report from the same month, with costs running 18 per cent higher than the same time last year.
NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds told 6PR on Monday the scheme would outstrip the cost of Medicare in less than two years if spending was not brought into line. “Five months ago, we thought the NDIS would overtake the cost of the Medicare in three years but on the current rates it will surpass Medicare in less than two years,” she said.
Senator Reynolds said while the scheme had been intended for Australians with the “most significant and permanent” disabilities, “We’ve got many more young children with autism and early developmental (issues), who despite us providing early childhood intervention, are not leaving the scheme as we thought that they would. So there’s a whole range of people trying to come into this scheme because they’re obese or they’ve got disabilities from that health condition.”
National Disability Services’ interim chief executive, Laurie Leigh, said the growth in participant numbers was expected and welcome. “Any examination of the scheme costs must focus on participant outcomes as well as the economic benefits such as additional jobs in the sector and the reduction of costs in other parts of the system, for example in health or justice,” she said.
Coastal Residential Service chief Dee-Anne Kapene said she held concerns about which areas would be cut to curb spending.
“Money needs to be saved and costs controlled (but) this should not come at the expense of the supports provided to the individual participants,” she said.
“There is too much money being spent on the administrative processes of the scheme, and what some may see as unnecessary items and this must be looked at before any cuts are proposed.”
Greens senator Jordon Steele-John said Senator Reynolds’s suggestion was appalling. “The Liberal government needs to stop blaming disabled individuals and instead release the costings and assumptions behind their claims that the costs of the NDIS are increasing,” he said.
see also https://www.a4.org.au/node/2331
Minister warns NDIS will outstrip the cost of Medicare in two years
The Minister responsible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme has blamed an uptick of Australia’s aged, autistic and obese people for the “unsustainable” rising costs of the service.
NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds on Monday warned the scheme would outstrip the cost of Medicare in less than two years if it was not brought into line.
“When I came in as Minister, it was very clear to me that one of my major tasks was to not only improve the participants’ experience with the NDIS but also put it on a more sustainable cost trajectory,” Senator Reynolds told 6PR.
“Five months ago we thought the NDIS would overtake the cost of the Medicare in three years, but on the current rates it will surpass Medicare in less than two years.”
Monthly data released by the agency that oversees the NDIS shows costs are running 18 per cent higher than in July last year.
More than 472,000 participants received $2.15 billion in July, three per cent higher than estimated in a July sustainability report.
When asked what was contributing to the ballooning costs, Ms Reynolds said the scheme was “never intended” to serve all Australians who live with a disability.
“This was for those who had the most significant and permanent disability, to provide them with the support so that they can live an independent life as possible … but eligibility now has, in terms of who can come into the scheme, is quite unclear.”
Those aged over 65, including those with dementia, children with autism and early developmental delays, and people with disabilities associated with obesity were singled out as reasons for the rising costs.
“[The NDIS] wasn't designed to be a scheme for over 65. So people could age into the scheme, but it was expected that they would leave the scheme,” the minister said.
“We've got many more young children with autism, and early developmental domains, who despite us providing early childhood intervention, are not leaving the scheme as we thought that they would.
“So there's a whole range of people trying to come into this scheme, so for example, because they’re obese, and they’ve got disabilities from that health condition.”
The government has warned the NDIS could soon cost more than Medicare. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett
It’s not the first time the minister has warned about the rising costs of the scheme. In April it was revealed the National Disability Insurance Agency created a sustainability action task-force in an effort to slow its growth.
Minister Reynolds said she was committed to the vision of the NDIS but insisted state and territory governments should come to the table.
Canberra is on track to fund 60 per cent of the scheme by 2030 – despite the NDIS being launched as a 50-50 split between the states and the federal government. The government is currently renegotiating funding deals with its counterparts.
But Senator Reynolds acknowledged this could not happen without majority support.
“The buck certainly does stop with me in terms of the scheme,” she said.
“But I can’t make any significant change to the scheme without the unanimous support of every state and every territory.
“That’s why I’m working so closely with them … we all want this scheme to survive. The only way we can make sure it does is by working together. That’s the bottom line.”