NDIS Has Lost Focus on Need: CSSA

By Andrew Heaton

(image source: Yooralla)

A focus on individual need rather than cost has been lost as the National Disability Insurance Scheme has been rolled out, a leading social services organisation says.

In its submission to the Productivity Commission’s study into the National Disability Insurance Scheme Costs, Catholic Social Services Australia said significant issues had been experienced with the implementation of the NDIS on trial sites which were preventing participants from fully realising the benefits offered by the scheme.

Chief amongst these concerns was a focus on costs rather than individual user requirements.

Whereas the scheme began with an emphasis upon a person-centred approach and personal choice, it said that this had been changed during implementation and that there was now greater emphasis upon cost reduction and assessments based around overall budgets.

Package benchmark which are designed to assist providers with understanding how their costs compare with peers and help the National Disability Insurance Agency to better understand the costs associated with disability support and what drives those costs in individual markets, for example, were being treated as funding caps rather than the guidelines they were intended to be.

In the Australian Capital Territory, meanwhile, a number of participants were experiencing reviews of their package following their first plan (often triggered without the individual, their family or service provider being aware) and a reduction in their funding support.

In addition, CCSA says that pricing levels were inadequate in order to meet the true cost of service delivery and utilise flawed criteria for many service types.

Prices for short term accommodation, for example, were often based upon lower staff to client ratios compared to what is required and do not appropriately account for weekend penalty rates.

Finally, an additional concern revolves around pathways to access the scheme becoming more complex, resulting in a ‘survival of the fittest’ phenomenon whereby those who are less able to articulate their requirements are less successful in receiving support.

“CSSA members believe that the NDIS objectives have changed from the initial intention of providing a better quality of life for people with a disability and their carers to ‘Value for Money.’”, CSSA Chief Executive Officer Fr Frank Brennan said.

“The NDIS has shifted from an investment approach and early intervention to a focus on costs. The original intent was that no one should be worse off under the NDIS but unfortunately in many cases this has not happened.”

CCSA’s submission is one of 187 submissions which the PC has received in relation to its study into NDIS costs.

The Commission is looking into a range of matters, such as the sustainability of the scheme from a cost perspective, cost escalation pressures, whether or not the scheme has impacted mainstream services and what can be done in order to manage the potential for cost overruns.

The submissions come amid concerns that people especially with mental disabilities will miss out as the rollout of the NDIS sees money taken from other programs.

News Corporation reports suggest that around $3 billion in other mental health programs will be ‘lost’ or withdrawn from other programs.

In its submission, CCSA calls for a ‘major refocus’ to ensure that providers are able to deliver services which build upon client and community capacity.

It also calls for more adequate and transparent price setting and greater clarity surrounding NDIS eligibility criteria.

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