NDIS Ramps up But Cost Pressures Remain

By Andrew Heaton

The ramp up of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is gaining pace although cost pressures remain, according to the latest report.

Unveiling its latest quarterly report, the National Disability Insurance Agency said 90,722 participants were being supported with an NDIS plan as at the end of June – more than triple the 30,281 which were being supported with a plan at the end of the trial period in June last year.

Since then, Social Services Minister Christian Porter now says the number of participants in the scheme has now reached over 100,000.

Those with intellectual disability and autism were the most common recipients, making up 56 percent of all plan participants.

Other plan participants include those with psychosocial disability, cerebral palsy, other neurological disease, other physical impairment, acquired brain injury, visual impairment, hearing impairment, speech/sensory impairment, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury and stroke.

The number of approved providers, as well, has grown to 8,698 – although more than half of these are yet to register their first NDIS participant.

Notwithstanding ongoing challenges, meanwhile, overall participant experience remains positive.

All up, 84 percent of participants who were surveyed by the NDIA during the quarter rated their satisfaction with the agency as being either good or very good.

Nevertheless, ongoing challenges regarding costs and participant experience remain.

In respect of costs, the agency said ongoing pressures continued to arise out of higher than anticipated numbers of children entering the scheme, increasing package costs, a greater number of participants continuing to approach the scheme compared with what was expected, lower than anticipated numbers of participants exiting the scheme and a mismatch between package costs and actual committed support.

For these reasons, the agency said that whilst the most recent Productivity Commission estimate of $22 million remained the best approximation of realistic costs for a well-run scheme once the scheme is running at full capacity, the NDIA says exact costs are not yet known and ongoing work to verify the likely long-term cost of the scheme is continuing.

In response to these pressures, the agency says it is rolling out two initiatives.

First, an Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) approach aims to provide a gateway for the NDIS for children aged six years or younger and to ensure that only those young children who meet the eligibility criteria for the scheme enrol as participants.

Second, a reference package and planning process is being used to better align support packages with needs for participants when they first enter the system.

In terms of participant and provider experience, a review undertaken by the agency uncovered that pathways in respect of the scheme had not been sufficiently focused upon outcomes.

The agency says it is is redesigning pathways to make these more participant focused; more supportive of carers, providers and disability groups; easier for providers and sustainable within a defined funding envelope from an overall financial perspective.

Once in full force, the NDIS is expected to assist 460,000 Australians with significant and permanent disability.

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