While hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities will now get services they have never had under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), we must closely examine how the scheme is being implemented.
The public should demand nothing less in return for the $22 billion of public expenditure and the vulnerability of the recipients. But that is not happening.
The NDIS is brilliant for people with physical disabilities, but the scheme risks further marginalising thousands of people with profound intellectual disability.
As the funding formula stands in Victoria, the most vulnerable people — those living with profound disabilities in residential accommodation — are likely to receive a significantly lower level of service under the NDIS.
This lower service will be the result of profiteering service providers, a lack of advocacy services and a major shortage of skilled and experienced staff.
Further, the scheme is being formally rolled out without “quality and safeguarding guidelines” in place. How can this be — especially in the light of the many horrible stories of abuse that the Senate inquiry brought to light?
The NDIS model is a unique experiment using a market-based voucher system. Vulnerable people and their families will be exploited unless proper regulation and a quality workforce exists.
It is expected that staff numbers will double, but there is no allowance in the NDIS funding formulas for training, mandatory background checks, or even minimum qualifications of the staff who support people with complex cognitive and medical needs.
The proposed structures are designed to drive down wages and conditions. The Victorian government proposal to look at privatising public disability services is aimed to cut costs.
The NDIS is Australia's greatest social reform in 30 years, and we want it to work. But it is time we paid attention to its flaws.
[Lloyd Williams is the Victorian state secretary of the Health and Community Services Union.]