The NDIS: it’s not (yet) about community impact


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What constitutes success for disability insurance and service delivery? The scheme might be on track and on budget, but its exact mission remains unarticulated.

As Bruce Bonyhady says in the recent update on the pilot NDIS locations, the National Disability Insurance Scheme is “the biggest social policy reform in 30 years”. But in the current rhetoric about customer satisfaction and average package costs it is easy to lose track of, arguably, the most important issue the scheme should address: what defines a “good” outcome for NDIS clients, and for Australia more broadly?

Better long-term health and life outcomes for Australians living with disability will hugely decrease the expected acceleration in healthcare costs over the next 20 years. In order to achieve this benefit the scheme can’t just achieve short-term satisfaction, or targeted costs — it has to deliver innovative, integrated and better services to people living with disability.

Existing services are often excellent, but they are fragmented and the balance of service provision is not managed to get to the best long-term results. The NDIS addresses this through the creation of individualised plans for people, plans that should take into account a well-articulated model of how services today lead to better outcomes, not just tomorrow but in 20 years’ time.

Creating such a plan requires expertise, vision and sometimes even debate with the person for whom the plan is developed, or with their family. At the moment the National Disability Insurance Agency is tasked with this planning, and any measure of the quality of the plans developed is conspicuously absent from the NDIA update. The agency talks about “implementing a way of measuring outcomes for participants, their families and carers”, but it is about more than this: it’s about measuring outcomes for Australia. It’s about fewer disabled Australians excluded from productive, profitable work; about lower costs of palliative treatment in the future because we invested wisely now in remedial or pro-active strategies to reduce future need and even dependence.

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  • Brendan

    The ‘experts’ are people with disabilities, families and key supports. You lost me when you said “… sometimes even debate with the person for whom the plan is developed, or with their family.”