Disability insurance: best practice policy? ‘Perfect run’ for scheme

Australia’s fledgling disability insurance scheme has a number of big challenges ahead. But its architects now hail the “perfect” policymaking to date.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme is on track and has high satisfaction levels among participants, according to the latest figures published this week. The former Families and Community Services secretary describes the NDIS as representing Australia’s “best practice policy development” and a model for public servants seeking to advance good policy through governments.

The first year of trials has seen a very high level of uptake among participants — those with disabilities needing a support provider. As of the end of June, $285 million had been committed to participants with approved plans, who in turn represent 78% of the target number of participants agreed between the Commonwealth and state governments. The participants have been accessing the scheme via four trial sites across the country. A further three trial sites opened on July 1, extending the scheme to all states except Queensland (the northern state will be online by July 2016).

National Disability Insurance Agency chair Bruce Bonyhardy addressed the scheme’s national conference just prior to the results being released, saying that what had been achieved was impressive. However, there are still big challenges ahead in pricing and assisting service providers transition from a guaranteed client base to a competitive open market. He said the “reasonable cost model” had been agreed, if not yet the actual prices.

“We also need to find service delivery solutions for people living in regional and remote Australia where the workforce is patchy at best, and non-existent at worst,” Bonyhardy said. “Experience gained during the trial phase has demonstrated that the development of the market is a critical challenge. There is a high risk that demand generated by the NDIS will outstrip supply.”

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