The NDIS funding switch has caught disability advocates off-guard with some expressing concerns for the scheme’s long term future.
The government’s announcement to reassign NDIS funds for drought relief has meant the scheme’s funding will be changed to consolidated revenue.
LiveBetter’s CEO Tim Curran said people accessing the NDIS should not be alarmed at the redirection of funds in the short term.
“My main concern with this recent announcement is the long term financial viability of the NDIS,” Mr Curran said.
“Both the current government and previous Labor government were responsible for creating and funding the NDIS in the first place, and both the government and opposition continually say they are fully committed to funding it.
“But what happens in 10 or 15 years’ time when the government of the day might be confronted with really difficult budget decisions?
“If the NDIS is just funded out of consolidated revenue, and if the government needs to find billions of dollars of budget saving, then the NDIS gets pitted against every other government funded program, including health, education, defence and welfare, in a fight for funding,” Mr Curran said.
The CEO argued that if the NDIS was funded via a special purpose vehicle or a special levee or tax, then it would be extremely difficult for the government of the day to reduce the level of funding for the NDIS.
“This announcement took everybody by surprise as there was no warning and no consultations,” Mr Curran said.
“Of course we all welcome the drought relief package, but I can understand why some people feel this was a thought bubble and are questioning how seriously the government is treating the NDIS when it can make a spur-of-the-moment decision like this.”
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, at the time of the announcement, reminded everyone that the current budget is $19 billion stronger than when the estimates were first put together.
Regional Disability Advocacy’s executive officer Martin Butcher said he understood the government’s need to fund the drought relief, but that it should not be at the “expense of people with disabilities”.
“We are concerned about people living in rural and regional areas that are having difficulty accessing the NDIS, like transportation for farming families with disabilities,” Mr Butcher said.
“I went to a consultation in Wagga where a parent lived 40 kilometres out and they have to drive to Wagga everyday so they could attend day programs, because they require additional funding for transport which is not included in their NDIS plan.
“If the NDIS was fully funded and fully implemented the way it was intended, that family would have had enough money in their plan for their son’s transportation needs.”
People with disabilities in Wagga only received access to the NDIS in July 1, 2017.
However, disability service and support group Intereach said like any “major social reform”, there are going to be some “teething problems”.
“We are already seeing a lot of positive stories emerging in the Murrumbidgee area as part of the NDIS rollout,” Intereach CEO Keryn Fox said.