NDIS commences in Central and Eastern Sydney

As the newly appointed co-chair of the Central and Eastern Sydney PHN Disability Network, I was given the task here to introduce myself and share with you a little information about the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) which commenced in Sydney and South Eastern Sydney local health districts on 1 July 2017.

I look forward to contributing to this important forum, the role of which is to help the primary health network develop strategies that facilitate the rollout of the NDIS.

I work as a Policy and Advocacy Officer for Spinal Cord Injuries Australia (SCIA) and my recent background has been in the area of disability policy. I have a spinal cord injury myself after a fall some years ago and so having a significant physical disability and living in south eastern Sydney, the date of 1 July 2017 was not only very pertinent from a work perspective, but also personally. I will be a participant in the NDIS very shortly having just had my planning meeting with a Local Area Coordinator, whose role it is to collect all the relevant data needed to develop an individualised plan that details all of the necessary supports I need, through goals and aspirations, in order for me to live independently in the community.

Nationally, the rollout of the scheme is a massive undertaking that will see around 460,000 people with disability become participants with their own plans that each individual will have full control over by being flexible and offering choice in a market-based system. This is a fundamental shift away from a block-funded, state delivered service delivery model whereby the service provider was given the funding, with little input from people with disability. The new model places the purse strings directly into the hands of people with disability.

The implementation of the NDIS so far has not been without its problems as the just released Productivity Commission’s NDIS Costs inquiry draft position paper has noted. The Scheme is broadly on track financially, but there are concerns around the speed of the rollout and its effect on the quality of participant plans, inadequate preplanning support, and the challenges of developing an adequate disability care workforce – to name just a few issues. No doubt these are just some of the teething issues of a brand-new scheme. On a more positive note, there is broad commitment across all stakeholders in ensuring the scheme is sustainable and successful. It has already brought about real improvements in the lives of many people with disability.

Already, there are more than 75,000 people in the scheme according to the latest NDIS quarterly report and the July introduction within the CESPHN region will introduce many more people who have so far been watching its rapid expansion. A large number will be transitioning from state programs funded through the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care but there will also be many children and adults with disability receiving services for the first time and this will have a profound effect on their lives.

Tony Jones