National Disability Agreement ‘outdated and irrelevant’

The National Disability Agreement is “outdated and irrelevant” and doesn’t reflect the implementation of the NDIS, the Productivity Commission says.

The National Disability Agreement is “outdated and irrelevant” and doesn’t reflect the changed landscape following the implementation of the NDIS, the Productivity Commission says.

Robert Fitzgerald

The commission has called for a new disability agreement between Australian governments which better addresses the needs of millions of Australians with disability who are not covered by the NDIS, which currently supports just 475,000.

In a report released on Friday the commission notes that the disability policy landscape has changed significantly since the current agreement began ten years ago, and the introduction of the NDIS has come at the cost of some 3.8 million Australians excluded from the scheme.

 “With so much focus on the NDIS, limited attention has been placed on achieving better outcomes for the many people with disability who are not supported through the NDIS.

“Most people with disabilities are not and never will be covered by the NDIS yet their rights, needs and aspirations matter,” Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald says.

Lack of progress meeting goals

He says there has been little progress in meeting previously agreed goals such as increasing labour force participation rates for people with disability and providing better support and services to carers.

The commissioner also identified a shortfall in disability advocacy services, support for people with psychosocial disability and access to community and inclusion programs.

A new agreement must set out the responsibility of all levels of government to provide services outside the NDIS, including housing, transport, health, justice and education, the report says.

It also calls for a better performance reporting system and the publication of a National Disability Report every two years.

Work begins on new agreement

Paul Fletcher
Paul Fletcher

The government welcomed the report and said it recognised the disability policy landscape had changed since 2008.

Disability Services Minister Paul Fletcher said work has already started on developing the new National Disability Strategy for beyond 2020 and public consultation would begin later this year.

“We understand the need for a renewed commitment between the Commonwealth and the states and territories,” Mr Fletcher said in a statement.

In an exclusive comments to Community Care Review ahead of the publication of the Productivity  Commission report, Assistant Minister for Disability Services Minister Sarah Henderson acknowledged it was time to revisit the nation’s disability strategy and said the government was taking the next chapter seriously.

On Friday she added that the NDIS was never intended to replace disability services provided by the states and territories nor remove their responsibility to provide support.

Serena Ovens, executive officer of the Physical Disability Council of NSW and convener of the Disability Advocacy alliance, said PDCN was pleased that the Productivity Commission was looking beyond the NDIS and recognising the gaps that existed.

“We’re really pleased to see that people are looking outside of the NDIS and realising that there are 90 per cent of people with disability who aren’t covered by the NDIS and for whom most governments have abdicated their responsibility, whilst handing over their funds to the NDIS,” she told Community Care Review.

“We need another agreement that looks at the landscape now that we know what the NDIS actually does and doesn’t cover.”

National Disability Services, the nation’s peak industry body for non-government disability service organisations, said the NDA was the appropriate mechanism for linking various strands of policy including the National Disability Strategy, elements of the NDIS and other goverment disability initiates.

However, NDS CEO Chris Tanti agreed that that current NDA no longer served its purpose and a new agreement was needed.

“The previous NDA was signed in 2008 and since then we have seen unprecedented change in our sector with the rollout of the NDIS, and so a new NDA is long overdue,” he said.

“Just 10 per cent of people with disability are likely to be eligible for an individual NDIS package. There are more than 4 million Australians with disability who are not eligible for NDIS support that are needing to be acknowledged.”

NDS also welcomed remomendations for the governments to publish which programs are rolling into the NDIS and how people who are not covered will be supported, Mr Tanti said.

The Productivity Commission Review of the National Disability Agreement Study Report can be found here

Read more:

Disability advocacy groups campaign for ongoing funding

Councils warn transition to NDIS will cost disability services

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