A National Disability Insurance Scheme -   This document was prepared by a coalition of Australian disability service providers, including Yooralla, The Spastic Centre and Disability Services Australia.

It’s time to change the way services for people with disabilities are funded and structured in Australia. It’s time to make services for people with disabilities and their families effective, equitable and efficient. Almost every Australian has cared, or is caring, for a family member with a disability, or knows of a family doing so.

Many of these families fall through a huge gap in Australia’s social services network. Those who acquire a disability through a workplace or a motor vehicle accident generally receive financial support. However, for those who acquire permanent disabilities in other accidents, are born with a permanent disability, acquire a permanent disability through a medical condition or have a permanent mental illness, there is no automatic support to meet their needs.

This is a national disgrace and an issue for every Australian. It’s time to introduce a new national safety net, ensuring peace of mind for all Australians should they or someone they love become severely disabled.In place of Australia’s current crisis-driven, outmoded welfare-based approach to disability services, it’s time for a modern, forward-thinking National Disability Insurance Scheme. Governments are already spending billions of dollars on disability services.

A national insurance approach with its inbuilt focus on lifetime needs and claims management would be much more effective and efficient, as well as fair. With the number of Australians with a severe physical, intellectual and/or behavioural disability increasing, and the community’s capacity to provide informal care declining, it’s time to start planning properly for the future, as Australia did in the 1980s when compulsory superannuation was introduced. It’s time to cement a National Disability Insurance Scheme as a central plank of Australia’s social and economic policy framework.

The Plan - A National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) would replace Australia’s current crisis-driven, welfare-based approach to disability services. The scheme would provide funding for essential care, support, therapy, aids, equipment, home modifications and access to the community, education and training. As an insurance-based scheme, providing cover to Australians as and when they needed it, an NDIS would be funded by all taxpayers through general revenue or an extension of the Medicare insurance levy.

An insurance-based approach to disability services stems from the view that disability is a ‘risk’ that can strike anyone in our society, with potentially catastrophic consequences if proper support services are not in place, but will not affect everyone. Because an NDIS would be a major social and economic reform, on a par with the introduction of Medicare and compulsory superannuation, the first necessary step towards implementation is a detailed feasibility study that would allow for careful, thorough planning and consultations with the States and all stakeholders.

It is envisaged that principal beneficiaries would be those Australians with profound and severe disabilities (approx 700,000) who need assistance with daily living tasks (self care, communication and mobility) while people with more moderate disabilities could also be eligible for some assistance based on their lesser needs. 

The defining criteria should be needs, as determined by clear eligibility criteria, which would include measures of physical, intellectual and behavioural disabilities.An NDIS would enable Australia to satisfy the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which Australia became a signatory in July 2008.

Today, responsibility for meeting these basic standards is being shuffled between the Commonwealth and the States. Under an NDIS, people with disabilities would be at the centre of a new service delivery system which would empower them to make choices. More