CEO Update - What is the best guarantee of ongoing NDIS funding?

Lachlan Searle

It was no surprise that we saw some pre-Budget announcements this week, but when the Treasurer announced the Government would not proceed with a Medicare levy to fund the NDIS there was an outpouring of concern.

People who live with disability, along with their carers and supporters, deserve certainty regarding the long term supports they rely upon. But how do we achieve that certainly, in an ever changing economic environment?

Firstly, we need to accurately describe the supports the NDIS will provide.

As the NDIS rolls out, it is still not entirely clear exactly what constitutes “reasonable and necessary” support. As more and more participants enter the NDIS and develop packages of support this will become clearer. There will be debates at the edges and decisions made about what is in, and what is out. Making these decisions is further complicated by the fact that for many participants, those reasonable and necessary supports will look different to supports that have been previously provided, and in many cases, not provided at all.

The vision for the NDIS is that “individual choice and control” will mean individuals, and their carers, are empowered to make their own decisions about reasonable and necessary supports.

I’ve heard many reports of this being a frustrating and challenging process for many participants, but there are also stories of hope. As this process gathers momentum, the picture of what the total ongoing cost of the Scheme will become clearer.

We also need a clearer picture of what supports will persist outside the Scheme, and which will be withdrawn. This seems particularly important in the areas of mental health and psychosocial disability, where many supports previously provided outside the Scheme are being withdraw. This is the first step in providing certainty.

Secondly, we need an enduring and non-partisan commitment to funding the “reasonable and necessary” supports promised by the NDIS. This seems much more challenging.

What part of the Budget is ever “guaranteed”?  Our political discourse is full of debates about the cost and funding of essential services and programs.

A Medicare levy raises funding that can be spent on health, but Medicare items can be added or removed from the schedule of payments.

Defence enjoys a notional promise of spending according to a percentage of the GDP, until a Government releases a budget that spends less.

Education spending has been hotly debated in recent years, though I don’t think you would find a single person who did not consider it “essential spending”.

When the Government proposed an increase in the Medicare levy a year ago, to support spending on the NDIS, it was not hypothecated: that’s to say, there was no guarantee or direct arrangement that would have seen revenue spent directly on the NDIS.

Mitch Fifield once said words to the effect “Decisions of Government remain decisions of Government, until further decisions of Government”.  So today’s decision can be changed tomorrow, as there are no watertight guarantees.

What is the best guarantee of ongoing NDIS funding?

A well run Scheme, and constant vigilance from participants, carers, supporters, advocates and the broader community. Vigilance that compels governments and oppositions to make good on the promise, made on our behalf, to provide reasonable and necessary supports to all of us who need them.

Warm regards,

Frank Quinlan
Chief Executive Officer

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NDIS Medicare levy funding