5.2 The introduction of the NDIS followed long-term concern about the inefficiency and inequitable nature of disability support arrangements in Australia and calls for the introduction of a new mechanism for funding support for people with disability. The NDIS represents a significant new area of Commonwealth responsibility and expenditure. The NDIS represents
a significant step toward addressing the deficiencies of the current disability service systems that exist across Australia, and to advancing cultural change and genuine social inclusion.
5.3 While not all people with disability are eligible for the NDIS, it represents a key area of Commonwealth law in which the Commonwealth decision-making model should apply. The NDIS was designed to empower people with disability and to facilitate their choice and control. With respect to decision-making, while the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (Cth) (NDIS Act) contains some provisions which facilitate supported decision-making, it ultimately retains a substitute decision-making model, through the use of ‘nominees’.
5.4 As outlined below, the NDIS is still in its early stages with roll-out at several trial sites. However, the ALRC considers that the ongoing roll-out of the NDIS and the scheduled reviews, outlined briefly below, provide useful opportunities for evaluating any supported decision-making model and making any necessary changes to ensure the model is working effectively.
5.5 In August 2011, the Productivity Commission released its report, Disability Care and Support. The Report found that ‘current disability support arrangements are inequitable, underfunded, fragmented and inefficient, and give people with a disability little choice’. The Productivity Commission recommended the establishment of a new National Disability Insurance Scheme to provide insurance cover for all Australians in the event of significant disability. It suggested that the main function of the NDIS would be to fund long-term high quality care and support for people with significant disabilities.
5.6 In response, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) recognised the need for major reform of disability services through an NDIS. At a meeting of the Select Council on Disability Reform in October 2011, all Select Council Ministers agreed to lay the foundations for the NDIS by mid-2013. In December 2012, COAG signed an Intergovernmental Agreement for the NDIS launch. The Commonwealth and several states and territories also signed bilateral agreements confirming the operational and funding details for the roll-out of the NDIS.
5.7 In March 2013, the NDIS Act was enacted. The Act is supplemented by a number of NDIS Rules, which address the more detailed operational aspects of the scheme. There are also a number of Operational Guidelines, including about nominees and supporting participants’ decision-making. The scheme is administered by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) (formerly DisabilityCare Australia).
5.8 Implementation of the NDIS began in July 2013 with roll-out in four trial sites—South Australia, Tasmania, the Hunter Area in New South Wales, and the Barwon area of Victoria. In July 2014, the NDIS will commence in the ACT, the Barkly region of the Northern Territory, and in the Perth Hills area of Western Australia. Roll-out of the full scheme in all states and territories except Western Australia is scheduled to commence progressively from July 2016.
Reviews and evaluations
5.9 There are a number of completed, current and planned reviews of the NDIS and NDIA of potential relevance to this Inquiry, including:
a review of the capabilities of the NDIA;
a COAG report on cost drivers of the NDIS;
consideration of the NDIS in the course of the National Commission of Audit;
an evaluation of the trial of the NDIS being led by the National Institute of Labour Studies;
an independent review of the operation of the NDIS Act; and
a review of the Intergovernmental Agreement by the Ministerial Council.
5.10 A Joint Parliamentary Standing Committee on the NDIS was also established in December 2013, tasked with reviewing the implementation, administration and expenditure of the NDIS.
5.11 While many of these reviews and evaluations will be conducted following the conclusion of the ALRC’s Inquiry, the ALRC’s Final Report may inform part of their work. In the same manner, the ALRC will consider relevant outcomes of these reports and evaluations, as well as the work of the Joint Standing Committee, in making recommendations in its Final Report.