Friday, 27 July 2012

A National Disability Insurance Scheme

is one of those things on the long wish list of many people with disabilities and their carers. It would provide funding for all people with disabilities however they had acquired their disability. It would even out the inequitable arrangements between those born disabled, disabled through illness or personal accident or who acquired a disability through the "fault" of others. It has long been seen as unfair that someone who acquires an injury through a road accident will receive much greater assistance than someone who is born with a disability which leaves them similarly or even more severely disabled.
We thought we had moved a step closer when there was apparent bi-partisan support for an NDIS. The Opposition policy is to support an NDIS. It is what the Productivity Commission study recommended.
The cost would be huge - about $15bn a year on one estimate. As these things always get under rather than over estimated most people know it is not going to happen any time soon. The Federal and state governments simply do not have that sort of money.
This has not stopped the current Labor government from putting up a proposal at the latest COAG meeting - the meeting it holds with state premiers to thrash out funding and policy issues. They are offering "$1bn" for a "trial" of an NDIS.
It sounded good. People got excited. The state I live in (held by a Labor government) plans to participate.
I attended a short meeting yesterday and we looked at the fine print. I was asked a good many questions by people who have been trying to get this up and running. I was asked about the design of the study, the local proposal for participating and other things.
It is a trial which is designed to fail. There are no controls. There are no checks and balances. The sample is biased.
In this state the money is going only to families of the very youngest children with disabilities - and only a few of them. Of course they need help but this is a trial which is supposed to be looking at a wide section of the population. Similar problems exist in the other Labor states - the only states to participate so far.
Then there are other problems. The states have to fund part of this themselves. To do so they will take money from other areas of need, including other disability services. There is never enough money and this will make matters worse.
And what happens at the end of the trial, when the money runs out? Do the families who have been receiving assistance, who have ordered their lives around this package suddenly find themselves without the services they have chosen to access?
All of that and many other issues however suddenly seemed trivial when I pointed out that of the almost one billion dollars the government claimed they would be spending a minimum of $635m was going to go on "administration". It leaves about one third for actual use.
"Administration"? It is a trial designed to fail and fail again. It is a political ploy designed to make the government look good but achieve nothing for people with disabilities.
 As one of the other participants in the meeting said,
        "I wonder how much of that is going to be siphoned off to the unions and passed back into party funds?"
I wonder too.
PS Added at 10:43 - Any Australian reading this - I also refer you to the front page of today's Australian and Peter van Onselen's column. It seems the PM turned down a possible Medicare levy type funding solution as well - which the Premiers put forward.  I will not comment on that but hope someone will.

No comments: