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After the NDIS Review, all governments must act to uphold human rights of people with disability

Alison Barrett writes:

The long-awaited Review into the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was released last week with 26 recommendations and 139 supporting actions to be implemented over the next five years.

“All recommendations and actions must be implemented as a package to achieve a more inclusive and fairer Australia for all people with disability,” Review Co-Chairs Professor Bruce Bonyhady AM and Lisa Paul AO PSM wrote in the Report.

While welcoming the NDIS Review, disability advocacy and support groups have called for continued access to support for people with disability during the implementation of any changes recommended in the Review.

“Any changes to how support is provided, either inside or outside the Scheme, must not lead to any gaps in the support we receive,” the groups wrote in a joint statement.

The groups also recommend the urgent establishment of a Disability Reform Implementation Council to oversee the implementation of changes recommended in both the NDIS Review and recent Disability Royal Commission, emphasising that “people with disability must be at the heart of the implementation”.

First Nations people first

The NDIS Review Report – ‘working together to deliver the NDIS’ – emphasised the importance of creating a “more inclusive and accessible society that recognises and reflects the lived realities of First Nations people”, acknowledging that the NDIS has often been implemented at odds with First Nations culture and values.

The individual nature of NDIS funding “does not consider the strength” of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people’s values of holistic health, social, emotional and cultural wellbeing and the importance of family and community, the Report stated.

“To help the individual, you often have to support and build the capacity of the family and community…if the NDIS continues to operate without any flexibility to work with families, the scheme will limit individual choice and control for Anangu,” Kim McCrae told the Disability Royal Commission Public Hearing.

The Report noted that community-led and place-based approaches would improve outcomes for First Nations communities.

First Peoples Disability Network Senior Policy Manager Kelly Cox said in a statement “it is significant that we are moving toward a holistic system where people who are not eligible for the NDIS will now be able to access services and support”.

Cox said the Report “provides positive signs” for change but wants to see government action on their commitments including on co-design.

FPDN CEO Damian Griffis is optimistic about the report including the recommendation for a “dedicated First Nations schedule [Action 20.4], forum and better accountability across all governments to Closing the Gap” but said in a statement “we have been calling for these changes for a long time”.

The Review found that limited access to supports is available for remote and First Nations NDIS participants.

For all participants living in remote communities – who have been in the scheme at least one year – approximately 40 percent do not get daily activity supports and over 30 percent are not getting therapy services.

Additionally, many NDIS services are not culturally safe for First Nations people with disability, meaning that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people need to choose between culturally unsafe support or not getting support at all.

The FPDN said they are ready to continue working with “community governments including the NDIA” to ensure best outcomes possible for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people with disability.

Other related recommendations and actions include:

  • The Australian Government should develop a national strategy to improve the quality of the disability ecosystem for First Nations people with disability [Action 2.10]
  • Improving access to supports for First Nations participants across Australia and all participants in remote communities through alternative commissioning arrangements [Recommendation 14]

The Review panel recommend that culturally safe and tailored approaches should be designed in partnership with First Nations and culturally and linguistically diverse communities. This should deliver on the Priority Reforms under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

Human rights

The Review was undertaken with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities “front and centre of mind”, following a rights-based approach, according to the report.

“The NDIS is one of the most important global innovations in disability rights and is essential to Australia meeting its obligations under the UNCRPD,” the report said.

With that in mind, the report says that the NDIS should be one part of an “overarching unified system of support for people with disability”, based on human rights and deliver measurable outcomes for all people with disability.

The Review found that Australia’s approach to inclusion has not been strong or comprehensive enough to drive change equally for all groups of people with disability. Between 2017 and 2022, complaints under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 more than doubled.

“Stronger inclusion and accessibility requirements across governments are needed to reduce discrimination and uphold the human rights of people with disability, outlined in the UNCRPD and Disability Discrimination Act”, the Review panel wrote.

Some of the related recommendations and actions include:

  • The Attorney General’s Department, with the Department of Social Services and the states and territories, should develop a unified and contemporary approach to disability rights, discrimination and inclusion legislation [Action 2.1] – It should also consider the Disability Rights Act that was proposed by the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.
  • All Australian governments should agree and publish a targeted action plan for housing under Australia’s Disability Strategy [Action 9.11]
  • The new National Disability Supports Quality and Safeguards Commission, working with state and territory agencies, should better support providers to deliver on their role in reducing and eliminating restrictive practices [Action 18.3]

The Review panel said “we must do more to support participants to exercise genuine choice and control and to be able to make decisions about their lives. The NDIA should embed a best-practice, rights-based approach to supported decision-making”.

• You can download the full final report – including all recommendations and actions – as well as links to accessible formats here.

Further reading and listening on the NDIS Review

Recommendations to reboot the NDIS have finally been released. Five experts react,’ in The Conversation

Your guide to the NDIS Review: experts have their say’ video podcast hosted by Dr George Taleporos. Guests include Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Disability Advocacy Network El Gibbs, Deputy Chair of Every Australian Counts Nick Avery, Jarrod Sandell-Hay and member of the Independent Advisory Council and Intellectual Disability Reference Group Sam Paior who discuss the proposed changes.

More than mental illness. How the NDIS Review could help people with psychosocial disability,’ by Professor Jennifer Smith-Merry, Director of the Centre for Disability Research and Policy at University of Sydney, in The Conversation

Tweet by @ByronStolAfter more than a decade of the NDIS, has anything changed about the way we value disabled lives?’ by El Gibbs in The Guardian

Taken together, the NDIS review and the royal commission recommendations could transform disability housing,’ by Adjunct Associate Professor Di Winkler in The Conversation

What’s the difference between reasonable and necessary and foundational supports? Here’s what the NDIS review says‘, by Sam Bennett and Hannah Orban in The Conversation

Statements

Children and Young People with Disability Australia welcome the Review, and congratulate its strong focus on children and young people.

“The 26 recommendations made by the Review panel suggest we’re heading in the right direction – but more needs to be done to ensure children and young people both on and off the scheme get the support they need. True reform will take time and can only come about with direct input from people with disability at every stage,” CEO Skye Kakoschke-Moore said.

People with Disability Australia welcomes “additional funding and steps to address gaps in support for people with disability” outlined in the NDIS Review but seeks more details on how some of the recommendations will work in practice.

They believe many of the recommendations have the potential to deliver positive outcomes, if implemented correctly and with government involvement and engagement with people with disability.

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Briefing on the NDIS Review registration here.


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