Speech - NDIS

11 February 2013

Ms BIRD (Cunningham—Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills)
(18:49): I rise to speak on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012.
This bill establishes the framework for the National Disability Insurance Scheme
and enables the launch of a scheme that takes an insurance approach to the
provision of funding for and support of people with disability. The bill will
enable the launch of the NDIS in five sites across Australia from July 2013,
benefiting more than 20,000 people with a disability, their families and carers.
The bill provides for the launch of a scheme that will support the independence
and social and economic participation of those people with a disability who are
participating in the launch, and will ensure that individuals with a disability
have their reasonable and necessary support needs met. The launch of the scheme
is a very important step on the road to Australians having a disability support
system that is nationally consistent and easy to navigate. It is intended to
ensure that no members of our community fall through the cracks because their
specific needs do not fit into existing programs. To manage the scheme, the bill
establishes the National Disability Insurance Scheme Launch Transition Agency,
an independent body responsible for the provision of support to people with a
disability during the launch of the scheme.

The bill also provides the criteria that individuals must meet in order to participate in the scheme, and ensures that eligible individuals are entitled to funding for the reasonable and necessary care and support they require. The bill also ensures, however, that participants have control over and choice in relation to the support they receive and that that support is tailored to their specific needs.

Participants in the scheme will work with the agency to develop a statement of their own goals and aspirations and to describe their particular circumstances and arrangements. As part of their participant plan, participants will then work with the agency to set out the necessary and reasonable support and care required to achieve their goals and aspirations.

Under the scheme, people with a disability will be able to make their own decisions about how to manage their support through the mechanism of person-centred and goal based plans. To the extent that a participant chooses to, under the scheme participants can manage the funding they are provided with under their plan and the purchasing of their supports. The bill also provides that the participant can choose to have all or part of their plan managed by a nominee or a registered provider of support.

In addition to direct care, the bill provides that the NDIS agency can provide funding to organisations to provide the support and to enable participation for the individual in economic and social life. Funding can also be provided for activities, such as counselling for young people with a disability on the transition from school to university or to TAFE or, indeed, to work. I was particularly pleased with this provision, given my involvement in the tertiary education portfolio and my keen interest in equitable access to higher education and skills training. The bill also sets up the administrative structure of the scheme, including rules to protect personal information, the right to review of decisions, and how to and who can act on behalf of a participant in the management of their plan.

Support under the NDIS is not intended to replace current insurance and compensation schemes for personal injury such as those for workplace and motor vehicle accidents. The bill deals with the interaction of the NDIS with existing schemes and allows the NDIS agency to ensure that reasonable action has been taken to recover costs under those insurance and compensation schemes.

The bill establishes the National Disability Insurance Scheme Launch Transition Agency. The agency will deliver the scheme, managing the financial sustainability of the scheme as a whole, and it will undertake research and activities to build community awareness of disability issues. The agency will be overseen by a board with experience in disability services and will be advised by an independent advisory council to provide ongoing advice to the board. Importantly, the advisory council will include members who have a disability and members who are carers of people with a disability, bringing real experience of disability to planning and decision-making processes.

Indeed, community and disability services in the Illawarra have welcomed the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. In October the Minister for Disability Reform, Jenny Macklin, joined me and my colleague Stephen Jones, the member for Throsby, and other community leaders to host a community forum in Dapto to discuss the progress towards a national disability insurance scheme. Local people with a disability and their families and carers, as well as local service providers, all joined together to attend the forum to hear how an NDIS will work for people with a disability and of the work underway to launch the scheme.

Residents in the Illawarra turned up in numbers to show strong support for an NDIS. They reflected to us that they know we need fundamental change in the way we deliver care and support for people with disability and, in particular, that they are pleased the government is leading the way in making this change. Locals will continue to have a voice, as our government has set up a series of advisory groups to help us make sure that we are getting these very vital elements of the NDIS right. Indeed, as many in this House have reflected in the debate, my colleagues and I will continue to talk to people, talk to our local communities, to make sure we are getting their feedback.

People with a disability and their advocates in the Illawarra have told us loud and clear that they want an NDIS and that is what we are working hard to build. Once again, on 26 October last year, hundreds of people with a disability, their families, carers and supporters came together at Kembla Grange, to support the government's funding injection into the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

I, along with many of my colleagues, went along and supported this rally, which was attended by several hundred people. I had the opportunity, along with my colleague the member for Throsby and some of my state colleagues, to speak to many of the people who came along for the day. They were all decked out in red, holding slogans and balloons. It was a fantastic sight to see. They were all of the same view: this funding structure would be extremely beneficial to each and every one of them.

Greenacres Disability Services chief executive, Stephen Beard, welcomed the Prime Minister's commitment to a National Disability Insurance Scheme. Indeed, he said in the Greenacres Disability Services newsletter:

It's great; it's the next step …

There's been bipartisan support for an NDIS but getting the funding commitment was [vital].

At this point I would like to acknowledge the long years of hard work put in by Neil Preston, the former chief of Greenacres Disability Services. He is now retired but never retired from advocating on disability issues. He has been working with Stephen Jones and me for many years on these sorts of issues.

Indeed, Greenacres Disability Services has been providing services for people with a developmental disability in the Illawarra for more than 50 years. Illawarra Disability Trust Executive Manager for Organisational Development, Matthew Martin, reported in the University of Wollongong's The Current magazine:

I think our view from the disability sector at this stage is that any commitment is a good one … at this stage there is commitment and there appears to be bipartisan support.

He added:

From a service provider point of view, if you look at the roll-out of the funding that has occurred after the last couple of years particularly at a state level, this is unprecedented.

I would say that you need to pay credit where it is due.

All acknowledge the important role that this scheme is playing. Mr David Bowen, a local resident of the Illawarra, has been hand-picked by the federal government and appointed as the CEO of the body coordinating the launch of the NDIS. This group will be responsible for steering government to a position where we will be able to launch the NDIS by 1 July this year. Mr Bowen is currently chair of the National Injury Insurance Scheme Advisory Committee and was one of the architects of the New South Wales Lifetime Care and Support Scheme. He brings a wealth of experience to the field.

Interchange Illawarra, another very important local disability service, is also supporting and campaigning for the NDIS. At a meeting on 7 October 2011, the Treasurer of Interchange Illawarra, Susan Wallis, joined me in my office where I, along with her and some other representatives and their children, signed the 'I count' pledge. This campaign has had huge support in the Illawarra and carers such as Melanie Language and Jill Coleman were also present to support the event. I was very pleased to be able to sign that pledge, as I know many in this House were.

The family-managed allocations given by Interchange to carers and people with a disability allow them to use the funding to best suit their needs, which is the focus of the NDIS. Mr Kirkwood, a father of a child suffering autism, said he is all for the proposed scheme, as it means carers will not lose respite service funding when waiting to change from one disability organisation to the other. He as a carer is supporting the introduction of the NDIS. The general manager of Interchange, Glenda Pearce, said on the Interchange website:

… through family allocations and NDIS, people with a disability and their families can access help from trusted personal services, as well as from different support facilities.

…      …   …

Both NDIS and family allocations are person-centred and can be very cost-effective models of support.

The Flagstaff Group is an Illawarra social enterprise, operating businesses in the Illawarra, which employs people with a disability. Indeed, the group recently presented the New South Wales NDIS Campaign Director, Mr John Della Bosca, with a $10,000 cheque as part of its commitment to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. CEO Roy Rogers said that Flagstaff is committed to supporting people with a disability. He told WIN TV:

Flagstaff is proud to be a part of any initiative that promotes greater participation within the community and opportunities for people with disabilities.

Our organisation is all about improving our employees’ quality of life by enhancing their skills and independence while providing meaningful mainstream employment.

Mr John Della Bosca said that the federal government has stated it shares the vision for an NDIS and it has taken the first step, but we need to make sure the government takes the next step and the one after that. After such hard work together, we are so close to achieving this landmark reform. We cannot allow an NDIS to be swept under the carpet. Indeed, this federal government is working to make sure that does not happen. People across the Illawarra and the nation support this major reform that will stand in significance with other generational Labor reforms such as Medicare and superannuation. This bill is a very important contribution to the critical tasks involved in establishing the scheme and I therefore encourage the House to support its passage.