Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Questions without Notice
National Disability Insurance Scheme
My question is to the Prime Minister. My community, at recent NDIS forums in Wangaratta, Wodonga and Benalla, raised concerns of ongoing delays in access to services and equipment and about the process for signing off on draft plans. Last night's budget revealed a significant underspend in NDIS funding. This is disappointing when there is such need, particularly in rural and regional Australia. Prime Minister, can you please take immediate action to fast-track assessments and address delays in receiving equipment and services, and provide NDIS clients with the opportunity to sign off on a draft plan and avoid a lengthy review process?
I thank the member for Indi for her questions and for relaying to us here in this House the concerns of those in Wangaratta, Wodonga and Benalla. It's important that we are very aware of those concerns. I know members on this side of the House are often raising the challenges that are involved in rolling out what is one of the biggest programs in social policy that we have seen in this country for many years, a policy that was initiated by Labor and supported by the then opposition, the Liberals and Nationals. We are now implementing it and it is an enormous task. You mentioned the budget allocation this year. I can say that there are now 250,000 Australians with a disability who are benefitting from the NDIS and around 78,000 of those people are receiving support for the very first time. The estimates that have been provided to the budget process in the past and that were in MYEFO were based on the estimates of demand that were worked up together with state governments and with the Commonwealth. That demand was not expected to be met in the current budget, and that would see the underspend that you've referred to. It is not uncommon that when you have demand-driven programs—as the previous government understood when it came to carers payments, and the member for Lilley will understand this—where the demand is not met in those years, you have an estimates variation to deal with the underspend. That is about $1.6 billion for that year. But there is a corresponding higher commitment that we have to make of about $1.9 billion that shows up for providing support in other parts of the budget, which shows that, effectively, where one part of underspend is there, another part of overspend comes as a result of dealing with the issues that have been presented. This might come as news to those opposite, who don't know how to prepare a budget and certainly don't know how to deliver a budget surplus.
But to go to your point, Member for Indi, with these issues of addressing the specific plans of individual NDIS participants, we will continue to work to improve the access and planning pathways to make each step clearer for everyone. In September of last year the new NDIS participant pathway service improvements began being progressively implemented across Australia. NDIS participants will have face-to-face planning meetings that deliver easy-to-understand and accessible plans, supported by a consistent single point of contact. The government and the NDIA are under no illusions that delivering this groundbreaking reform will inevitably involve some very significant challenges. The important thing is that we all maintain our support for this very important program. Our government is fully funding the NDIS. The per-participant estimates in the budget are exactly as they were before—no change. Every single case that is evaluated and assessed and granted will get the support it needs under the NDIS. I'd be very much pleased if this House could maintain its bipartisan views— (Time expired)