Canberra Report: Government's policy has to go

SOME of the most frustrating, confronting and even distressing experiences I've had as a Member of Parliament have come when I've dealt with the family of someone with a disability or directly with someone with a disability. I'm frustrated by my limited capacity to help as much as I would like to help.

I'm proud that when in government Labor built the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). We all saw it as the circuit breaker and an opportunity for us to do more for those challenged by disability. Yet I am devastatingly disappointed by what's happening in my electorate at the moment, as people, frustrated by the inability to get the assistance from the NDIS that they were so hopeful for, stream into my electorate office. They have concerns about planning processes, the quality of the plans, the rushed planning conversations and the need for more specialised trainers and planners.

The implementation of the NDIS over recent years has been a failure. It's failing the people who need help the most.

Last week Labor announced that if in government, it will remove the coalition government's arbitrary NDIA staff cap, freeing the agency up to make the best long-term decisions about how to deliver quality services to Australians with disability.

Last year the Productivity Commission recommended the staff cap be scrapped.

Disability advocates have been calling for its abolition for years. The staff cap is a relic of Tony Abbott's 2014 Budget and creates a perverse incentive to rely on contract staff and outsourcing, despite the NDIS being the biggest social reform since Medicare.

The staff cap has no impact on the National Disability Insurance Agency's (NDIA) overall funding level which will not need to change with its removal. The scheme's rollout is currently behind schedule - the equivalent of more than 46,000 people missing out on the NDIS.

People with disability have also faced massive plan review backlogs and have missed out on the essential supports they need.

It's time the Turnbull government listened to the Productivity Commission and took the roadblocks out of the way of the NDIS. People with disability need to be at the heart of everything the NDIS does - it exists to provide essential services, not line the pockets of multinationals.

The staff cap isn't the NDIA's fault - this is the Turnbull government's policy, and it has to go.


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