PHOTO: About 475,000 Australians will be covered by the full scheme once it is rolled out. (666 ABC Canberra: Kim Lester)
MAP: AustraliaThe National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will be rolled out late, and migrants might be needed to plug workforce gaps, the biggest ever review of the NDIS predicts.
- The Productivity Commission is urging state governments to ensure current services are not withdrawn early
- The 533-page report says the NDIA sacrificed the quality of NDIS plans while rushing to meet enrolment targets
- The report found the disability sector workforce "will not be sufficient" to meet demand
The scheme was meant to be in place by mid-2020 but fell behind schedule soon after its nationwide rollout began in July last year.
"The reality is that the current timetable for participant intake will not be met," the Productivity Commission report said.
"This delay could be longer if the scheme falls further behind … when the participant intake ramps up in 2017-18."
The commission urged state governments to ensure current services are not withdrawn early.
"Governments and the [agency] need to start planning now for a changed timetable," the report said.
In a 533-page assessment, it condemned the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) for sacrificing the quality of NDIS plans while rushing to meet enrolment targets.
"A key concern that has emerged from our extensive consultations is the speed of participant intake," Commissioner Angela MacRae said.
"This is impacting on planning processes [and] the quality of plans," she said.
The report highlighted the agency's reliance on over-the-phone planning sessions, which hundreds of people have complained about.
Planning meetings dictate how much funding people receive and what services and equipment they can access.
"The Commission heard [on numerous occasions] that participants were called with no forewarning … or were not informed that the call was a planning conversation," the review said.
The NDIA yesterday announced it was phasing out telephone meetings, but did not specify when they would be abolished.
Concerns over readinessNDIS experience 'soul destroying'
Despite high hopes for the NDIS at its rollout, Briana Blackett says the scheme has left her family feeling like "they're not worth" the help.
The Federal Government's independent research body estimated 475,000 Australians would be covered by the full scheme.
But it found the disability sector workforce was growing "way too slow" and "will not be sufficient" to meet demand.
The commission said it might not be possible in the short term to train enough allied health professionals, such as speech therapists, and skilled migrants might be needed.
"The Australian Government should adjust immigration policies where necessary to address National Disability Insurance Scheme workforce shortages." it said.
"Greater use of skilled migration is likely to have more benefits than costs in this [transition] period."
It is estimated the industry will need to grow by up to 90,000 full-time staff by the time rollout is complete.
NDIS costs on trackThe estimated cost of the scheme — $22 billion per year when fully implemented— was found to be on track.
But the commission said that was largely because people were not spending all the money they were entitled to.
Where will the NDIS funds come from?
Once it's fully operational, the NDIS will be one of the biggest Government-funded program after Medicare. But where will those funds come from?
"There is enormous goodwill behind the NDIS. Now is the time to put the goodwill into action," Social Policy Commissioner Richard Spencer said.
"If implemented well, the NDIS will substantially improve the wellbeing of people with disability, and Australians more generally."
The report noted while the scheme is helping many Australians, not everyone is benefitting, such as people with mental illnesses or multiple conditions.
It said the setting of prices for disability services should be done by an independent body - not the National Disability Insurance Agency.
The report also emphasised the need for governments to intervene where disability service markets were not operating properly — for example, in remote Indigenous communities.