The international Year of Disabled Persons, 1981, saw Australia conduct its first national survey on people with a disability. This survey collected information on the number of people with disability, the nature of their disability, the services they needed and the extent to which these needs were being met. This survey was evidence that a national approach to meeting the needs of people with a disability was necessary, even 30 years ago.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is today coming into fruition. This scheme is being administered by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and represents an important phase of person-centred, equitable support for people with disabilities. More than that, the scheme aims to provide individualised support for people with disabilities, their carers and families.
The NDIS is an eligibility based system. In other words, one must meet a set of eligibility criteria to be able to access it. In an interview on the eve of the announcement in Parliament that the NDIS was in fact going to be reality, Stella Young (Ramp Up, an ABC website supporting Australia’s disability communities) made a number of points. In Young’s opinion the NDIS would:
- Be ‘a better system of support’ whereby eligible individuals would be allocated a package of funding based on their assessed needs.
- Represent ‘needs based service provision’.
- ‘Support people to maintain an optimum level of independence and maximise contribution to the community’.
These are all immensely positive elements for a national system, however, as with any revolutionary change, the NDIS is not without its problems.
- Thirty-eight (38) percent of prison inmates have a mental health condition, yet most inmates of prisons in NDIS trial areas are ineligible for existing services as they are not ‘residents’ of the trial location 
- ‘Linkers’ connect participants (users of the NDIS) with mainstream services. However, many mainstream providers (GP’s, specialists, etc.) are not yet prepared for such specialised service provision.
- All Australians should be entitled to receive a level of care that is suited to their individual needs. The reality is that some NDIS participants have intensive, complicated and complex needs. This is expensive to support.
- People with a supportive and active support network will benefit from the NDIS. There will be many Australians that do not have such a network of stakeholders and may fall through the gap based on ineligibility, unwillingness to participate, fear of change and inadequate funding.
The NSW Government was the first to enter an historic agreement with the Commonwealth for the full implementation of the NDIS across the whole of the state by 2018 . NSW alone will ‘contribute $3.1 billion a year from 2018/19 along with Commonwealth Government investment of $3.3 billion’ . The productivity commission widely use figures of a $15 billion scheme providing services to 411,000 people .
What does this all mean?
By 2018, the NSW Family & Community Services - Ageing Disability and Homecare (FACS: ADHC) will be localised. All services previously provided by this department (supported living, supported employment, respite, etc.) will be provided by Non-Government Organisations (NGOs).
This in turn means that workers in the sector will be employed by organisations (NGOs) that are going to focus on efficiency. There will no longer be a bottomless government funding bucket.
Participants in the NDIS will be able to shop around for their care providers, and cost will most definitely be a factor. Workers in the community services/disability sector will need to be as skilled as possible as soon as possible. Workers in the sector will also need to be able to understand and provide professional, competent, high quality and outcome based care.
There will be new entrants to the community services/disability sector as previously unpaid carers enter the workforce. This will further put a strain on the skill level of workers in the disability sector.
Encouraging work and finding ways for people with a disability to contribute productively through work has been a recent topic of conversation. On a recent Insight program titled Jobs and disability , which aired on the 19th of August 2014 on SBS, the Disability Support Pension was discussed. The program looked at how the pension can in some cases act as a disincentive to work currently paying $766 per fortnight (for a single person).
The NDIS is a step in the right direction. People with the capacity, desire, skills and aptitude to join or remain in the workforce, will be supported to do so under this scheme. This of course, will take skilled and professional caring staff.
A qualification such as the Certificate IV in Disability or the Diploma of Disability through BCA National is the career pathway for those considering moving into the disability sector. The sector needs skilled staff that understand the legislative and ethical obligations involved in care provision.
Carers will be employed not just on how ‘nice and empathic’ they are, but how they will support NDIS participants to truly self-determine and risk take. Carers will play an integral role on the quality of lives of people with a disability. A disability qualification being offered by BCA National right now is the best place to start.