Victoria says Coalition responsible of undermining rules on which NDIS was constructed | Nationwide disability insurance coverage scheme
The Victorian government has accused the Commonwealth of launching a campaign of fears about the financial sustainability of the national disability insurance system in order to “sell” its robo-planning policy for “flawed independent assessments”.
In a sign of increasing hostility between States and the Commonwealth over the pioneering system, Victoria’s Disability Secretary Luke Donnellan said the federal government was guilty of attacking “the principles on which the NDIS is built”.
His comments come after NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds told Guardian Australia this week that the program should cost more than Medicare. The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, entered the fray Thursday, saying the program had “gotten much bigger than the intended early vision”.
“This is the second attempt by the Morrison administration to sell its flawed independent valuation robo-scheduling scheme, which attacks the very principles on which the NDIS is built,” said Donnellan.
“First, the previous NDIS minister said for months that it was a matter of fixing inequalities in customer plans. Now the federal government is saying it is more concerned about the sustainability of the NDIS – than the NDIA was only last June [national disability insurance agency] reported that the program was on the right track. “
Donnellan accused the federal government of using a sub-edition of the program to support the budget, saying it had told people with disabilities “they are getting too much support”.
In the past few weeks, leaked documents have revealed that the NDIA has set up a secret “Sustainability Action Task Force” that Labor has dubbed the “Razor Gang”.
Guardian Australia also reported that secret government documents indicated that independent assessments would “on average” lead to budget savings and smaller plan sizes, which disagreed with former Minister Stuart Robert who suggested it was not about “cost cutting”.
Though Reynolds this week insisted that the main goal of politics – outraged disability groups – was to improve inequalities in the system, Morrison linked them directly to the sustainability of the system.
He also reiterated Reynolds’ suggestions that government data showed that the Commonwealth’s contributions to the co-funded program would increase to 55% this year and 58% in 2022.
Package sizes, payments to participants and the number of participants grew “beyond previous forecasts”.
“The growth in payments is partly due to planners lacking access to consistent quality information in their funding decisions and unclear what is and what is not being paid under national disability insurance.” he said.
“You will hear many others argue that the sky should be the limit, but we all know that this is not a realistic goal.”
Disability groups and NDIS observers have long argued that there is little transparency about their actuarial data, and a Senate investigation this week learned that requests for freedom of information for their financial sustainability report were denied.
It is understood that State and Territory Disability Ministers, who meet regularly with their counterpart, have been denied access to the Agency’s actuarial data on projections of NDIS costs.
Prof. Bruce Bonyhady, first chairman of the NDIA, said in a parliamentary inquiry last month that “the cost estimates for the entire system were based on a very small sample of people around whom there was a relatively large margin of error”.
There were “literally hundreds, if not thousands of assumptions that go into estimating the sustainability of a system,” he said.
“However, we have never seen the actuary’s financial sustainability report that detailed these assumptions and allowed for a proper audit.
“It is entirely possible that current concerns about system costs are completely misplaced.”
The NDIA’s 2020 Annual Report, published in October, stated that the system’s projections “are in line with the estimates made in the Productivity Commission’s 2017 report on NDIS costs between 2021 and 2022”.
It did so after “taking into account costs that are not included in the productivity commission’s estimate,” it said.
Reynolds has claimed previous under-spending “masked the upward trend in future spending under the program” while another former NDIA board member, John Walsh, who also helped design the program, supported the government’s warnings.
People with Disabilities Australian President Samantha Connor said the NDIA had “sought to overcome change” for the past six months without any significant contribution made by people with disabilities, which “will almost certainly lead to perverse results”.
“We need a seat at the table to discuss proposed changes to our NDIS, have full access to the raw system data, initiate legitimate co-design processes when changes are required, and have sufficient resources to do so do it, “she said.
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