A National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is due to take effect in July 2013, with the support of $1 billion from the Federal Government to fund trial stages of the scheme at select locations in the country over four years.
Five states have agreed to support the NDIS, while Queensland and Western Australia have yet to back the scheme that would see about 10,000 people with disabilities start receiving individual care packages next year. That number is expected to double to 20,000 people by mid-2014.
The NDIS will provide funds for regular services and equipment to improve the quality of support for people with disabilities. The scheme was prepared and recommended by the Productivity Commission in July last year, drawing from an 18-month investigation into people with disabilities and an analysis of disability support systems overseas.
The states that have signed up for the NDIS have met the Commonwealth’s requirement that each adult in the scheme would receive $20,779 each year.
The Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Tasmania have each agreed to set up a launch site for their state as part of the scheme, during the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Canberra on July 25.
Two days later, New South Wales and Victoria settled funding arrangements with the Commonwealth and will each set up a launch site in their states.
NSW has offered to contribute $35 million, half of what the Commonwealth initially demanded, saying that the state is already contributing significantly to disability services. Victoria met the funding total demanded by the Commonwealth with its offer of $42 million.
Mary Wooldridge, Victoria’s Minister for Community Services, says that the two-day delay in agreeing to fund the NDIS was due to fundamental differences in Victoria’s proposal to that put forward by the Commonwealth.
“[Our proposal] is consistent with the Productivity Commission’s recommendations that the additional funding for the scheme is provided by the Commonwealth Government,” she told ABC Victoria.
Queensland and Western Australia have not signed on to the scheme.
Queensland’s bid for a trial site to be launched, without offering extra funding, was rejected.
Premier Campbell Newman said that the state is already planning to spend $920 million this financial year on disability services. Mr Newman also proposed for a new tax similar to a Medicare levy to raise money to fund the scheme, but Prime Minister Julia Gillard says there would be no new tax.
WA Premier Colin Barnett is concerned about the administration of the NDIS and says that further discussions with the Commonwealth to reach a compromise may result in WA opening a trial site.
The trials next year will significantly improve the lives of many people with disabilities, according to Jacqui Pierce, coordinator of Every Australian Counts for Victoria’s Barwon area.
“It’ll give people easier access to whatever services and supports it is they need, whether that’s a piece of specialized equipment for communication or a wheelchair or a shower chair,” she told the ABC.
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