Australia’s centre-left Labor Party is promising to increase staff numbers at the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and review the operations of the burgeoning scheme which currently services around 500,000 Australians.
The measures include lifting staffing caps at the NDIS and increase hiring, aiming to add around 380 extra staff at a cost of around $157.8 million over four years, according to The Guardian.
The party will also review the “excessive use” of lawyers, crackdown on criminal fraud, and review consultancy contracts; and streamline decision-making on who receives payment support.
Further measures include introducing an expert review that will “guarantee” that service plans are not cut; appoint a senior officer to tackle service delivery problems in regional Australia; and increase the numbers of board members with disability.
While the policy focus has been on improving the mechanisms of the program, questions remain over the ever-widening scope of services the NDIS has been used to cover, including funding sexual services for disabled individuals.
The Labor Party will also invest an additional $10 million ($7.6 million) over four years to assist individuals appealing their case at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), which Shorten claims has seen a 400 percent increase in NDIS matters, in turn, costing the agency $28 million in legal fees over a six-month period.
“Labor wants to stop people with disability and their families feeling like they are trapped in a maze of reviews, appeals and legal action,” he said in a statement.
“We also recognise the NDIS needs more skilled carers and whilst there are many good service providers, we will crack down on the fringe-dwelling unregistered cowboys ripping people off.”
The party will also stop current changes to the Supported Independent Living (SIL) program and push to cut red tape stopping disabled individuals from accessing housing; as well as establish a Centre of Excellence to help find jobs for disabled individuals.
The ambitious NDIS—established in 2013 under Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard—will receive $33.9 billion for the 2022-23 financial year.
The latest pitch comes as the Labor Party and the left-wing Greens hone in on healthcare as part of their election campaigning.
A week earlier, Labor leader Anthony Albanese pledged $135 million to fund 50 urgent medical care centres across the country to shore up gaps in the public health system.