What is the NDIS?
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is an insurance based scheme designed to provide support for Australians with a permanent and significant disability. It constitutes a major reform of disability services and support in Australia.
Responsibility for delivering the NDIS lies with the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), the independent statutory agency established by the Commonwealth for the sole purpose of preparing for, and executing, the implementation of the NDIS.
The parameters of the NDIS, including who is eligible to access it, are set out in the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (NDIS Act). The NDIS Act is supplemented by NDIS Rules and Operational Guidelines which, together, create a framework for the administration of the NDIS.
Once the NDIS is fully rolled out, it is anticipated that 460,000 Australians will receive support from it, at a cost of approximately $22 billion per annum.
The Commonwealth government is contributing approximately half of the funding for the NDIS, with the remainder coming from state and territory governments.
Implementation of the NDIS – where are we up to
Plans to introduce the NDIS were first announced in April 2012, following an inquiry by the Productivity Commission into the feasibility of a long-term disability support scheme.
Since that time, the NDIS has come a long way. In less than four years, the NDIA has been established, the NDIS Act has been enacted and the NDIS has been officially launched and trialed in numerous regions around Australia. In addition, most Australian state and territory governments, including Victoria and New South Wales, have now signed key bi-lateral agreements with the Commonwealth to commit to the future funding of the Scheme.
From July this year, the NDIS will be progressively rolled out in each state and territory, with the exception of Western Australia.
Current targets are for the NDIS to be fully rolled out in 2019-2020, with specific timelines set for each state and territory.
Some key impacts for government agencies
The impact of the NDIS is wide ranging for all levels of government. A few of the ways in which a Council, State or Commonwealth government agency may be affected by the NDIS are set out below.
- In many cases, Local, State and Commonwealth government agencies may be requested to provide data to the NDIA. Such requests are likely to involve information regarding support or assistance currently received by disabled persons. Data sharing serves a number of purposes, such as preventing any duplication of payment for disability services already provided outside the NDIS, assisting in predicting the scope of disabilities present in a particular area or enabling the NDIA to invite disabled persons to apply to access the NDIS.
- The provision of data to the NDIA may be governed by an information sharing agreement or done in response to a ‘section 55 notice’. Pursuant to s 55 of the NDIS Act, the NDIA can compel the production of information in certain circumstances.
- Councils and many other government agencies provide services to disabled persons, such as child care, home care, education, transport and health services. Where this occurs, there is the potential for that body to become a registered provider of services for the NDIS. While this process may involve several legal issues, a key consideration is the application of National Competition Policy (and Competitive Neutrality Policy (CNP) in particular) to the government entity’s provision of services.
- Where there is competition with private registered providers in the provision of services to NDIS participants, government agencies should ensure that they have assessed whether their services are covered by CNP and, if so, whether their pricing models align with competitive neutrality principles.
- The NDIS Act contains several key restrictions covering the handling of ‘protected information’, being any personal information held by the NDIA. Government agencies receiving information from NDIS participants or the NDIA must ensure that they comply with the requirements of Chapter 4, Part 2 of the NDIS Act in the protection of this information. A number of offences exist in respect of the unauthorised access, misuse, supply or disclosure of ‘protected information’.
- Given that the NDIA is subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (FOI Act), government agencies may be consulted by the NDIA regarding the decision to release documents under the FOI Act. Freedom of information requests may also be transferred between the NDIA and other government bodies, pursuant to s-16 of the FOI Act, where a request concerns the NDIS but has not been made to the most appropriate government body.
Further information about the NDIS can be found at www.ndis.gov.au.