Commentators could be forgiven for saying that Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has been a long time coming:
- the precursory National Disability Insurance Act 2013 (Cth) was passed in March 2013;
- Queensland did not execute the relevant bilateral agreement until March this year;
- the scheme will not be implemented in Brisbane until approximately 1 July 2018; and
- it will not be operating State-wide until about July 2019.
However, this staggered implementation has been purposeful, and in our view, absolutely necessary. The NDIS represents a very radical and disruptive change; albeit one which the vast majority of stakeholders consider to be a very positive one. The $22 billion scheme will provide participants with highly customisable support backed by significantly greater resources. Indeed, Tuesday’s Federal Budget announcement noted the establishment of a special fund to help pay for the scheme – one which is estimated to accrue $2.1 billion by 2020.
The key downside to the NDIS, though, is the fact that it represents such a drastic departure from Queensland’s current “block funding” scheme. It is a change that will make economies of scale very important. Many (if not the majority) of Queensland’s numerous small-to-medium sized disability support organisations will be forced to grow, ally, merge, or perish. Further, while these are viable solutions, the majority of these organisations lack both the commercial and legal expertise to implement them properly, and the resources to buy that expertise.
Queensland’s vital disability support organisations have, by now, been preparing for the NDIS for some time. If those preparations require legal input, and they cannot afford that input, they should seek pro bono advice. The NDIS will only meet its potential as a world-class disability support framework if there are organisations left to implement it once the dust clears.