For two years, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has been floating around in Federal politics. This year it is expected to finally come into effect on July 1.
According to the NDIS website, the scheme aims to unite services for disabled persons across Australia, creating equal levels of support for people in all areas and all states. Rather than allocating funds based on budget allowances, they will be allocated on a basis of actual need, related to the person’s specific disability. This is opposed to the current system where some areas achieve success while others are desperately underfunded.
According to a report recently released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), out of the twen- ty-seven participating countries, Australia is the lowest ranked nation for quality of life for its citizens with a disability. Of these people, they are twice as likely to be living near the poverty line or below. We are clearly in desperate need of a change to our current – or lack thereof – disability support system.
If this legislation can be passed in Government, the potential to aid and help disabled Australians would be exponential.
Recently, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that in order to fund the scheme, the Medicare levy will be increased by half a per- centage point from the first of July next year, meaning the levy will go
from 1.5 per cent of taxable income to 2 per cent. For someone earning $70,000 a year, this will roughly equate to paying a dollar a day to the levy.
The opposition has argued that the Government has only given details about half of the required funding, necessary to make the scheme able to function. Tony Abbott stated that he would only give his vote if the scheme is “responsibly funded”. However the Coalition has con- firmed their support for the Medicare levy, despite demanding a parlia- mentary committee be set up to oversee the implementation. With the opposition’s support, it is likely to go proceed with minimal delays.
The recent rebranding, ‘Disability Care’, has caused controversy with disability groups, many stating their offence at the name. According to ABC news website The Drum, Lesley Hall, the head of Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, says that they strongly advised the Government against the use of the word ‘care’ in the scheme’s name, as it reinforces the myth that those with a disability need to be given charity and welfare, instead of solid support.
Whether the scheme can actually acquire the necessary support and funding through the Medicare levy and other unknown means remains to be seen. With Queensland recently committing to the full NDIS scheme, Western Australia remains the only state to yet sign up.