Federal Budget 2024: Insights on NDIS Revisions and Employment Initiatives

Federal Budget 2024: Insights on NDIS Revisions and Employment Initiatives

Disability was a central focus in this year’s federal budget, with significant revisions to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and new employment initiatives aimed at supporting people with disabilities. As discussions around the budget unfold, the standout questions are not about what was included in the papers, but rather about the specifics that were omitted. This article delves into the key takeaways from the budget, particularly focusing on the implications for the NDIS and employment services.

NDIS ‘Growth Moderation’

Major Review and Legislative Changes

The last few months have been transformative for the NDIS, with a major review handed down in December recommending sweeping changes. In response, the government introduced draft legislation to initiate this process. According to the 2024 budget papers, these changes are projected to “offset increases in NDIS payments” by $14.4 billion over the next four years. Rather than calling this a saving, the government refers to it as “growth moderation”.

Spending on the NDIS is now expected to rise to $60.7 billion by 2027-28. Thanks to the government’s actions, annual growth is forecast at 9.2 percent. This contrasts with last year’s announcement of an 8 percent annual growth target, intended to curb costs. At that time, annual spending had been growing at approximately 14 percent.

Practical Measures for Savings

NDIS Minister Bill Shorten discussed the measures on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing program. He explained that two practical changes would help achieve 95 percent of the projected $14.4 billion figure:

  1. Clamping Down on Intra-Plan Inflation: This involves addressing situations where a participant’s plan is exhausted sooner than expected, necessitating a top-up.
  2. Changing Participant Budget Settings: This proposal from the NDIS review suggests hiring trained assessors to evaluate a person’s total needs and provide them a comprehensive budget instead of constructing plans incrementally.

Shorten emphasised the government’s commitment to the scheme, stating that while investment and participant numbers would increase, there was a need to moderate growth to more reasonable levels.

Community Concerns

El Gibbs, the acting CEO of Disability Advocacy Network Australia, expressed concerns about how the budget changes might affect people with disabilities. “The NDIS is an essential public service for people with disability and families, providing life-changing and lifesaving support every day,” she said. Gibbs highlighted the importance of ensuring that essential supports are not cut and stressed the ongoing exclusion of people with disabilities from the community.

As of the most recent quarterly report, the NDIS has more than 649,000 participants. However, it is important to note that the vast majority of the estimated 4.4 million Australians with disabilities are not on the scheme. This discrepancy underscores the critical role of the NDIS in serving a specific subset of the disability community while highlighting the broader need for inclusive and supportive measures across the board.

Additional Funding and Initiatives

The government has pledged an additional $468.7 million for the NDIS over the next four years. This includes more funding for fraud prevention and the establishment of an “evidence advisory committee” to provide advice on effective support for participants.

Additionally, $129.8 million over two years has been allocated for consultation work to respond to the findings of the NDIS review. This will ensure that any changes to the scheme are well-informed and consider the needs of the disability community.

A political stoush between federal and state governments recently centred on foundational support. The 2023-24 mid-year budget update included a pledge of $11.6 million over two years towards creating a “foundational support strategy”. National cabinet is slated to consider this strategy later this year, with detailed investment plans to be outlined in future economic updates. Ms. Gibbs emphasised that foundational support must be in place before any changes to the scheme take effect.

Federal Budget 2024 - Insights on NDIS Revisions and Employment Initiatives-02

An Employment Service Revamp

Challenges in Disability Employment

One of the biggest challenges for people with disabilities continues to be finding and keeping a job. The unemployment rate for working-age people with disabilities is twice that of those without disabilities. To address this, the budget introduces a new specialist disability employment program, costing $227.6 million over five years, to replace the existing Disability Employment Services (DES) by July next year.

The new program aims to shift the culture in employment services for people with disabilities. When individuals join DES agencies, they are supposed to receive support in completing job applications, preparing for interviews, and undertaking relevant training. However, the efficacy of these agencies has been questioned, as some people have remained with these agencies for lengthy periods without results.

Concerns About DES

Advocates have raised concerns that the current model benefits providers more than it does people with disabilities. A disability royal commission report found that DES was failing to provide appropriate support.

The government has also allocated $23.3 million over four years to set up a new Disability Employment Centre of Excellence. This centre, an election promise, will provide information and training to ensure that employment services offer better-quality support.

Marayke Jonkers, president of People with Disability Australia, criticised the measures as insufficient. “There’s tinkering at the edges on employment for people with disabilities, but we’ve been calling for a radical shift. We didn’t see that,” she said. Jonkers expressed concerns that the announced measures might continue to entrench segregated employment and deny people with disabilities access to mainstream opportunities.

What Else is and Isn’t in the Budget?

An extra $2.6 million has been set aside for the National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline and the Complaints Resolution and Referral Service, which facilitate the confidential reporting of abuse and handle complaints about disability services outside the NDIS.

Advocates were disappointed by the lack of explicit mention of funding for the government’s response to the disability royal commission, which concluded last September after more than four years of hearings. Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth did not clarify whether the budget included funds for the royal commission response, but noted that the Commonwealth is working closely with states and territories on the 85 joint recommendations. Governments aim to provide an initial response by mid-2024.

There had been hopes for a boost to the Disability Support Pension (DSP), but the budget did not include specific measures for the DSP. While some cost-of-living and Centrelink-related measures were included, the DSP remained untouched.


ABC News


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *