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NDIS Board changes – do they matter?

A group of people at a table talking about the NDISPeople with disability and their families around Australia have fought hard to make the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) real. From July 2016 to the end of 2019, the NDIS will start to be available to lots more people around Australia as the full scheme rolls out. This has given some certainty to people with disability, as the NDIS roll out plans have been made public and bilateral agreements have been signed between the Federal Government and most states and territories

People with disability feel strongly about the importance of the NDIS and don’t want it to be threatened by any changes that could make people with disability worse off. This feeling is growing even stronger as the NDIS continues to roll out and improve the lives of many people with disability.

In the last three weeks there has been a lot of news about some possible changes to the NDIS and how it is run. Disability Loop is here to explain the news to you and help sort fact from fiction.


Who makes decisions about the NDIS?

The National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (the NDIS Act) is the national law that started the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and the NDIA Board. The NDIA is responsible for how the NDIS works. It does this by following what is written in the NDIS Act, the NDIS Rules, and the Operational Guidelines.

Currently, the Federal Government needs to get agreement from the States and Territories to make changes to the NDIS Act.


The NDIS Board

The Board of the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) is the group of important people that look at how the NDIS works now and will work in the future. At the moment the Board is made up of nine people; one member is chosen by the government of each state and territory, and the Chair of the Board is chosen by the Federal Government. Importantly, the NDIS Board is made up of people with disability, family members of people with disability, and people with a strong business background. Many of these Board members came up with the idea of having an NDIS, and helped make it happen.

The Federal Government have been talking about making changes to the NDIS Board for quite some time. They have wanted it to be made up of more people who have worked on very big and expensive business projects that are not related to disability. The Federal Government says this is because there is going to be a lot of money involved in the full NDIS roll out. Disability Loop wrote about this last year, in Possible changes to the NDIA Board (July 26, 2015) and What's going on with the NDIA Board? (September 10, 2015).


Disability Reform Council meeting

The government ministers in charge of disability in each state and territory across Australia as well as the federal government minister regularly come together to talk about the NDIS. This is called the Disability Reform Council, or the DRC. The most recent meeting of the DRC was on March 4, 2016. The meeting talked about how the NDIS is on time and on budget, meaning people with disability are getting access to the NDIS when they should, and the NDIS is costing the federal, state and territory governments the same amount of money as they thought it would.

At the DRC meeting on March 4, the Federal Government asked the DRC if they would agree to make some changes to the NDIS Board. After some discussion, the DRC is going to increase the number of NDIS Board members by three, bringing the total to  twelve. However, the state and territory governments want to make sure that they have a say in who the three new Board members will be, which is what the agreement has always been. The state and territory governments don’t want the federal government to choose the Board members by itself, because they want to make sure they continue to have a say about how the NDIS works, especially because the state and territory governments are funding about half of the cost of the NDIS.

People with disability think it is very important for the 3 new NDIS Board members to understand what it's like to have a disability. People with disability think this will make sure the NDIS doesn't become more about saving money in the short term rather than giving people the resources they need and saving money over the long term.


The current board terms

The terms of the NDIS Board Chair and three of the current board members have recently been extended to 31 December 2016. Four other board members have had their terms extended to June 30, 2017. There is currently one vacancy on the board.

Evidence shows that the current NDIS Board is doing well, because the NDIS is running on time and on budget. People with disability want to make sure that any new members of the NDIS Board are chosen with agreement from federal, state and territory governments, and have a mixture of personal experience of disability and business knowledge.


Why are people worried?

Many people with disability are concerned that the changes to the NDIS Board mean that the original intention of the board processes and membership is being changed. It is important that the NDIS Board is bipartisan, with decision-making shared between the federal and state and territory governments. It is vital that the NDIS is neutral, independent and has the interests of people with disability close to its heart.


Here are some related links:

Turnbull government move to seize control of NDIS
Australian Financial Review, March 6

Video & text: Government 'committed' to NDIS rollout
Sky News, March 7

NSW, Victoria critical of plan for greater federal control of NDIS
Sydney Morning Herald, March 7

Audio: States fear Fed Govt is trying to seize control of NDIS: Martin Foley
ABC Radio National, March 7

Govt denies plan to alter NDIS eligibility
SBS, March 7

NDIS: Government defends plans to gain more control of disability scheme
ABC News, March 7

Audio: Commonwealth dismisses $25b price tag for NDIS 
ABC PM, March 7

People with disability organisations reject NDIS governance and cost blow-out commentary as neither truthful nor helpful
Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, March 7

States reject leaked NDIS proposal they say would increase federal control
The Guardian, March 8

National Disability Insurance Scheme stoush triggers alarm
The Age, March 8

Daniel Andrews demands care fund payback
The Australian, March 8

COAG Disability Reform Council 4 March 2016 Communique
DSS, March 8