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Still falling behind Australia

Last time I talked about the Australian National Disability Insurance Scheme, I mentioned that a Citizens’ Jury was assessing the Scheme. The Citizens’ Jury consists of twelve Australians, including six disabled people (Who are not currently receiving support from the Scheme), randomly selected. Sort of like an actual Jury. They listen to evidence from people receiving support from the Scheme and other advocates. I think it is a good idea for everyday citizens to assess reforms to see if they are fair. This helps ensure wider public support for the changes.

The Citizens’ Jury has now released its report. Overall, the Scheme appears to be working well. People seem to be getting better and more flexible support. People are living more independently and accessing mainstream study and employment opportunities more. The entitlement-based insurance funding model (See the previous blog for more info) of the Scheme has resulted in people feeling more secure. This is because they feel that their long-term needs will be met. It has also reduced waiting lists for support and the number of unmet needs people have.

There is still plenty of room for improvement though. The Jury made a lot of recommendations, which is great to see. One disturbing part of the report details a researcher’s attempt to talk to people in a residential facility to get their views. The staff would not let the researcher talk to people in the facility. It is still very worrying how much control staff can have over people’s lives in some residential facilities.

Unlike the reforms in New Zealand, the Scheme is being sold to the public as fairer, but more expensive. In New Zealand, we have tried to create a fairer system largely within existing funding. This has been problematic and budget blowouts have delayed the development of reforms. Compared to Australia, there is nowhere near the sense of momentum and change in New Zealand.

None of this means we should just copy Australia. I am not in Australia. The Scheme might not be that positive on the ground, it could look very different in some communities. That said a bit of Trans-Tasman rivalry should be spurring us on. If we are not seeing as much change in New Zealand, we should ask the question why not? I certainly think there needs to be a more realistic look at funding and resourcing. Sometimes to get better quality support there needs to be more funding.

We could do worse than explore a similar funding model to the Australian Scheme. Australia has also shown that the public and political parties, on both sides of the left-right divide, will support more funding if a good case around fairness and need for equal opportunities is made. That is enough from me, what about you. Have you been to Australia, do you know people there, what are your thoughts on the Australian Scheme compared to the reforms in New Zealand?

Sam Murray
National Policy Coordinator

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