Towards a better disability service system

Background

UnitingCare Queensland’s service groups provide a broad range of disability services including in-home and accommodation support; out of home care; respite, transition support from school to adult life including employment support; personal care and independent living; and assessments for housing modifications and disability equipment. We seek to empower individuals to reach their goals and fulfil their potential as equal citizens.  


Challenges and opportunities  

Flexible Funding 

  • Queensland’s transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will commence on 1 July 2016, with the full scheme to be in place by 1 July, 2019. The NDIS will introduce increased competition from non-traditional suppliers into the market, and set a fixed pricing structure for a catalogue of products and services. It has potential to make a positive difference to people who have a significant and permanent disability and who need assistance with every day activities by offering  greater choice and control.  
  • UnitingCare Queensland is committed to providing individualised, person centred services for people with disabilities, their families and carers and is working with them to co-design new approaches and services as part of the transition to the NDIS. Innovation, the speed to adapt and flexibility will be critical in this new environment.
  • More flexible funding arrangements, including the option for self-directed funding, will allow NDIS provided supports to be better tailored to individuals’ needs. Existing funding arrangements reflect the current disability service environment whereby clients are the recipient of a defined range of services and supports within specific program streams. More flexible funding arrangements are required to enable greater client choice and support the transition to a competitive market. 

Services for all people with disabilities   

  • Whilst the NDIS will make a significant difference for a large number of people with disabilities, It is estimated that at least 500,000 disability pensioners aged 16 to 65 will not be eligible to receive NDIS-funded supports (1). The Federal Government has made public assurances that people who do not meet the NDIS access requirements but were receiving disability services will continue to receive support consistent with their current arrangements. No such guarantee exists for future clients. Given the significant cost of the NDIS (estimated to commence at $15 Billion per annum), there is a risk that this could lead to reduced services for large numbers of people with disabilities who do not meet access requirements for NDIS funded support. The Mental Health Council of Australia has also raised specific concerns about people with a mental illness whose illness is often episodic and can result in fluctuating needs.
  • There needs to be a range of safeguards in place to ensure that future disability support consumers and carers who are not eligible for NDIS supports will not miss out on services leaving them worse off. There needs to be:
    • regular engagement between governments and people with disabilities and disability service providers about unmet need; 
    • a transparent system for monitoring and reporting maintenance of effort in funding for disability services; and 
    • appropriate and transparent assessment processes for people with a mental illness. 

Innovative housing options


  • While the NDIS will not directly fund housing, it will stimulate demand for a range of housing and support options that enable people with disabilities to live more independently. Recent research about the housing needs of young people with a disability found that small scale dispersed housing is more effective than clustered or institutional settings. It also found that individualised approaches are affordable and challenges the idea that people with higher support needs need to be housed in group or congregate care settings (2). 
     
  • Alternative housing models (e.g. co-tenancy between people with a disability and others) has the potential to improve quality of life for people with a disability, provide more stability in tenancy and reduce costs. New partnerships between service providers and housing providers will enable choice in this area. 

UnitingCare Queensland position
 

The implementation of the NDIS in Queensland aligns with UnitingCare Queensland’s commitment to person centred care and our aim to be the choice for care and service. To realise the potential of the NDIS to provide greater choice and control of people with disabilities UnitingCare Queensland seeks to work in partnership with people with disabilities, the private sector, philanthropists, governments and disability service and housing providers to:
  • Identify and implement more flexible funding arrangements that focus on outcomes and supports innovation and new product design for people with disabilities.   
  • Increase the supply of affordable and innovative housing for people with disabilities and ways to finance those housing choices.

To ensure people with disabilities who do not meet NDIS access requirements receive the support they need UnitingCare Queensland considers governments need to commit to safeguards and a transparent system for monitoring and reporting funding levels for disability services.   

References

1 Baker, Andrew, The new leviathan : a National Disability Insurance Scheme, The Centre of Independent Studies, 2012

2 Taleporos, G, Craig, D et al  Housing And Support For Younger People With Disabilities Transitioning To Independent Living: Elements For Success In The Design And Implementation Of Disabilitycare Australia, A National Disability Insurance Scheme, 2013, The Youth Disability Advocacy Service, Victoria 

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