NDIS – Well intended: wrongly based: seriously flawed

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is required by law to provide “reasonable and necessary supports” to help eligible people with a disability live more independently.

The Agency administering  NDIS is governed by the NDIS Act, (191 pages!) the Rules and the Operational Guidelines.

Not supposed to have  predetermined criteria for ‘reasonable and necessary supports’. Different people with the same type and severity of disability may  require different kinds of help.  NDIS only funds a support if it is considered ‘reasonable and necessary’ and is directly related to a person’s disability. What’s covered varies from person to person.

Determining what supports are reasonable and necessary involves subjective assessments by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), which administers the scheme, or its contractors. 

Planners are employed or contracted by the agency to help each applicant identify their goals and draft a plan. The plan sets out the supports needed to achieve their goals. Participants are then allocated funds for these supports, which, the Agency suggests ‘must represent value for money’. Funds can only be used to achieve the goals in the NDIS plan.

NDIS offers ‘three main ways to manage your plan and its budgets (and you can change how you do this at any time, you just need to ask the NDIS) or you can choose a combination of options. Plan managed and Self managed and Agency managed  How to choose which one is challenging even for someone with tertiary education and no disability!

The NDIS uses tight definitions when  allocating individual support packages. It doesn’t duplicate other formal supports such as health and education. It does not pay  day-to-day living costs or the kind of help able to be given readily by family and friends.

Guidelines say the NDIA will fund daily living activities, social activities, aids and equipment and home modification that are necessary.  At a practical level the NDIA assessor decides what is reasonable and necessary and  if someone gets an individual support package or misses out.

NDIS delivery – more problems than you can poke a stick at, including:-

    • Baffling –  complex,  complicated, too bureaucratic and too hard to navigate
    • People are waiting too long – for entry, for support, for equipment, for reviews
    • Carers, particularly those caring for children, have often to be on hand and work 24/7 – no access to respite and help with a singularly challenging role
    • People need more help at every stage of the process – with applying, with planning, and with getting their plan into action
    • Staff lack basic skills, are not experienced in different kinds of disability and lack resources to call on when they need help.
    • Some employees and contractors stay briefly with  NDIS  – quit ASAP – too stressful and confused
    • Some people have to  go into significant debt paying for assessments to try and gain access to the scheme (if they can borrow at all)
    • People on Newstart, Disability Support Pension, the homeless and others who don’t present well to NDIS contractors and staff often see their applications rejected. Assessors have no life experience or professional understanding of these people and their needs.

In 2018, the Commonwealth Ombudsman investigated the NDIS’s handling of reviews on the basis that around one-third of all complaints it received about the scheme related to this issue. This system was judged “unapproachable” and “lacking in fairness and transparency” and leading to delays of up to nine months to receive an outcome.

The NDIA received significant criticism for spending over A$600 million in 2017-18 on consultants, contractors and outsourced staff.

NDIS is NOT an insurer or corporation – it is about people and society, not an economy

NDIS is set up as a ‘pretend’ insurer or corporation/business – it is not about $$$$ and taxes and budgets and bureaucratic crap designed to scare and belittle those in need. The disabled, aged, sick, and disadvantaged are people. We  live in a society, not an economy.

NDIS should be scrapped and what it is intended to do should be done by the Australian Government’s Department of Human Services, which includes Centrelink and Medicare and Child Support.

 Centrelink is, already,  ‘….responsible for the development of service delivery policy and provide access to social, health and other payments and service. This includes seniors, job seekers students and trainees, families, carers, parents, people with disability,Indigenous Australians , and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Medicare funds access to health care. This covers some of a disabled person’s  needs. The  Medical Benefits Scheme, provides benefits including:-

    • out-of-hospital medical services, including general practitioner (GP) and specialist services
    • selected diagnostic imaging and pathology services
    • allied health services in limited circumstances
    • medical services for private patients in public and private hospitals (excluding accommodation, theatre fees and medicines).

Suggested  ways to effectively deliver “reasonable and necessary supports” to help eligible people with a disability live more independently.

    1. If someone is unable to hold a job because of disability or the needs of a disabled person for whom they are a carer, they  should get a pension, equal to the Australian Minimum Wage, presently about $741 per week. In addition, a supplementary payment aimed at mitigating the financial pressures inherent to disability and common to most disable persons  and carers – travel to health professionals, costs with maintaining houses and equipment and similar things.
    2. Those who work despite disability  should receive supplementary payments to mitigate the additional cost inherent in travel and being in a workplace whilst suffering from a disability.
    3. These supplementary payments should be ‘generic’: those relative few who need more should get more on application – the  bonus for the relative few who need less is offset against the admin. cost of case by case application.
    4. Medicare, which already funds access to health care, should be ‘tweaked’ to cover as many needs common to people with a disability as possible. The special needs of a relative few  should be case-managed promptly competently and with empathy.

Other necessary measures suggested

A Job Guarantee Program, which Australia and much of the World needs desperately, would be particularly useful, cost effective and inclusive resource for the disabled . See this Blog September 2019 Unemployment – A Job Guarantee Solution

A Job Guarantee Program would complement programs aiding people with disability.  A Community Garden is already acknowledged to be an outstanding resource.

Those with mobility issues and many other problems find enormous difficulty  in finding work. Employers don’t appreciate that a disability need  not preclude employment. It needs to be demonstrated by a Government Agency  that the disabled are a valuable resource  too.

There is substantial evidence to suggest that obesity and being overweight along with substance abuse are significant causes or contributing factors in  many disabilities – Type 2 Diabetes, Dementia, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Alzheimer’s – many more.

National action to drawn attention to the dire consequences for both health and disability and to deter or curtail the use of junk food and ‘soda’ and promote health eating and lifestyles would be both efficacious and cost effective.

Please comment – your full name need not be given – nickname or first name will do

Unemployment – A Job Guarantee Solution

In Australia at the end of September 2019 there are around 700,000 persons unemployed. A further 1.1 million persons are underemployed. https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/6226.0

Unemployment and the associated poverty and social ill effects include:-

  1. The longer people stay unemployed, the more they lose work-skills and non-government employers tend to prefer to hire from those already working or who have been unemployed short-term.
  2. Poverty reduces people’s capacity to buy nutritious food, housing and health care.
  3. Unemployment can indirectly affect health because of reduced participation in society or from the stress of financial strain.
  4. Prolonged unemployment can lead to an erosion of skills, basically robbing the economy of otherwise useful talents. 
  5. Unemployment can force families to deny educational opportunities to their children and deprive the economy of those future skills
  6. Particular parts of the community are more severely affected than others, exacerbating problems of inequality within metropolitan areas and between the cities and some regional areas. Outback Qld circa 13% Youth around 20%.
  7. Mature-age job seekers lose their skills tend to be lost over time, particularly as they are more likely to experience longer periods unemployed. These skills are also lost to the labour market and industry.
  8.  Prolonged unemployment can lead to greater skepticism and pessimism about the value of education and training – workers less willing to invest in the years of training some jobs require.
  9. Young people are particularly adversely affected – large numbers, particularly in rural and remote areas – a dreadful situation for them to be in to face a meaningful future in our society.
  10. Government’s providing derisive and inadequate income support eg Newstart to provide a Budget Surplus!!!!
  11. Drugs, alcohol abuse and crime flourish in a poor, unemployed community.

Distinguished British economist John Maynard Keynes, as long ago as the 1930’s wrote : ‘… outstanding faults of the economic society in which we live are its failure to provide for full employment and its arbitrary and inequitable distribution of wealth and incomes.’  https://www.investopedia.com/terms/k/keynesianeconomics.asp  

The government should introduce a Job Guarantee that offers a job at a living (minimum) wage to anyone who wants to work but cannot find employment. See:-https://futuretofightfor.org.au/policies/01/ and Associate Professor Pavlina Tcherneva  https://www.pavlina-tcherneva.net/job-guarantee-faq

The Australian government can afford this program because it has has no financial constraint as the issuer of the currency. A currency-issuing government can always choose the unemployment level once the spending and saving decisions of the non-government sector are implemented.

In terms of the overall working of a national economy ( macroeconomics), a Job Guarantee would be an automatic stabiliser that ensures that the Government is doing necessary amount of spending where it is needed in the right places and right time to achieve full employment with stable prices.

When the private sector is recovering, federal government spending would automatically fall as people leave the Job Guarantee for higher paid jobs elsewhere.

When the private sector experienced a downturn, federal government spending would automatically increase as people lose their private sector jobs and enter the Job Guarantee. 
Unemployment is a major loss of valuable productive resources, depressing the economic economic growth and lowering our standard of living of the whole community.

Offsetting the cost of a Job Guarantee would include lesser demand for Centrelink services, enhanced tax revenue and receipts, including those on superannuation and investments.
The costs associated with substance abuse, including health care costs and police interventions would lessen. Unemployment and its adverse social effects adds very substantially to on-going and escalating Government spending.

Local economies, particularly those in Rural and Remote areas would see an enhanced economy and small businesses would have better prospects.

Training must be included, to ensure that the unemployed are equipped with skills that will be needed when the private economy starts again to employ more people.

Not a “work for the dole” proposal. This is voluntary, full time employment, guaranteed and managed by the government.  It is not intended to be compulsory: it’s there for people who want to work. How to deal sensibly and humanely with those who are able to work and refuse to do so should examined and addressed – it is beyond the ambit of this paper.

Those who cannot work because of drug or alcohol dependencies should be offered health care, training counselling and more to equip them for meaningful work.

Job Guarantee Programs should be managed at local area or even neighbourhood levels. Each area’s Program must be managed and supervised  by appropriately qualified people – a well paid, sought-after job. (eg – maybe Centrelink staff, fewer of which would be now needed).

Some Job Guarantee examples

  • Noxious Weed eradication – pests: graffiti
  • Rubbish removal on beaches and in waterways
  • Road Maintenance at low levels – small truck/4 or so workers- potholes, rubbish.
  • Bike paths – many rural roads see cyclists at risk from traffic. Path enhancement is useful and ‘pick and shovel’
  • Climate change responses – tree planting and care 
  • Aged Care needs, care etc – working with the long term professionals.
  • Community gardens, particularly in remote areas – good tucker for kids, aged, deprived.
  • Enhanced care of National Parks, recreation areas, sporting facilities, school premises and streets and neighbourhoods generally
  • Maybe ‘Night Watch’ patrols – DON’T approach or  try to apprehend suspicious parties – just call the Police!
  • Indigenous health, nutrition, social and other problem areas  – Care for Country. 
  • Gardens for fresh produce in remote areas, particularly Aboriginal and Islander Communities.

 The points made above are only a very broad outline – see here  and  generally  online and elsewhere for much more information.

 

Health and Education – School Gardens

As an Old Fart …. Elderly Gentleman, working with others at the Portarlington School’s Community Garden, I want to help with offering a food garden and its produce to provide better tucker and an understanding of the health and educational benefits of gardening, cooking and eating good food rather than the junk food and sugar-laden drinks promoted by intensive advertising.

This Blog acknowledges that Portarlington and much of the Bellerine is by no means as socially and economically challenged as the less fortunate neighbourhoods around which junk-food outlets cluster see Science Direct. However, the Portarlington School’s Community Garden and the support given to it by Portarlington Primary School’s Principal, Teachers and Staff may assist other School Gardens and Blogs and provide assistance to the community generally.

The economic burden of treating obesity-related diseases is estimated to rise from A$12 billion in 2014 to A$21 billion in 2025. We spend far, far less on measure to deal with obesity and its origins.

Back in the Herb Section of the Portarlington School’s Community Garden, I am working out how best to add – this week, Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) French Tarragon

 

French tarragon requires full sun to partial shade, rich, well-drained soil and regular watering. Soil should not be too wet. OK in large pots.

New plants must be produced from rooted cuttings or purchased as potted stock from a nursery, I am uncertain as at mid September if I can divide a container plant from home or buy some potted Tarragon from The Diggers Club https://www.diggers.com.au/– I am a member and will pass on members’ discount if pots are needed.