The eighth anniversary of the National Disability Insurance Scheme is taking place amid a flurry of initiatives as the scheme nudges half-a-million participants.
It has grown from its beginnings on July 1, 2013 to already have passed the 450,000 mark on its way to supporting an expected 530,000 Australians in the next few years.
The Minister for the NDIS, Senator Linda Reynolds, and the National Disability Insurance Agency, which administers the scheme, released several reform initiatives in the lead-up to the July 1 anniversary.
These include the community consultation papers 'An Ordinary Life at Home' and 'Supporting you to make your own decisions' asking for feedback from participants in particular.
"Their voices are at the heart of all discussions on reform," Senator Reynolds said.
"As the scheme's custodian, I am committed to delivering on its original vision to maximise participants' choice and control.
"With the scheme expected to continue to grow to support more than 530,000 Australians in coming years, it's now more important than ever to deliver on that vision while ensuring it endures for generations to come," she said.
The NDIS provides funding for Australians with permanent and significant disability to access disability-related support and services to be more independent and participate fully in their chosen communities.
The NDIA is now operating under a new service charter with guidelines for participants on what they can expect in their dealings with the agency and is working towards 51 improvements, including:
- Independent assessments to improve budget planning
- More options to set up home and living arrangements
- Rewriting the NDIS rules to make them easier to understand
- New digital services for easier access to the NDIS portal, make payments and find information.
An NDIA spokesperson said the scheme was changing lives for the better.
"But we acknowledge there is more to do to," she said.
Changing face of NDIS users
A snapshot of NDIS participants shows the young, those at risk of entering residential care and people of diverse backgrounds as major beneficiaries. The latest report shows 11,000 children are receiving Early Childhood Early Intervention support.
The scheme has also helped 2000 Australians under 65 leave residential care homes over the past three years - around one in three. At the same time, the number of people under 65 entering aged care homes has fallen by 68 per cent. And there are more participants from diverse backgrounds:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders 6.8 per cent up from 5.9 per cent two years earlier.
- Culturally and Linguistically Diverse 9.4 per cent up from 8.2 per cent.
- Australians in remote and very remote areas 1.5 per cent up from 1.2 per cent.