Monday, March 1, 2010

Should the Government be applauded?

Some people think that after fighting for so many years to get a Universal Insurance Scheme for people with disabilities, we need to applaud the Government for now doing a feasibility study through an independent Productivity Commission. And we are being consulted by the Productivity Commission, aren't we? So lets just get behind NDIS and make it happen...

OK, here are some responses to that:

I too have supported a universal disability insurance scheme for people with disabilities, going back decades, and wrote a submission for it to the government's  2007 Big Ideas summit in 2007.

I too want a scheme that provides for our needs, and particularly, of those who are most vulnerable. I want quality in services provided to us. I want funding for strong safeguards, including advocacy. I want real participation by people with disabilities in shaping it. The current NDIS framework does NONE of these things. Many will like to say something about that in the upcoming community consultations. But those issues fall outside the Productivity Commission's terms of reference for the feasibility study. The parameters for the scheme and what will count in submissions have already been set by interests other than ours.

NDIS campaign rhetoric sounds like what we want. But there is simply no evidence for it - that I am aware of. Yet they say that:  NDIS should be the centre piece of the new National Disability Strategy, which is due to be unveiled in early 2010. " So the entire National Disability Strategy will be defined by this NDIS. Without us.

NDIS says that just three organisations - Yooralla, Disability Services Australia and the Spastic Centre "developed a detailed submission for the Australian Government's National Disability Strategy." Absolutely no problem with any group or people proposing anything. But what if their agenda dominates others, and stacks the deck so the others, the ones for whom they say the whole proposal is about, only get a token look in, in proposing their approaches? What then?

DIY X-ray of NDIS

Here is a quick way to X-ray NDIS as it is on the table now. Search the Price Waterhouse Cooper report , Disability Investment Report , or Productivity Commission's terms of reference with your find-function in your browser or text application, and look for:
most vulnerable
quality of service
disability definition
reasons for dysfunctional service system (lack of quality?)
advocacy (funding)
or anything else you find important

...and see what you find out. These are all central concepts, in my book, in conceptualising a 'revolutionary', 'transformational' new funding approach. But perhaps dollars are value-free? Can anyone dispel my concerns after going through these?~ Please do.

One idea of what the NDIS campaign recognises as disability is found in the PWC report. See this: "Disability can be described in relation to several main aspects of people’s life experience: their body functions and structures, the activities that they undertake, the life areas in which they participate, and environmental factors that affect these experiences."

Do you see anything about disabling values or attitudes? Something many have fought for to get recognised as a fundamental view of what creates disability? Something that leads straight to any conception of our needs. But already in that early report eligible people for NDIS were restricted to those with a "profound" or "severe" disability, as they are in the feasibility study's terms of reference. This is how they are described in the PWC report:

a profound activity limitation, meaning the person is unable to do, or always needs help with, a core activity task (core activity tasks are self care, mobility and communication); 


a severe activity limitation meaning the person sometimes needs help with a core activity task and/or has difficulty understanding or being understood by family or friends and/or can communicate more easily using sign language or other non-spoken forms of communication.

Do you see how you can count the "interventions"?  It's an accountant's report of course, the foundation that the government chose as a starting point.  More fundamental needs that depend on positive attitudes, being welcomed as a valued participating citizen, are much harder to count. So they do not count.


Profound and severe disability does not equate to vulnerability, although for many in that category their vulnerability is high. We know that being blind, deaf, amputee or with a 'mild' intellectual disability plus an Aboriginal background of social discrimination and disadvantage, fior example, vulnerability goes through the roof. Same for many who have a psychiatric condition. Does sending them to work get them a better life? A good life? Cause that's the other strand to NDIS. More people with disabilities and carers in work. Sounds alright, if it were  even if it were so simple. In a society that has mainstream values that exclude us, the same values used in shaping NDIS: medical view, market view, life with a disability is all about services and work view.


I also would like to see an independent panel to guide the Productivity Commission, and with our solid involvement. But calling a panel 'Independent' is not enough to actually make it so, I think.

Independent? If you think that 'nothing about us without us' means one spot only, on the Panel, allocated to the Chair of the National People with Disabilities and Carer Council, I would disagree. Nor that this appointment suggests any 'independence. As for the rest, see for yourself. This is the Independent Panel to the Productivity Commission's feasibility study:

Bruce Bonyhady (President of Philanthropy Australia and Chair of Yooralla)

David Bowen (Chief Executive Officer of the Lifetime Care and Support Authority in NSW)

Dr Rhonda Galbally (Chair of the National People with Disabilities and Carer Council)

Ms Robyn McKay (previously served in Senior Executive positions in the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs)

Dr Andrew Pesce (Federal President of the Australian Medical Association)

Ms Ann Sherry AO (former Chief Executive Officer of Westpac New Zealand and Group Executive, Westpac New Zealand and the Pacific)

Mr Ian Silk (Chief Executive of AustralianSuper)

And this is the membership of the Disability Investment Group Report that laid the foundation for the PC feasibility study:

Ian Silk, Chief Executive, AustralianSuper (Chair)
Bruce Bonyhady, President, Philanthropy Australia, Chairman, ANZ Trustees Limited and
Chairman, Yooralla
Allan Fels AO, Professor, Dean of the Australian New Zealand School of Government, and
former Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
Bill Moss AM, Chairman, MossCapital. Founder and Chairman, FSHD Global
Research Foundation
Mary Ann O’Loughlin, Executive Director, The Allen Consulting Group (until October 2008)
Kathy Townsend, Kathleen Townsend Executive Solutions Pty Ltd
John Walsh, Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers

See any overlap, of people, or interests represented?

See how how our own vital interest in any disability funding scheme have been represented, and by whom? That is why I believe it's all about cost-saving, safeguarding against ballooning disability costs and saving services financially. But in the media these NDIS promoters say it is all in our interests, in our name. But where were we in shaping things? Still now Disability Funding Summits insult the interests and needs of people with disabilities, by excluding us. So, now we can have our say soon. Twice even as the consultation process will be intensive, requiring discussion papers, white papers, green papers, any colour papers...

NZ scheme

OK, perhaps the NZ scheme is great. I have heard others from disability organisations say it has its problems. I don't know. The Productivity Commission (with an economic view of life) will look at it. Without us.

DIG report consultations

Yes the DIG report that helped define the reference frame within which the Productivity Commission will consult with us, involved 'community' consultations. Here is the breakdown from its Appendix:

7 people in Brisbane, 3 individuals, 3 from one organisation (Hope Australia) and 1 from another organisation (Foresters Community Finance)

7 people from Sydney, 1 individual, 6 from organisations (House With No Steps; Family Advocacy; Let Us Hear; Assoc For Chuildren With A Disability; National Disability Services; Lorna Hodgkinson Sunshine Home)

5 people in Perth, 4 individuals, 1 organisation (Planned Individual Networks)

3 people in Melbourne, 2 'individual', 1 from Leadership Plus

That's it! A total of twenty-one (21) people out of a constituency making up over 20% of the population! What do you think about that?


Yes I believe too that NDIS is an opportunity for something really different, even now perhaps, when it is a stacked deck. People reported in the Shut Out report called for a "Paradigm Shift". A paradigm shift actually means a fundamental shift in values and attitudes, and it is clear that that is what they mean.  NDIS is not that. It promises more of the same, perhaps worse.

Perhaps the opportunity is in the wake-up call NDIS represents to us. If not now, then when? I'm sure you know what to do.

NDIS is all about money and 'sustainability of treasury balances and paid services. For another view of that, read this perspective on Some Reasons Why Spending More Money Does Not Inexorably Improve Service Quality And Sustainability

That's my 5 cents worth. I am happy for anyone to prove me wrong on any of this.

Now if you really want to take positive action you can start supporting these 14 amendments to the inquiry's terms of reference here.


Erik Leipoldt

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