Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Whither NDIS Now?

Just heard NSW Premier-in-waiting Barry O'Farrell mention the standard incoming government technique of examining the books once elected in order to find the inevitable 'Black Hole' that the previous government left, reluctantly 'forcing' the new government to take some 'tough measures.'

I think the chances are high that after finding the Black Hole that O'Farrell will take a leaf out of the WA Liberal government's Economic Audit Report (its Black Hole-finding mission) and do something similar, recommending an overhaul of the State's community services, including disability, and finding in favour of making these services more of a cost-effective, for profit market than it already is.

It will favour the big organisations in giving them greater policy-making powers, upon their commitment to run 'along business lines.' It will at best ignore advocacy and smaller, economically unattractive efforts, but more likely weed them out over time.

It will support individual funding, but in such ways that they are fully state-controlled, assessed by 'independent' assessors, and checked for fraud, tapping into a substantial national database of individual service users (oh sorry: 'consumer') records, right down to knowing a person's 'natural supports.'

It will happen because this is entirely in line with the Productivity Commission's draft NDIS report. It is also in line with the influential Centre for Social Impact , a multi-university campus research project (run by Prof Shergold, former Howard advisor, project started in dying Howard days with a $25M fund), which was and is a driving force in the WA government's push. Julia Gillard gushes over Social Impact on its website. It also is in line with the National Compact project, launched by Kevin Rudd in his day as PM. The market-economic model in social services has bipartisan support.

In essence these initiatives all use rhetoric of needs while seeking to transform being of service, care and support into a cost-effective, efficient, competition-based commercial activity as part of the market. You can clearly see this in the NDIS report, which is proposed to be run by a 'commercial board' (ok, with the obligatory consumer advisory committee appended to it). Need for support, for either inclusion or segregation, is determined by economic effectiveness. It is not based on principles or rights of equality and opportunities to rise to one's individual potential. Effective services to serve the economy, not individual people. The failed Third Way UK policies recycled in Australia?

Rarely do we ask how much disability actually arises from the disabling market-economic policies that are part and parcel of all Australian governments and political parties. Indeed the NDIS draft report itself does not discuss the possibility of any, so does not offer any real safeguards against its proposed, huge NDIA bureaucracy.

Money will be only as good as the motivations and intentions behind it. Better sort that out before any money commitment is received, because people might have to sell their soul for a sense of 'entitlement' and some support.

Will the disability movement's analysis of this economic model, and alternatives to it, emerge? Or will it and its proxies remain content in supporting the NDIS Entitlement while apparently ignoring the underlying commercial values that can undo us? The politics of hope, I know, but surely we can do better than that?

1 comment:

  1. Excellent piece Erik. Coincidentally I am reading Anna Yeatmans new book Individualization and the Delivery of Welfare Services which argues that social policy (including disability policy) has been reconstructed around an individualized market driven model of care and service. Yeatman's point is that individualized and marketized models of publicly funded welfare services (including where funding is tied to outcomes for particular clients) are guided and shaped by an economic model in which the idea of the sovereign consumer, free to choose the service s/he needs in a service market, becomes the primary organizing principle. Yeatman argues that the creation by governments of service markets in which the service consumer is enabled and supported to exercises his or her preference in relation to the service market (choice of service, choice of provider) privatizes risk, devolving risk to the service user and the provider.Yeatman also argues that a key feature of this marketized model of welfare services is that governments have appropriated the rhetoric of consumer/service user discourse and laid it over the top of the individualized and marketized models, thereby making it more appealing