The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has been one of the most important social policy innovations to have been developed and implemented in Australian history. For such a major social policy to commence through a large-scale trial, which is simultaneously evaluated in a rigorous manner by an independent body of experts, is the right course of action. It supports the prudent use of public resources and is also a manifestation of respect for the many thousands of people who make the NDIS, from the people with disability and their families and carers, to the dedicated carer and support providers and workforces, and with the arrival of the NDIS, to the new dedicated NDIA workforce.
The main objective of the evaluation of the NDIS has been to offer a well-informed and independent assessment of the many impacts of the NDIS trial. The trial has taken place in South Australia (SA), Tasmania (TAS), New South Wales (NSW), Victoria (VIC), the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and the Barkly region in the Northern Territory (NT). We consider the impacts of the trial on people with disability and their families and carers, the disability sector and its workforce, mainstream providers and services, and stakeholders and the wider community. A further objective of the evaluation has been to examine high-level processes, focusing on elements of the NDIS which contributed to or impeded the intended positive outcomes. In addition, the evaluation has provided a working template for a continuing independent longitudinal survey data collection of people with disabilities and their families and carers in Australia and of the disability support sector and its workforces. Such a survey would provide early evidence of any problems as they arise, and confirmation of where things are going well. It would thus be an objective guide as to how best to modify and strengthen the system as it unfolds and matures.
Several main findings emerge from the evaluation of the NDIS. The first finding is that the Scheme has been designed and built on sound fundamentals. This is an important confirmation of the policy. The second finding is that the NDIS has been delivering the outcomes that it was designed to deliver. This is probably the most important positive finding of the evaluation and it should be flagged as such. Given the complexity and magnitude of the undertaking, it is not unexpected that these positive findings come with qualifications. For example, some design aspects and implementation outcomes are not necessarily as person-centred as originally desired, and several outcomes are not attained at the speed that was originally expected. The evaluation identifies several such problems and offers its critical assessment. The evaluation team would invite the policy maker to consider carefully these identified problems, as many of them will need to be resolved. Equally, the team would invite the policy maker to consider carefully those aspects of the NDIS that make for its success and seek appropriate policy interventions that will reinforce them.
The evaluation has been designed to publish its results in three major reports. This Final Report is the last of these three reports. The first report presented the methodologies used for all evidence collections. The second Intermediate Report provided the first synthesis of the evidence collected up to mid-2016 from all different sources of the NDIS evaluation on a selected number of themes (supply and demand of support services; choice and control; and participation, wellbeing and aspirations). This Final Report provides a complete and comprehensive synthesis of the evidence collected from all different sources and methodologies of the NDIS evaluation. This report is presented in a thematic way in order to utilise the synergies between the depth of understanding offered by qualitative evidence and the overall representativeness achieved through quantitative survey data. Combining and integrating these different sources of data offers critical insights on the NDIS. The three reports should be considered jointly, as the evaluation’s methodological foundations are explained in the Initial Report and the underpinnings of the current thematic reporting in the Intermediate Report.