Policy report

Building the NDIS in regional Australia: a review of key policy approaches

Regional planning Rural health Disability National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Australia

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) represents Australia’s most comprehensive change to the disability services sector. The scheme completely transforms disability services from a system facilitated by block funds allocated to service providers to a market-based system with personalised levels of funding moving from the Commonwealth government directly to the client.

The architects of the NDIS argue that the scheme has the potential to replace a fragmented set of onesize-fits all services with an empowering model of user choice and controli . In allocating budgets to participants to spend on services they deem appropriate for their needs, the system aims to stimulate and create a disabilities services market place. The idea behind this approach is that increased social and economic participation will lead to positive health outcomes and economic growth for communities.

However, the NDIS poses a unique set of challenges for those living in regional and remote Australia. Geographical remoteness may inhibit the intended goals of consumer choice and business growth. In places that are rural or remote service offerings may be scarce, particularly for people with complex and long-term needs. This pushes up prices as providers struggle to build viable businesses in areas with fewer and more disperse clients. These environments – where there is a gap between the needs of the participants and the services that are available – are known as thin markets. Many places in regional Australia are at the forefront of these service delivery gaps.

The RAI has identified six policy tools either take a market-based or community-based approach to addressing these challenges. In other words, the policy debate centres on the degree to which the market should be managed from the ‘centre’ via pricing, funding and regulatory mechanisms and the degree to which place-based and flexible community approaches are a more suitable location for intervention. The suite of policy tools outlined in this report does not advocate taking one perspective over the other. Holistic approaches to thin markets are taking into account both funding and regulatory mechanisms and localised structural development.

Six recommended tools:

  1. Improving financial settings
  2. Continued block and hybrid funding
  3. Building the NDIS workforce
  4. Connecting with communities
  5. Innovative and collaborative service provision
  6. Improving technology and data
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