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Budget falls short in restoring confidence to disability sector

wheelchair user in the street

The 2024-25 Federal Budget was a missed opportunity for government to support quality disability services and provide much-needed confidence to a sector in crisis. 

While there are some welcome measures in the budget, NDS are deeply disappointed at the lack of targeted measures to ensure that disability service providers can continue to support hundreds of thousands of people with disability.

NDS CEO Laurie Leigh says that inadequate pricing and spiralling costs of providing disability services have already seen many good quality providers exiting the market in the past 12 months.

“With ongoing uncertainty surrounding key elements of NDIS and disability sector reform, clear signals are needed from government to boost the confidence of the sector”, said Ms Leigh.

NDS has been calling on government to roll out measures to support sector transformation over the next five years so that providers are equipped to deal with the reforms recommended by the Disability Royal Commission and NDIS Review.

While budget measures such as a funding boost to improve the operations of the NDIS Commission, early work on progressing the NDIS Review recommendations for independent pricing and foundational supports, and a focus on developing evidence-based supports are welcome, this is a far cry from the investment that’s needed for sector transformation.

Indications from the Finance Minister that plans might be cut to achieve NDIS savings are concerning, given the inadequacy of existing planning processes to recognise the support needs of participants.

“Disability service providers, along with the rest of the disability community, will be anxious for the detail on how NDIS savings will be achieved”, said Laurie Leigh.

“The absence of any transformation funding for the sector, coupled with no significant measures to address ongoing chronic workforce shortages and the rising costs of delivering quality services, is extremely disappointing”.

The latest survey data form NDS’s State of the Disability Sector report shows 52 per cent of providers reporting losses or just breaking even in FY 2022-23.

“Further closures of good quality service providers will mean less choice and fewer services for people with disability, especially those with the highest support needs”, Laurie Leigh said.

The disability community, including participants, providers and workers, will now be looking with even greater interest at the outcomes of the NDIA’s next Annual Pricing Review, which we expect in the coming weeks.

“The price review may be the last chance to restore confidence and prevent market failure. The NDIA needs to ensure that the prices set by government for delivering NDIS services meet the true cost of running disability services, particularly for registered providers supporting people with high or complex support needs.”

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