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Although Constituted Differently, Individualized Disability Funding Schemes in England and Australia Face Similar Problems
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Although Constituted Differently, Individualized Disability Funding Schemes in England and Australia Face Similar Problems

Australia just started implementing the country’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in July 2016, after testing it in a number of localities across the country in a three-year pilot program. The scheme comprises the latest and most extensive investment in Australia’s disability services.

Australia has significantly been lagging behind internationally when it comes to disability funding. Indeed, a 2009 OECD survey ranked Australia as one of the worst performers in the 27-nation bloc as far as the quality of life for the disabled was concerned.

However, a $22-billion per year plan for investment in disability support services announced immediately after this represented an indication that the political establishment was becoming really serious with disability funding. This scheme was to be partly funded by an increment in the Medicare levy, a roughly 2% tax deducted from the taxable incomes of Australian residents so as to access the country’s public healthcare system.

Australian reforms in this sector to some extent resemble the personalization reforms being implemented in England, where persons living with disabilities have been accessing individualized since the late 1980s. However, despite being quite differently constituted and organized, what emerges is that Australia’s NDIS is experiencing the exact same flaws that England’s own disability support scheme has been experiencing for decades. “Think Local, Act Personal” unveiled the “Making it Real” crusade in England to draw attention to public participation in the implementation of personalized methods.

Some of the key differences between the Australian and the English models of disability support lie in their fundamental principles. For instance, rather than being laid on the foundation of personal budgets like the English version, the Australian scheme’s design is based on currently-existing no-fault car insurance and workplace compensation schemes in both Australia and New Zealand.

With the kind of insurance focus that the NDIS espouses in its design, actuaries have a major role also in the implementation. Subsequently, there is a lot of optimism that the program will help save cash via early investment and easier management of risk involved.

According to the Productivity Commission, there were other possible efficiency gains, including the potential for every 1% rise in productivity in the disability sector to reduce the scheme’s funding costs by up to $130 million. On the contrary, it appears that the creators of personal budgets in England’s scheme never had saving cash over a person’s lifetime when they designed it.

These differences in design notwithstanding, some of the challenges similar to England’s case that have so far emerged include low investment on early intervention mechanisms and lack of proper information to help make individualized spending decisions.

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