New research finds NDIS exacerbates inequities


Wednesday 24 May, 2017

A report into the efficacy of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) from the perspective of people with a disability involved in the scheme has found that while many have welcomed the reform, it may in fact be exacerbating some of the inequities it was designed to solve.

UNSW Canberra academics Helen Dickinson and Sue Olney co-authored the report which was funded by the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne Social Equity Institute. It involved community researchers with disabilities working with university-based experts - an inclusive methodology that produced more nuanced evidence than traditional methods of collection and analysis.

The research discovered that the aims of the NDIS to reduce traditional inequities in relation to socio-economic position, residential location, level of education and household income, amongst others, have yet to be fulfilled, and in some cases, these inequities may have worsened since the scheme’s introduction.

For example, the research found those who are better able, either through their own ability or support from family, friends and others, to understand and navigate these systems fare better overall, while those who are more isolated, socially excluded and/or living in greater poverty are less well placed to make demands in terms of services and care planning processes.

Explains Sue Olney, “There's an overwhelming amount of information attached to this and a lot of the administrative burden of coordinating services and understanding the market for services has been pushed onto the service users. The people navigating this system, and their families, are under pressure in many ways - their lives are busy and complicated - so people who didn't have strong networks of support were really struggling to understand the information provided.”

Similarly, those living in rural or remote areas found that not only are there typically fewer providers available, limiting choice, a significant portion of their funding was being consumed by services travelling to them or them travelling to access services.

While the NDIS’s delivery of greater choice for users was seen as a positive to many the research also found a significant portion of respondents found it a burden.

“There were people we spoke to who were much more comfortable with routine, so for them you'd have to argue that choice is not necessarily something they value,” explains Olney. “The clear message from our research was that people with disabilities have broad and diverse needs and wants. They are individual people of different ages, socio-economic status, levels of education, ability and background, with very different requirements for support, so information about the scheme needs to be flexible enough to meet a range of needs and circumstances.”

Other issues raised by people with disabilities and their carers include feeling that NDIS workers lacked time, qualifications or an understanding of disabilities; and the vulnerability of having NDIS workers coming into their home.

“These findings are important because the NDIS’s measure of success is to say we can make these people's lives better and less complicated, but our report says, there's more work to be done before that can be achieved,” says Olney.

For more information or to discuss the findings of the report, please contact:

Helen Dickinson
Associate Professor Public Service Research
Director, Public Service Research Group
School of Business
UNSW, Canberra
M: 0466 395 131

Dr Sue Olney
Research Fellow
Public Service Research Group
School of Business
UNSW Canberra
M: 0403 380 604