Settlement Guide

Settlement Guide: What is the National Disability Insurance Scheme?

Source: National Disability Insurance Agency

It’s hailed as the biggest health policy since Medicare. The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) aims to provide the nearly half a million Australians who have a permanent and significant disability with the reasonable and necessary supports they need to enjoy an ordinary life.

Set up by the Labor government in 2012, the NDIS is being introduced progressively around Australia from July 2016. Yet, service providers say more work needs to be done to make the scheme accessible for people from non-English speaking backgrounds.

The NDIS is being introduced progressively around Australia from July 2016 

Disability does not have to limit people from achieving their potentials and living fulfilling lives. The NDIS takes a lifetime approach, investing in people with disability early to improve their outcomes later in life.

The task of implementing it falls to the Commonwealth’s National Disability Insurance Agency.

NDIA’s Assistant Director for Community Engagement in Victoria North, Sasha James says, “the National Disability Insurance Scheme is a scheme that provided opportunity for people with disability in Australia.

She explains that the aim of the scheme is for these people "to participate socially and economically in their community and to exercise choice and control in relation to the disability support they require to help them with an ordinary life."

“My son Simon is 43 years old now, he was born with intellectual disability, deafness and autism," social worker Gabrielle Fakhri says explains that Simon needs full-time care.

"So Simon does not speak, he’s also deaf, and about 10 years ago he developed a mental health illness a bipolar disorder, which means that he has moments of manic panic, where he’s on a high and not sleeping, and he has times when he’s totally depressed, where he wants to go to bed for 20 days and not get up, so he has a lot of high needs.”

“My son Simon is 43 years old now, he was born with intellectual disability, deafness and autism, so Simon does not speak." 

Gabrielle was contacted by the government to attend a meeting with NDIA’s local area coordinator to discuss how the scheme will help her him. She expects once Simon gets accepted into the scheme, the services he currently receives will be combined. 

“So all of that, that’s been from different government’s departments will now be funded by this National Insurance Scheme, so once Simon gets accepted into this scheme, and we agree on how much money they’re going to give me, all that other funding will cease, and it’ll come out of that one bucket of money, a lump sum.”

Who is eligible to enter the scheme?

To become an NDIS participant a person must: have a permanent disability that significantly affects their ability to take part in everyday activities; be aged less than 65; be an Australian citizen or hold a permanent visa or a Protected Special Category visa; and live in Australia where the NDIS is available.

Who is delivering the NDIS?

The NDIA is partnering with the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments and community organisations to deliver the NDIS in local areas.

The ACT was the first body to fully adopt the new model, reaching its target of 5075 clients within hours of the full September 30 roll-out.

The Australian reported on October 15, that newly eligible people have been turned away and told to wait for a vacancy, which is typically only available when someone in the NDIS dies.

This has caused concerns in some communities as people became worried they may miss out.

The National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA) is the national peak organisation representing the rights and interests of people living with disability, their families and carers, from culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) and non-English speaking backgrounds (NESB) and providing policy advice to government.

The National Ethnic Disability Alliance’s CEO Dwayne Cranfield says the NDIS is the biggest social reform in Australia since Medicare.

NEDA CEO Dwayne Cranfield believes the NDIS brings much needed change.

“The NDIS is a great idea, it’s going to change the lives of people who live in Australia, it’s going to change the lives of people with disability for the better. It’s a scheme which is probably the biggest social reforms Australia has seen since Medicare, and it’s a great thing. But in saying that what we have to remember it’s only servicing 470 thousand people.”

Accessibility for people from non-English speaking backgrounds

Dwayne Cranfield also says more work needs to be done to make it accessible for people from non-English speaking backgrounds.

He says that it has taken the government and the NDIA a long time to develop an action plan to get the message out.

“So we’ve talking to them about a strategy to engage the CaLD communities, they finally got one, and it’s in a draft form, and hopefully will see something soon.”

Social worker and carer Gabrielle Fakhri says she heard stories about people not getting the money they asked for and certain programs not being funded and has there are legitimate concerns about people with limited English might miss out.

“What was interesting for me was that nobody was running courses for people who do not speak English, so for migrants and refugees who I work with, who have disabled children, they’re going to be disadvantaged even though they can request an interpreter at the meeting, the fact is there’s a lot of information they may not have.”

In Victoria, The Action on Disability within Ethnic Communities (ADEC) is one of the organisations registered to deliver the scheme. ADEC’s Executive Director Keith Hitchen says language is the main barrier. 

“Because of the lack of English, they don’t understand the system, so they get a little bit anxious especially when they have to change over to the NDIS, and most of them think, we’re going to lose out on the services, so they get a bit reluctant to join the NDIS. Another barrier is the way the NDIS is promoted is basically through social media a lot, and a lot of our clients don’t use computers or very little, so they don’t get that information. So the way they get that information is basically listen to the radio, like SBS or television and hearing it in their own language.”

ADEC has put strategies in place to make the information more accessible.  

“We have increased our marketing process and advertising to try and reach people from CaLD backgrounds," says Hitchen.

"We’ve also contacted clients that we have worked with over the last 5 years, on top of that, we have also an advocacy support program where people can contact us if they need support directly at the moment for the pre planning process.”

NDIA’s Sasha James advises to get in touch with the NDIA directly or with community organisations.     

“We would really encourage people who are feeling anxious to make themselves available to come to the NDIA community information sessions that we provide, on our website we have all the details around community information sessions we have.”

NEDA’s Dwayne Cranfield says speaking to NDIA is a good first step.

“I think there is a lot of disinformation in the community," says Cranfield. "I think there are a lot of people who know about it, but don’t know everything. I think people are better off going directly to the source of the knowledge and talking directly to the NDIS people.”

Requesting an interpreter may not be sufficient to fully understand how the scheme works. Social worker and carer Gabrielle Fakhri advises to take your support people with you to get the right information and obtain the services you are entitled to.

“People who they know, either from their child’s school or day placement, or any service, because when you are a mother you are very emotional and sometimes you get upset, so if you have other people in the meeting they will help the meeting to go smoothly.”

The National Disability Insurance Scheme states that:Australians will now have peace of mind that if their child or loved one is born with or acquires a significant disability that is likely to be with them for life, they will get the support they need, when they need it”,  and this is what Gabrielle Fakhri certainly wishes for.

"I am hoping and praying that under this new scheme, they will look at my age, they will look at my health, and my husband’s health, look at the age of my son, Simon, and have some sort of planning for when I can no longer look after him, that he can be cared for in a proper setting, so that’s my dream and my goal for the NDIS."

To find out about the scheme in your area visit NDIS or call 1800 800 110.

Information is also available in several languages.

For people with hearing or speech loss call 1800 555 677

Speak and Listen:1800 555 727

For translation and interpreting services call 131 450