States, PM take first steps to disability scheme: experts respond

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and state premiers during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012 after the Council of Australian Governments meeting. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) today announced it had signed an intergovernmental agreement for the first stage of a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

According to a communique released today:

“COAG reaffirmed its ongoing commitment to a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) by signing an intergovernmental agreement for its first stage. The agreement provides the foundation for all governments to work together to develop and implement the initial phase of the NDIS. The lessons learned in implementing the first stage will inform governments about proceeding to a full scheme by:

a. setting out shared roles and responsibilities for working collaboratively on the policy for a full scheme;

b. establishing the new Standing Council on Disability Reform, with representation from all jurisdictions, which – from 1 January 2013 – will be responsible for making decisions and formulating advice on matters arising from the launch and related to the transition to a full scheme; and

c. setting in place arrangements for the review and evaluation of the first stage which will inform the transition to a full scheme.”

The communique highlighted yesterday’s agreement between the Commonwealth and the New South Wales Governments to establish the full NDIS in New South Wales by 1 July 2018.

Here are some expert responses to the news:

Associate Professor Simon Darcy, Co-Director Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Centre, University of Technology, Sydney.

The COAG agreement is a tremendous starting point for addressing the well-documented unmet need of people with disability. The first stage will be critical in developing the detail to be able to implement the full scheme.

Disability is not a simple construct. There is an inherent complexity to understanding people across mobility, vision, hearing and cognitive disabilities and their respective support needs for social participation.

The NDIS, for the first time, provides an Australia-wide approach to understanding an individual’s needs, providing them with the resources to have these needs met in an independent, dignified and equitable manner – no matter whether they are born with a disability or traumatically acquire their disability over their lifetime.

Let’s hope the vision of the signing of this agreement at COAG can be realised in order to unlock the human potential that people with disability could offer Australian society.

Leanne Dowse, Co-ordinator of Bachelor of Social Science, Policy Studies at the University of New South Wales

We just have been following the debate in the US where disability activists are devastated because the US senate has just voted not to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities on the grounds that might be a back door to abortion rights.

Here, now our government is taking the plunge toward this massive scheme meant to ensure equity but in a sense what it’s really doing is saying we will just move the next step along – and potentially, if it all looks too hard, it might not happen.

There’s never been any really detail on how it will work. The proof will be in the pudding.

There’s this ongoing consultation about what’s going to happen but one of the things we know from the ways that governments consult on disability legislation, is that they agree to keep on negotiating forever.

It’s one step closer to surety but we are still a long way off.