In 2011 the Productivity Commission inquiry into disability care and support highlighted the current [then] disability support system is underfunded, unfair, fragmented, and inefficient, and gives people with a disability little choice and no certainty of access to appropriate supports. The Report stated what many people already knew there were huge gaps and inequity, and there had to be a better way. The Report helped to galvanised and focus a broad range of people and organisations to advocate through the Every Australian Counts campaign for an NDIS. People with disability, family members and other supporters, advocates, providers and the wider community stood shoulder to shoulder and successfully campaigned for the NDIS to be developed, funded and implemented.
In 2012 there was celebration when the state and federal governments committed to an NDIS, and in March 2013 the NDIS legislation was passed. In August 2013 WA joined through a national trial site in the Perth Hills. Unlike other states, WA had also successfully advocated for the authority to also run our own trial at that time called My Way which evolved into what we now know as WA NDIS. Through the dual trials in WA both models were tested, and in early 2017 a Bilateral Agreement was signed outlining how WA would operationalise a nationally consistent NDIS through WA NDIS.
With a change of WA government in March, the decision to operationalise the WA NDIS model was put under review. On 1 July the reminder of the country progressed with certainty towards their NDIS future, and (to date) there remains uncertainty in WA. There is conjecture about what NDIS model is best; sadly, and to all of our detriment, this conjecture has led to a fracturing of the united voice and vision for the NDIS in WA. Many of the people and stakeholder groups that stood together through the Every Australian Counts campaign in WA have retreated to separate camps to advocate for one Scheme over another and highlight the perceived strengths and failings of the two models.
The NDIS promises a transformational change in how people get access to funding and support and most importantly live their lives with independence and dignity. But it is not just the NDIS that will bring about this change; in addition to funding, people will need a supportive community; strategies that sustain their family and natural supports; and services and supports that help them to overcome the impact of their disability.
Whilst government seeks to determine what operational model will bring NDIS certainty to people in WA, there remains an opportunity for all stakeholders to revisit what brought the Scheme into reality in 2012:
- Belief that there has to be a better way
- Understanding that it is about maximising the choice, control and independence of people with disability
- Knowledge that it will take more than NDIS funding to enhance social and economic participation, and importantly
- Co-design of the NDIS by people with disability and their supporters (the people the Scheme is all about), government as policy makers, and advocates and organisations like Interchange as providers of services.
A successful NDIS will require the commitment of all Australians and all stakeholders to see the promise of the NDIS achieved. The NDIS is about people with disability having true choice and control over their life and the supports they want and need to live a good life. Interchange is ready, willing and able to do our part to return to the foundational and collaborative principles of the NDIS. Our vision and hope for the NDIS in WA is that we reconnect with the spirit of the Every Australian Counts campaign and work together to advocate for an NDIS that puts people with disability first, empowering them to take control of their funding and access the supports they need to achieve their goals.
During this time of transformational change, Interchange is focussed on ensuring that we are able to transform and provide the people we support with an individualised, responsive and sustainable service, and do our part to help shape the NDIS of the future. We have reframed Interchange within the NDIS context and have a vision for welcoming communities that value, respect and empower people with disability and deliver on our mission is to help people with disability to live a good life. We see ourselves as part of the future of a successful NDIS and welcome the governments decision on the operational model in WA so that all NDIS supporters can once again come together and focus on bringing the NDIS promise to reality.