Architect of national disability insurance scheme warns on pace of the rollout

The architect of the national disability insurance scheme Bruce Bonyhady. Photo: Andrew MearesRolling out the National Disability Insurance Scheme too fast risks driving up costs through inflation, according to the architect of the reform.

But Bruce Bonyhady, the chairman of the board of the National Disability Insurance Agency, will also tell the National Press Club on Wednesday that building the scheme too slowly would fail people with disability, their families and carers.

Mr Bonyhady, whose submission to Kevin Rudd’s 2008 ideas summit kickstarted debate about a National Disability Insurance Scheme, is, with the agency’s board, finalising advice to Commonwealth, state and territory disability ministers on whether the current rollout timetable for the scheme should be revised.

The Gillard government decided to launch the scheme in July 2013, a year ahead of the timetable proposed by the Productivity Commission, and a review released in March found the ambitious timeframe had compromised planning.

In May, the Abbott Government’s Commission of Audit recommended the rollout be slowed, warning the financial sustainability of the scheme was at risk on the current timetable.

But in the budget, the government made no change to the rollout schedule and no cuts to funding for the scheme, in fact restoring $45 million that had been removed from the scheme by the former Labor government in an administrative error.

In his address on Wednesday, Mr Bonyhady will describe the task of providing advice to the government on the ideal pace of the rollout as ”complex”, because ”markets evolve over time and at different rates in different places”.

”Build the scheme up too fast and allow demand to out-strip supply, and we risk failure by driving up costs through inflation and lowering service quality,” Mr Bonyhady says in speech notes provided to Fairfax Media.

”Build it up too slowly and we will also fail people with disability, their families and carers. Therefore the only consideration in the mind of the board is to build it right, for future as well as current generations.”

Mr Bonyhady says it will be a matter for governments to decide the optimal timetable for transition to the full scheme.

”But nothing should be done to jeopardise the ultimate full success of the scheme just for the sake of meeting deadlines set before the scheme started, now that we have a much larger base of hard evidence,” he says in the notes.

”So, if you ask when will the job be done, my answer is: We will recommend taking as long as it takes to build an NDIS that will last.”

Under the current timetable, the scheme’s first full year of operation will be 2019-20. In that year, the scheme is expected to provide support to 460,000 people at a cost of $22 billion.

Trials in the Hunter region of NSW and the Barwon region of Victoria as well as South Australia and Tasmania started in July 2013. The full rollout of the scheme in the ACT as well as trials in Perth and in the Barkly region of the Northern Territory started in July this year.

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