Bruce Bonyhady calls on bipartisan support for funding overhaul

The former chair of the agency running the National Disability Insurance Scheme has urged the Government and Opposition to legislate a designated fund that fully finances the NDIS, rather than relying on yearly allocations.

Professor Bruce Bonyhady, who is now the director of Melbourne University's Disability Institute, told the ABC'S National Wrap program he wants to see bipartisan support from the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader, as well as stakeholders, to rebuild a consensus on the NDIS.

He said a long-term funding mechanism would be better suited to the scheme.

"It would be a sign of true leadership if they were to get together now and say together we're going to build a practical consensus on how this scheme is going to be implemented," said Professor Bruce, widely considered the father of the NDIS.

"The full implementation of the scheme is still many years away and so will need to survive whatever changes of government we have."

Funding for the scheme is split between the Commonwealth, providing just over half of the financial backing, and the state and territory governments.

The former chair of the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) also suggested the funding model should hypothecate the full revenue, and be legislated "to give absolute certainty to people with disability, their families and carers that the scheme is funded, not just now but in the future as well".

Key points:

  • The Commonwealth and the state and territory governments fund the scheme
  • About 142,000 people with disabilities receive support from the $22 billion scheme
  • 29 per cent of those people have autism

Work underway on automatic entry to NDIS

About 142,000 people with disabilities receive support from the $22 billion scheme, 29 per cent of who have autism.

Under the current eligibility rules, autism levels two and three are classified as "List A", alongside cerebral palsy, amputations and brain injuries.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is used by the NDIS to conduct assessments, divides autism into three tiers: level one being the lowest, level two requiring substantial support and level three needing very substantial support.

NDIS chief executive Rob De Luca has confirmed work is underway to consider the conditions of automatic entry.

Disability advocates have expressed concerns about the potential redistribution, which they fear may restrict access of autistic people to the NDIS.

But Professor Bonyhady said to let the evidence "determine who should be eligible for the scheme and what level of support they should receive".

The former chair admitted one of the biggest "pressure points" had been "the number of children coming into the scheme, seeking entry into scheme for early intervention".

But he stressed focus still needed to be paid to the people who were on the autism spectrum, and would fall outside of List A/tier 2, should the system be revised.

The scheme's sustainability rested on the "smooth transition between who's just in and who's just out," he said.

"One of the critical issues that needs to be addressed in terms of the implementation of the NDIS is what the supports are going to be if you're not in the NDIS," Professor Bonyhady said.

Watch the original interview here:

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