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Concerns Govt on NDIS go-slow

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There are concerns the Abbott Government will slow the roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme amid Budget pressures and changes to basic administrative arrangements.

National Commission of Audit estimates released by Treasurer Joe Hockey show spending on the NDIS is expected to grow by 46 per cent a year in the next decade as the Scheme works to become fully operational, with annual expenditure expected to reach more than $11 billion in 2023-24.

The Government has dismissed accusations it is talking down the scheme, but it has seized on the findings of a review that likened it to an aircraft still being built after it had taken off to argue the need to take time to establish solid foundations for the program.

Assistant Minister for Social Security Mitch Fifield told The Australian there was “no way” the Scheme, which is currently being piloted in several locations across the country, would not be rolled out nationally.

But the Minister said careful work was needed to ensure it was properly established.

“To make sure that people get the support they need, we have to be relentless and we have to be remorseless in ensuring that we lay the very best foundations possible,” Senator Fifield told The Australian.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said the Government will “refine” the system proposed by its predecessor. It has already put the development and implementation of a computer system for the NDIS out for private tender, and is considering co-locating the NDIS with Medicare or the Department of Human Services.

The Opposition has attacked the Government for “tinkering” with the Scheme, raising concerns it will make cuts or delay its implementation.

But Mental Health Council of Australia Chief Executive Frank Quinlan said it was better for the Government to take time to get the Scheme right, rather than rushing its implementation.

“It is a profound understatement to say that many people living with disability are anxious for change, but we should follow the old adage ‘make haste slowly’,” Mr Quinlan said. “There are critical questions surrounding the Scheme which must be answered before its implementation.

“If we don’t think through these questions in detail, we risk implementing a Scheme that will fail some of the very people who the Scheme was intended to assist.”

Adrian Rollins

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