Defining the National Disability Insurance Scheme – Tealia Holmes

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a federal government initiative that funds and provides supports and services for 460,000 Australians under 65 years old who have a disability1. These 460,000 individuals are some of the total 4 million Australians who have a diagnosed disability 1,2,3. The NDIS attempts to intervene as early as possible to provide supports and services to a person to reduce the impact of a disability or a developmental delay3, and to build their skills and independence. The NDIS works with individuals to create a plan or a written agreement that is supposed to provide help, support and funding. These plans often don’t work for the people that they are trying to help. This report investigates some of the issues concerning this.

The NDIS issue - a summary

Whilst heralding a much-needed overhaul of the disability sector, the implementation of the NDIS has led to significant issues that continue to affect the support services available to people with a disability and their families4. These issues include things like; the NDIS supporting people with a disability in regional areas through support groups5, lack of accommodation of diversity7, services closing due to the removal of state funding6, an exponential increase of waiting time for people to learn if they have been assessed as meeting the eligibility criteria7, NDIS portal issues7 and the use of complex terminology and confusing ‘jargon’. 

The $22 billion scheme has encountered multiple problems since it began in 2016, with roughly 1000 complaints being launched to the National Disability Insurance Agency each month. Significant changes to the NDIS have been promised by the Coalition, with the intention of giving participants of this scheme more certainty over their plans. The disability sector has been ‘suffering a silent crisis’ under the NDIS, with organisations, individuals and families all feeling the effects. 75% of providers (people who provide NDIS-supported services) have said the NDIS is not working well8.

Many people have taken this to court, such as Ms Tegan Sharp, a 25-year-old living in NSW suffering from cerebral palsy and lifelong physical and intellectual disabilities, taking her case to the Supreme Court9.

Funding through the NDIS

NDIS-funded support may include therapies, technologies or equipment to help with daily living activities, or modifications to the home. NDIS won't fund support that is the responsibility of mainstream services like the education or health systems10.

You can appeal internally made decisions in the NDIS at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal1. The NDIS Quality & Safeguards Commission has recently been established.

Legal definition of a disability (11)

"disability" in relation to a person means—

(a)  a sensory, physical or neurological impairment or acquired brain injury or any combination thereof, which—

(i)  is, or is likely to be, permanent; and

(ii)  causes a substantially reduced capacity in at least one of the areas of self-care, self- management, mobility or communication; and

(iii)  requires significant ongoing or long-term episodic support; and

(iv)  is not related to ageing; or

(b)  an intellectual disability; or

(c)  a developmental delay

NDIS eligibility criteria (12)

People with a disability that leads to either an intellectual, cognitive, neurological, sensory or physical impairments, or impairments that can be attributed to a psychiatric condition, whose disabilities are permanent or likely to be permanent, and whose disabilities mean they have a substantially reduced capacity to communicate, socialise, learn, be independently mobile, care for themselves and self-manage are eligible to receive help from the NDIS.

The current status of the issue

Surveys - they are conducting surveys in August and September 2019 to help identify the types of supports that lead to good outcomes, and to improve the NDIS13.

Why I think the media has included this in its content

I think this issue has been published by the media because it affects many people, and it has a significant impact. People are entitled to and have been promised support services to assist them with their disability, or to assist them in helping care for somebody who has a disability. These needs are not being met to a satisfactory degree, with issues arising such as NDIS refusing to help people with certain conditions and NDIS providing support services that are geographically too far away for people, with large transport bills occurring because of this.

Who this issue impacts

This issue significantly impacts people who have a disability, their families, their carers, their friends and the general public. People who live with a permanent disability aren’t given the help and support they need, or themselves and their carers endure unnecessary stress. For example, 21-year-old Liam McGarrigle from the small town of Moriac, Geelong has an Autism Spectrum Disorder and an Intellectual Disability14. As part of his NDIS plan, he was going to work and participating in a disability training and social group. He had to catch a taxi, as he can’t drive and there are no public transport services available. All up, his taxi expenses cost $15,850 a year, creating a huge financial burden for his family. Liam took his case to the Federal Court in 2016, arguing that part of his agreement with the NDIS was that they would only partially fund services and the costs associated with them14.

After Liam’s case, the Federal Court ruled that the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) is required to fully fund any supports and services it has deemed reasonable and necessary. They will no longer be able to offer partial funding of supports such as transport to the work or service placements set out in an individual care plan. This ends a practice that has left the family and carers of people living with a disability out of pocket14.

How this issue is being resolved

This issue is not being resolved and is still highly debated today1. Services such as the Bridges Program, which taught life skills to people with an intellectual disability has recently closed, with people enraged at the poor results and funding produced by the NDIS6. Advocacy groups, such as the Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with Disability (VALID), and organisations like the Peak Organisation in the Victorian Disability Sector and the Disability Services Commissioner; representing people with an intellectual disability and their families have been inundated with complaints about the NDIS1. Individuals also continue the fight for justice in court.


In conclusion, the NDIS has encountered many issues through its funding and implementation. These issues are not currently being resolved, with huge numbers of complaints being launched, and the NDIS not taking any significant action. In the future, I hope these issues are resolved so necessary care, supports and services can be provided to the people with disabilities who need them, their carers and their families.

Tealia Holmes 
Year 9 (Subject: Law and Order)


Interesting court cases and articles