The NDIS is a great start

Hallelujah! Finally, people with a disability are being asked what they want and what they need. This can only be a good thing, right?

Mostly right.

The National Insurance Disability Scheme (NDIS) approach suits educated and articulate people with disability, people who know their options and understand the consequences of their choices. For many vision-impaired and hearing-impaired people and people in wheel chairs, the NDIS can’t come soon enough.

However, the people who couldn’t speak up before – those with significant intellectual disability or severe mental illness – are being asked to make the same choices, with the same level of guidance and support as educated and articulate individuals. Within the NDIS there’s an assumption of capacity that doesn’t represent the whole group.

The most vulnerable require more time to learn about and understand their options, to prepare for and build up to opportunities, and more support to maintain the position gained. Although guidance is offered to the most vulnerable, the services are not necessarily being accessed and often providers supply 'advice' that just happens to include referral to programs that they control!

Remember the record players of old? Placing the needle in the centre of the record meant that it wasn’t easily spun off. But if the needle was on the edge, any bump or nudge and the centrifugal force could send it off the player. Many people with disability are functioning on the edge of society and are at greater risk of being spun off.

The NDIS is a great start. But it needs a few tweaks. We need to ensure that the most vulnerable are fully supported to become full members of society.  

- Martin Wren