My introduction to the NDIS came via Disability Support Work in 2013. I had heard the term 'NDIS' (National Disability Insurance Scheme) in various conversations during my time as a Disability Support Worker but never really understood how the NDIS worked.
Over the years, my understanding grew, and the predominant theme was that the NDIS was significantly different from the previous model of disability support, which was known as ‘block funding’. As time went on, my knowledge of the NDIS increased; however, I was still curious about block funding and how people with a disability were previously supported under this model.
Block funding was the traditional model used to fund services for people with a disability. The States and Territories provided the funding to service providers to deliver disability support and community programs.
The block funding model assumes that people with a disability should be served together rather than individually. Under this model, people with a disability were often looked at as second-class citizens and their support needs, interests and disabilities were not considered when determining what support, they should receive.
This resulted in a 'one size fits all' approach that saw many individuals go without appropriate support.
Service providers at the time had to meet a range of conditions directly linked to the number of Participants and services being delivered. Providers were required to place a tender to their State or Territory government and, if successful, would receive a lump-sum payment to provide those services.
Block funding was designed around providing a generic service to people with a disability rather than a service that suited their specific needs. People with a disability were often denied choice and control over their support needs and were at the mercy of government and non-government organisations to provide what they determined as appropriate services.
Technically, individuals didn't apply for funding. Funding was given directly to the service providers. Individuals would then need to apply for positions within these programs, which often resulted in being put on long waiting lists. Service providers would often cherry-pick who they provided services to depending on the individual's support needs. This led to many individuals with complex needs going without support.
From an organisational perspective, the main advantage of block funding is that it gives an organisation certainty, as they know well in advance how much funding they will be receiving for the delivery of a program or service.
Before the rollout of the NDIS, service providers of the time spoke about having funding for the intangibles that were not directly covered by the NDIS, such as administration, training, care coordination and communication between providers.
One provider commented that there was more collaboration under the block funding model as providers did not see each other as competition.
While there may be some pros for organisations here, it's important to remember that this system was designed to support organisations, not people with a disability.
Under the block funding model, individuals were denied their fundamental right of choice and control to select their desired supports and services.
One example highlighted the stark difference between the two models and how much the power shifts from the service provider to the individual when going from a block funding model to an individual funding model.
In this example, a Participant who required morning personal care supports was required to wait until the afternoon to receive those services, as she was at the mercy of the organisation and what suited their needs. In this case, it did not serve the organisation to send someone in the morning, which is why she had to wait until the afternoon to receive support. Under the NDIS, she can now select the organisation that supports her and receives support at a time that suits her schedule.
Block funding saw people as common denominators, not individuals with their own needs or interests. If you had a specific interest and wanted to pursue it further, your support options were minimal, and supports weren't often tailored to the individual.
Block funding wasn't flexible and couldn't respond quickly to changes in individual needs. If you wanted to move from state to state, you couldn't exactly take your funding with you. You had to reapply for a program in your new State or Territory.
Participants were often put with services and day programs which made them feel excluded from public life and denied the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to their community.
In 2009, under the Rudd government, a report was requested to investigate the experiences of people with a disability under the block funding model.
The report found many problems.
People with a disability were often forced to live in segregated environments, waited years for services, and were not given enough choice and control over their support. The report also found a lack of coordination between service providers, State and Territory governments, and the Federal government. This lack of coordination led to the development of a National Disability Strategy.
The Development of the National Disability Strategy (NDS) was a commitment by the states and territories to a national approach to supporting people with a disability and maximising their potential to participate as equal citizens in Australian society. This was the first time in Australia's history that all governments had committed to a national approach to supporting people with a disability which ultimately led to the NDIS.
The NDIS is a significant reform for disability services in Australia. It is a needs-based system that focuses on supporting people with disability to achieve their goals and live an independent life.
Unlike block funding, the NDIS provides Participants with a personalised budget that can be used to purchase the services and support they need. This gives Participants more choice and control over their support and makes them the masters of their own destiny.