Average costs for individual care packages have dropped to within a budgeted average.  As well, participation in the National Disability Insurance Scheme has doubled since last December.

Assistant Minister for Social Services, Mitch Fifield recently gave a brief update on the third Quarterly Report to the Senate Estimates Community Affairs Committee. Senator Fifield said the average package costs in the first quarter of operation of the NDIS were $46,300, which was nearly 30 per cent higher than the budgeted average package cost of $35,000. In the second quarter the average package costs fell to $40,600 which was still 15 per cent higher than expected.

“Following the release of this data I did express concerns to the Board regarding the potential impact of these average package costs being higher than anticipated on an ongoing basis. And it’s fair to say that concern was also shared by the Board.”

In response the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) put in place a number of measures to address the situation which has helped bring average package costs down to within the budgeted average of $34,000.

“The third quarter report also showed that 5400 participants have an approved plan. In the first and second quarter, approved participant rates were around half of what was anticipated in the bilateral agreements. As of the third quarter, we are nearly at 80 per cent of the bilateral target of 6861 approved participants.”

Higher costs for supporting people in large residences in the Barwon and Hunter trial sites had not been factored into the bilateral agreements signed by the previous administration, which Senator Fifield said could result in an extra $100 million in costs over the trial. “That’s an issue for the trials, not for the full scheme,” he said.

From July 1, the Hunter trial will extend to the Lake Macquarie area and in South Australia the age cohort will increase to 13 years in addition to a trial site in Western Australia and with rollout details now being finalised with the ACT.

“These are clearly not the actions of a government that is intent on doing anything other than rolling the NDIS out in full.”

In response to an earlier capability review, the Board of the Agency has commissioned KPMG to provide advice on a variety of elements. This would include whether the current schedule is consistent with a successful full scheme rollout and the Board will be providing advice to all governments on this matter.

Senator Fifield: “That review did raise some issues that came about as a result of the decision by the previous administration to bring forward the commencement of trial sites by a year from the timeframe that the Productivity Commission envisaged.”