One of your stated priorities is increasing employment for people with disabilities. How do you intend to implement this?

More than one million Australians with disability are already in the workforce but unfortunately, many are missing out. I want to see improvements both in preparing people for jobs and more opportunities and support to secure them. This government strongly believes everyone who has the capacity and desire to work should have access to employment services – be they open or supported. We have shown our commitment to “what works” for disability and disability employment in our new administrative arrangements. To ensure greater accountability in the placement of people with disability in employment, I have responsibility for all policy and programs. These have been brought together in the Department of Social Services to make it easier to access employment services and, most importantly, improve quality.  It will allow a more comprehensive view as policy and programs are developed, and provide a real focus on improving employment.

Will there be incentives for people to work or employers to employ them? Are there any new approaches you would like to see adopted to facilitate this?

This government understands that to have jobs, we need employers. As Minister I want to acknowledge the employers in Australia that have recognised the benefits of employing people with disability. As an open labour market program, Disability Employment Services (DES) must have a dual focus on supply and demand. DES will have a clear line of sight on both the needs of job seekers and the needs of their employers. On the supply side, DES will look to activate, support and skill participants and build effective linkages. This is vital for people with disability to achieve long term employment and get onto the pathway to independence.

On the demand side, DES will continue to have strong links across industry and with individual employers. DES will continue to provide employers with incentives and workplace supports to employ more people with disability. The government will strengthen the focus of DES on engaging directly with employers to help them understand the productive contribution people with disability can make to their business.

 What are your impressions of the National Disability Insurance Scheme  (NDIS) so far, following the initial roll-out in four locations? Did it run smoothly?  Can you see where there could be any improvements or issues that need to be addressed?  Is it likely that the timelines platform might roll-out faster than planned?

In the first three months of the Scheme more than 1000 people have plans in place, with another 1000 in progress. Almost 3000 Australians have requested access to the Scheme, with more than one million hits on the website and 27,000 people have used My Access Checker.

The National Disability Insurance Agency now has seven offices in four launch sites, supporting people with a disability, their families and carers. In addition to participants and their families, about 2000 people have visited these offices for information on the Scheme and for assistance in linking to other community supports.

The NDIS is about people having control of their own supports and about being able to choose the supports which best suit them. It is fundamentally different to the past. Participants have been supported by agency staff to discuss their goals for participation and what supports they need to achieve those goals and participate in daily life. We are seeing plans that are changing people’s lives through the application of reasonable and necessary supports. In my view the best judge of the scheme is feedback from participants. The government will also be establishing a Joint Parliamentary Committee to oversee the implementation of the NDIS. It will be important to learn lessons from launch sites and incorporate them prior to a full roll-out.

What challenges do you face with the NDIS?  The Coalition Government has said the NDIS is complex and it would reduce ‘the red tape’ which seems to be crucial to a smooth delivery of the scheme.  Can you give details of any changes?

Our focus has to be on what is practical and what actually works. We will be looking at the processes for both participants in the Scheme and service providers, to cut any unnecessary requirements.

The government is also committed to eliminating unnecessary red tape and reporting requirements hampering Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs). The government has initiated a review of performance indicators for ADEs to analyse their value in ensuring quality services for clients, compared with their impost on providers. The review is also examining other administratively burdensome processes. ADEs located in NDIS launch sites have dual reporting requirements to the  Agency and the Department of Social Services.  I have instructed the Department of Social Services to continue to work with the Agency to reduce the administrative burden on ADEs as they transition to the NDIS environment.

Finally, the NDIS cuts out for those 65+. It seems unfair that a 64 year old can have a powered wheelchair under the NDIS but the 65+ must buy their own.  How do you respond to this question from pensioners? What are you views on what seems to be a contentious issue? Exactly what is the reasoning behind this exclusion?

The Scheme design reflects the Productivity Commission’s recommendation that there should be an age 65 threshold for entry to the NDIS. What this means is that a person needs to have acquired their disability before the age of 65 to be an NDIS participant. However, after a participant passes the age of 65 they have the option of continuing to receive their supports through the NDIS or choosing the aged care system. The choice is theirs. In addition, people under the age of 65 with a degenerative condition who would benefit from early intervention supports can enter the Scheme before their condition has resulted in severe or profound impacts. The Scheme is not intended to replace the health or aged care systems.

The NDIS commenced in a series of geographically defined launch sites from July 1, 2013, however, full rollout of the NDIS is not scheduled to be completed until 2019-20. Part of the purpose of the launch sites is to learn lessons and make any necessary changes to the Scheme before full national rollout. It is also important to note that the launch sites will also examine interface issues between the NDIS and the health and aged care systems.

The objective of the NDIS is to address the chronic, un-met need of a group of people who have been under-supported for decades. A few examples include children waiting for wheelchairs, adults with mobility impairment only able to bathe a few times each week and adults with intellectual impairment unable to get supported accommodation, causing great concern to their ageing parents. The Commonwealth and the State and Territory Governments have entered agreements on the NDIS on this basis.