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ACT readies for change with NDIS

Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher.

Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher. Photo: Graham Tidy

Disability services in the ACT have been warned to expect a massive spike in demand as the first $10 million of federal National Disability Insurance Scheme money comes in.

The first tranche in July will pay for ''enhanced disability'' services for several thousand Canberrans with a broad range of disabilities including mental illness.

A territory-based program to target funding towards young disabled people aged 18 to 25 years old in Canberra has already begun, according to Disability Minister Joy Burch.

In a stopgap measure designed to work until the NDIS begins in earnest in 2014, families are being offered an extra $5000 a year to spend on services for their disabled children who are ''transitioning'' out of the school-aged care system.

From July, $12 million will be available for the ACT's under-prepared disabilities sector to get ready for the extra demand and the new funding model, which is moving away from the traditional ''block funding'' by government.

But Chief Minister Katy Gallagher confirmed on Tuesday the historic scheme comes at a risk to the territory's budget position in the coming years.

Ms Burch told the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday she expected about 2500 Canberra users to be accessing the scheme in 2014-2015.

''The number of people supported by the NDIS is likely to increase to approximately 5000 clients in the NDIS by June 2016.

''In the meantime, from July 2013, the ACT and the Australian governments will invest $10.6 million to respond to the demand for disability services that we know exists today.''

Ms Gallagher said the scheme would transform disability care in the territory but was financially risky.

''We should be paving the way for a new way of doing things, we should genuinely believe that if you are born into this world with a disability then you have the right to be cared for and supported in the decisions that will make your life important to you,'' the Chief Minister told the chamber.

Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson pledged bipartisan support for the NDIS but warned the support of the Canberra Liberals was not unconditional.

''The grand rhetoric around things [with] the NDIS is the easy bit and the difficult bit will be the delivery on the ground and the funding around it and to make sure that where there are winners, there shouldn't also be losers, too,'' Mr Hanson said.

''But that doesn't mean that we will agree with everything the government says about NDIS and it is our role to make sure that as NDIS is trolled out, it is done in an effective and an efficient manner.''

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