The minister in charge of the NDIS has signalled a renewed focus on supporting the hundreds of thousands of disabled Australians who can't access the scheme, in her first major speech since abandoning controversial reforms.
Linda Reynolds also used the speech to condemn the "politics of fear and hyper-partisanship" which has surrounded the NDIS in recent years, adamant the scheme's problems couldn't be fixed unless the Commonwealth, states and territories worked together.
The Morrison government has been forced back to the drawing board on its plans for the future of the scheme, after dumping its controversial reform package - including the introduction of independent assessments - amid widespread opposition.
Senator Reynolds and her agency remain committed to pursuing changes to make the scheme fairer and easier to navigate for participants, and which help to rein in surging costs.
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"This eight-year-old [scheme] is experiencing several really serious growing pains, and ones that will not fix themselves," Senator Reynolds said in an address to the Where to From Here? conference.
That cohort are supposed to be supported through the Information Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) program, which sees funding channelled to initiatives which provide information and connect disabled people to mainstream supports.
Experts have long criticised the system - which is commonly referred to as "tier 2" - as inadequate and underfunded.
"A functioning community-based support system would contribute to the sustainability of the NDIS by ensuring people with disability have improved access to community and mainstream supports as their first point of call," Senator Reynolds said.
"It would be a tragedy for all four-and-a-half million Australians with disability if the NDIS became their only option."
The NDIS's independent advisory council this month recommended a new tier 2 funding model, proposing a "dedicated, independent" budget be set up to support the cohort.
About 1 per cent of total NDIS spending should be allocated to the proposed new budget, creating an annual pool of up to $350 million by the middle of the decade, the council suggested.
Former NDIA chairman Bruce Bonyhady, who spoke at the conference immediately after Senator Reynolds, welcomed the minister's comment.
Professor Bonyhady said the NDIS had became an "oasis in the desert", with people unable to access the scheme left without proper support.
"We need to build it up now so there is equity between the last person into the NDIS and the first person that misses out," he told the conference.
"Without that, the NDIS is built on sand and it needs to be built on strong foundations."
NSW Minister for Disability Services Alister Henskens said the second-tier system had been "neglected" and an overhaul was required to put it back on track.
"It is important that we have the appropriate disability, community and mainstream supports in place to support people who don't have individualised funded supports under the NDIS," he toldACM.
"Not only would that have an important positive social outcome, but ironing out issues with ILC would also undoubtedly improve the sustainability of the scheme by building the capacity of the community, people with disability, their families and carers, which in turn will reduce the need for individualised funding of supports for people with disability through the NDIS."
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