Wednesday, 23 February 2011

A NDIS: Public Policy Disaster

Yesterday my third Ramp Up piece got published. Can you tell that I’m pissed off throughout? I used to support the NDIS, and now after today I have decided I don’t. As you can see from my article I also let fly in the comments in response to Samantha Jenkinson, the token person with a disability on the committee. Here’s a portion:
The NDIS is a ˜magic beans policy’. It promises reform which none of you can deliver. In fact the committee have the campaign the wrong away around. You have a big picture policy that cannot be sensibly implemented by bureaucrats or politicians. Yet you are marketing it anyway. Get the policy right first.
If a NDIS is to be achieved as the committee hopes, it must be implemented by a stage based incremental approach. Spend time getting therapy right, then move on to equipment, then respite, and so on. The universal approach marketed to the community and to us is foolhardy, and frankly stupid. It gives carers and people disabilities hope for something that will never come to satisfactory fruition. This will do more harm than good.
John Della Bosca did himself no favours with his meek article full of economic rationalist nonsense published on the site two days ago. He parroted all the lines I heard in the forum and nothing else. Is that the best you guys can do? Seriously? Try telling people relatable stories, there are thousands: how about the fact that an NDIS (If done properly) will allow many people with disabilities to reach their full potential? Demonstrate how and why. That would be a good place to start.
This is one of the poorest political campaigns in living memory. It is our one chance. Get it right.
Because I am an employee of my National Broadcaster, I am going to use my personal space to articulate my thoughts (and not those of the ABC nor the Federal Government which funds RampUp) on this pathetic, deplorable, mismanaged campaign. Future generations of public policy students will look upon Every Australian Counts as an example of how not to introduce a policy.

Allow me to get a little wonkish for a minute.

According to the Australian Public Policy Handbook, by Bridgeman and Davis: the policy cycle is a tool used for the analyzing of the development of a policy item. It includes the following stages:
  1. Agenda setting (Problem identification)
  2. Policy Formulation
  3. Adoption
  4. Implementation
  5. Evaluation

Lets look at the four stages as they apply to the NDIS (We can’t analyse the 5th until the policy is underway).

It is clear the National Committee advocating for an NDIS have identified the problem. That is the easy part. But have they set the agenda? Does anyone who is not a crip, a carer, or a service provider know why a NDIS is needed? If the scheme is implemented, why should the average taxpayer fork out an extra $5 bucks (Let's say) for a scheme they don’t think they will use? Whilst its true that a disability can happen to anyone, nobody thinks it will apply to them. That is the point. So what is the argument besides pity, charity or '…it could happen to you’? Even more importantly from a policy perspective, what is the political reason for a NDIS? No, not the economics of it, the politics. Why should a NDIS be more important than all of the Government’s other objectives? Give them the electoral reasons for an NDIS and political cartwheels will follow.  

How is the policy going to be formulated? To quote my article:

While we wait for the Productivity Commission report it is time the NDIS committee did some revolutionising of its own. Instead of using people with disabilities as public relations tools, why don't they get more involved at the coalface? I know plenty of people who will want to get involved. Focus on implementing the policies rather than the outcomes. Do conceptual modelling of the application processes and develop concrete criteria of eligibility in conjunction with the economic forecasts already undertaken. In essence, add to the already extensive bureaucratic work done and get down to some real policy research.

None of this has been done. It is not good enough for Samantha to say ‘…we are not in government so it is not our job.’. Yes it is! The NDIS Committee has not even developed suggested criteria for anything: eligibility, funding cut offs, nor how perspective organisations should manage the funds. They are reliant on the Productivity Commission to do all of this. They know fuck all about the disability sector, they are all about cost benefit analysis and economic rationalist bullshit. Yet the Committee are giving the masters of this paradigm all the decision making power. Whilst economics is a factor in policy making, it should not be the most important thing driving social policy, particularly one as complex as disability funding.

Without the criteria, how do political parties, governments and oppositions adopt or implement an NDIS? Aside from generous economic forecasting and a little research based on the experiences of other nations, the committee has no tangible evidence supporting the scheme. What is the government of the day to do? Trust that it works? Absolutely pathetic!

The NDIS Committee has skipped the entire policy cycle, and in doing so they are being grossly negligent. They are pissing away the opportunity of a lifetime. The worse part of all is that Every Australian Counts are quite happy to publish articles on their Facebook page and their Twitter feed in support of their scheme, but dare not publish mine because it was critical of their scant theories.

Friends of mine expressed concern that I said that disability advocates on a state and national level ‘…are an incestuous group with blinkered vision.’ in my article. They said the language took things it was too far. That quote from the article becomes truer by the day.


  1. OMG!! spot on!!
    I agree with many of your concerns. While i may be a little more polite and positive in considering them :) , I do think we may be in the same ball park.

    I definately hold a concern that a strategy such as the NDIS coming from PC is, by its very nature, a economic rationalist approach. That said, it is up to the implementation approach and the sector to 'get it right'. Although I dont necissarily agree with your staged approach to implemenetaion, I do think implemenetation is certainly an issue. But the flip side of thatis to say that we are making it up as we go along so it might work just to dive in the deep end and see where we end up. Of course, in that argument we have to consider the sfarguards for people who are 'diving in' and we also have to ensure there is a way back if people begin to sink rather than swim.

    awesome post.

  2. Of course - my question is - have your thought changed in the last couple of years?

  3. Not one inch, especially as my criticisms continue to be proven correct.

  4. Thanks for doing the survey - which is what got me here to your post. If you want to talk further some time let me know. While I am close to drawing the project to an end, I am interested in your view points, and you have a far more political veiw point than me - so I could learn a great deal from your veiws - although I may not agree with everything it would be cool to talk more :)
    Email me if you like on teller2teller_at_ gmail_com or find me on faebook - molly captain snorticus or if you would prefer, my work facebook is Your Choice (yourchoiceqld)