What does the new budget mean for the Muscular Dystrophy Community?

As the nation waited to hear what the 2016 Federal Budget would bring, the team at MDA were waiting for any changes directly affecting the Muscular Dystrophy Community, particularly in relation to the NDIS. See MDA’s consensus below on what the new budget means for the Muscular Dystrophy Community.

In last night’s Federal Budget it was announced that the NDIS Savings Fund would remain “quarantined” and used only to pay for funding gaps that will exist when the scheme is fully rolled out across Australia in 2020. These funding gaps are estimated to be $5 billion a year, therefore on the surface any funding specifically dedicated to alleviating these short falls is positive news.

However as one digs deeper, it is revealed the government is trading one type of disability funding for another, rather than injecting further funding into the government’s disability spending. This NDIS Savings Fund will receive funding for its short falls via a review of over 90,000 people currently in receipt of the Disability Support Pension (DSP). This three year review will see 90,000 people currently receiving the DPS required to submit to medical examination and judgement on their capacity to work.

In short, the government is once again trying to reduce the number of Australians on the DPS. We know there will be some cases of people who do have the ability to work and with their removal from the DPS, others who are assessed as unable to work will be eligible to receive funding. However what troubles MDA is that to support this NDIS Savings Fund, we must take from others in the disability community. There is no new funding coming into disability support, it is a matter of ‘there is not enough for everyone so who needs it most,’ and this does not sit well with us.

Further, by stating that a review of these 90,000 people receiving the DSP will generate additional funding, they are portraying an idea of people with disabilities as sitting back and ‘ripping off’ the system by using tax payer’s money to get the DSP, claiming they don’t really need it. This is not the case. As we said, this may be the truth for a small portion of those on the DPS, however all those MDA works with are in true need. It is already an extremely difficult funding package to access and this new proposed review will only make it harder.

People with Disability Australia said it prefers NDIS costs on full roll are paid for through an expanded Disability Care Australia Fund. That fund receives the 0.5 per cent increase in the Medicare Levy used to fund the NDIS.
“It certainly seems like we are setting up the NDIS to be an ongoing fight within the budget cycle,” a spokesperson for People with Disability Australia said. “We would prefer [the NDIS] remained a bipartisan commitment that is separate to other forms of support.”

Either way what we are seeing here is a review of the DPS to fund gaps in the NDIS, making the DPS even harder to access. On one hand, coverage of any short fall in funding for the NDIS means those with MD accessing these funds have a better chance, as there is essentially more to go around. However to have this funding generated by a review of the DSP, which is greatly needed by many and already difficult to obtain, leaves us asking the question is this a positive, negative or neutral outcome?