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Foundational Supports to make disability services more accessible for people with disabilities

Updated: Jun 28

A snapshot of disability in Australia

In Australia, approximately one in five individuals have a disability. This is about 19% of Australia's population and one in three people with a disability live in poverty.

Over 750,000 people with disability receive the Disability Support Pension.

The maximum payment for a single person with disability (people who are partnered receive lesser payments) including additional payments is $1,096.70 per fortnight. As of June 2023, the Henderson poverty line is at $602.27 per week, or $1214.54 per fortnight.

A single person relying solely on the Disability Support Pension and unable to work will be living in poverty.

NDIS - An oasis in the desert for people with disability

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was established in 2013 to fund support for people with disability, with the goal of helping participants build their skills and independence to achieve their goals and participate fully in the community including employment. 

Since the NDIS began, people with disability who could not access the NDIS, have faced difficulties accessing support outside of it, with the NDIS described as an ‘oasis in the desert’ or a ‘lifeboat in the ocean’ and the only avenue to get support.

It is estimated that only 12% of Australians with disabilities receive disability support through the NDIS. 88% of people with disabilities are not on the NDIS. There is almost no disability support available for people who cannot access the NDIS.

How does a person with a disability access NDIS funding?

In order to receive NDIS funding for supports, people with disabilities must satisfy the NDIA's that they have a permanent disability. This criteria can be achieved by providing supporting evidence and demonstrating that their disability significantly impacts their ability to live a normal life.

Getting the evidence to get onto the NDIS can cost thousands of dollars in gathering those required reports as evidence. This may require visiting one or more specialists to gather specific evidence for Scheme entry.

People who access the NDIS have an NDIS plan, which explains the supports they can receive and the budget they have for their supports. An NDIS plan lasts for a year or more and there is no guarantee that a renewed plan has similar or more supports built in.

What supports are available for people with disability outside of the NDIS?

As mentioned earlier there is almost no support available for 88% of people with disability outside the NDIS. Local government and state-based services, volunteer programs for social support have largely diminished since the introduction of the NDIS. This is due to the perception that all people with disability would be able to access disability support through the NDIS.

What NDIS reforms are expected in the near future? 

The Disability Royal Commission and the NDIS Review combined made 248 recommendations that affect people with disability across many areas of their lives.

The Government is investing significantly in designing and consulting on key recommendations from the landmark independent NDIS Review (the Review).


The Disability Royal Commission worked for four and a half years, and the NDIS Review for a year to map the gaps.

It provided recommendations and supporting actions to fix the scheme. These covered everything from new governance models, to changes to schools, to fixing complaints, to removing barriers to work, to ending legal violence and much much more.

The complexity and breadth of these strategies is not easy to overestimate, and the timelines for reform are long – for some recommendations, beyond year 2050.

So, the Federal Government needed a direction and place to start disability reform that guided what people with disabilities want and need. The Priorities Project which we will discuss in more detail below, is a project compiled by Disability Advocacy Network Australia (DANA). It assisted the government understand what the disability community wants from reform. It identified the key shared priorities, and recommended practical actions to start changing within the next 1-2 years.

The priorities project report outlines key issues from both the Royal Commission and NDIS review reports. It also includes practical examples of where change can start right now without needing further strategy, or more consultation. This work was strongly admired by Minister Bill Shorten, which would mean higher chances of the report's recommendations be taken in to considerations for the upcoming reforms.

The priorities project identified the biggest problems faced by the disability sector and suggested six clear priorities for reform processes. It also suggested immediate actions to bring these priorities alive. These six priorities were -

1. Access to and eligibility for disability support

2. Disability Housing

3. Safeguarding

4. Establishing foundational supports

5. Representation and inclusion

6. Advocacy 

Let's discuss foundational support in much detail in this blog and what it means for people with disabilities. Then, we can dive into other five criteria in the later part of this article.

What is Foundational Supports for people with disabilities? 

Foundational support will make disability services accessible to all australians with disabilities
Foundational support

As you can see in the image

A key component of the Review's vision for a future Australian disability support ecosystem, is the design and provision of foundational supports for people with disabilities.

This support will be designed to cater for the needs of people with disabilities who do not meet the criteria for NDIS funding, but still need support.

Some foundational supports will also be available to NDIS participants. 

Foundational supports would integrate with existing mainstream services like childcare and schools.

The report acknowledges that to make this vision a reality, some serious work is needed before mainstream services are up to scratch. 

How does the Foundational supports expected to help people with disabilities?

Types of foundational support
Types of foundational support

The two types of proposed foundational supports are:

  • General: These services will be available to all people with a disability, including advice, capacity building, advocacy, information, peer support, and employment services.

  • Targeted: These services will only be available to people not eligible for the NDIS. These supports can include: home and community care, aids and equipment, psychosocial supports, early intervention, support for young people in key life transitions, and help with navigating all of these supports.  

What are other list of priorities under the priorities project?

1. Access to and eligibility for disability support

Priority - It is estimated that 88% of People with disability who cannot access the NDIS funding end up having no support.

Suggestion - Establishing a ‘provider of last resort’ scheme across states and territories to ensure there is always a provider of disability supports available.

Action - Setup Pilot Community Inclusion Hubs for people with disability, by creating dedicated physical spaces where people with disability can go for support, information, and connection.

A scheme for aids and equipment outside ndis where people will disability can receive funding upon application. 

2. Housing

Priority - People with disabilities are impacted by the housing crisis. Currently there is a complex application process to navigate for NDIS participants. There is no real support for those outside of the NDIS when it comes to the housing crisis.

Suggestions - Phasing out group homes, Introducing Housing and Living Navigators, Making changes to Specialist Disability Accommodation, including pricing.

Action - Try housing navigators who can help people with disabilities with all kinds of housing requirements, not just NDIS-funded housing. Establish a home modification scheme outside of the NDIS.

3. Safeguarding

Priority - Current safeguarding systems and processes are not working and are failing to protect people with disabilities.

Suggestion - Establish a ‘one-stop shop’ complaints process. Expanding the Community Visitor Scheme to be nationally available and consistent.

Action - Pilot specialist case management to support people with disabilities who interact with various systems including the justice system.

4. Establishing foundational supports

Priority - The disability community is concerned about what implementation of foundational supports will look like, and whether it will meet the needs of the community.

Suggestion - Develop a foundational support strategy. To ensure it meets the support needs of people with disabilities well, both the federal and state governments will invest in foundational support.

Action - Establish a citizen science project to understand what people with disability will need from foundational support, what supports currently exist and are at risk of closure. This will help fund and build the necessary infrastructure to increase support.

5. Representation and inclusion

Priority - We need to make reform consultations accessible and inclusive, especially for people who live, work, and go to school in a closed setting. It's these people who will be most affected by the changes.    

Suggestion - Establishing a First Nations Disability Forum and Investing in First Nations disability workforces in remote communities.

Action - Set up a Lived Experience Transition Taskforce, led by people with disabilities who experienced segregation.

6. Advocacy 

Priority - With current funding, advocates can only meet half the demand for advocacy services. Only one in two people with disability who request advocacy support can receive it.

Suggestion - Develop a program to connect people living in supported accommodation with independent disability advocacy supports. Funding independent disability advocacy services.

Action - Invest in advocacy and increase funding as reform progresses.

So, in summary upon reading these reports and the work underway - it does indicate that government are serious to bring the disability services back on track, with a vision to support most people with disabilities ensuring that there will always be support avaialble to people with disabilities especially for those who will not be able to access NDIS funding.

Written by -

Shoeb Patel (ELS Principal)


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