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Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Federal Budget 2017: Down Syndrome Australia commentary

Budget Night 2017-2018
9 May 2017

Down Syndrome Australia's CEO, Dr Ellen Skladzien provides this useful summary of tonight's Federal Budget, on items most relevant to Australians with Down syndrome and their families:

The most positive news for the disability sector in the budget was the decision to provide full funding to National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) through an increase in the Medicare Levy of 0.5 % from July 2019.  This will provide important funding for the Scheme going forward. It is likely to be controversial as it is basically a tax increase- but provides ongoing funding for NDIS and security for the scheme going forward.

One area of concern in the budget is a funding cut of $12 million to the Information, Linkages and Capacity building component of NDIS.  This is funding that supports organisations, like Down Syndrome organisations, that deliver information, referrals and peer support to people with disability. It is also the part of the scheme designed to assist people with disability who are not eligible for an individualised NDIS package of support. The Government has rationalised this by indicating it is due to WA not joining the national scheme.  However, given that the current level of ILC funding is extremely low compared to the required level of support required in the sector, it is disappointing to see this cut.

Other key budget measures for disability include:

  • $33 million dollar package to support aged care and disability workforce growth
  • $209 million to establish the Independent NDIS Quality and Safeguards commission
  • Investment in Disability Employment Services program over the next 4 years including funding to index payments, funding attached to individuals rather than service providers, and a trial to provide DES to children with a disability in their final years of schooling.
  • Changes to the residency requirements for the DSP and age pension.

There are also a range of health measures which will potentially have a positive impact on people with Down syndrome including:

  • Lifting the freeze on the indexation of the MBS and reversing the removal of bulk-billing for diagnostic imaging and the increase in PBS copayment and related charges
  • $165 million mental health package including $80 million for community psychosocial services
  • Investment in health research
  • Decision not to privatise Australian Hearing

There was also significant investment in education taking on the Gonski funding model.  This was announced in the lead up to the budget and has been somewhat controversial due to concerns about decreased funding to some private schools.

Overall there are some really positive outcomes; however, Down Syndrome Australia will continue to monitor the ILC situation- particularly if WA changes their approach to NDIS.

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