Disability services questions

Senator McGRATH: My question is to the Assistant Minister for Social Services, Senator Fifield. Can the minister outline to the Senate what the government is doing to help organisations that provide services to people with disability and their carers to transition to the new funding model of the National Disability Insurance Scheme?

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Senator FIFIELD: Thank you, Senator McGrath, for your question. I am very pleased to be able to advise the Senate that the Abbott government last week delivered certainty for thousands of Australians with disability and carers by extending funding for a range of programs transitioning to the NDIS. The funding extension will provide $47 million to service providers across the country to ensure that there is continuity of service to people with disability and carers as the NDIS begins to roll out. I should point out for Senator McGrath that this includes $8 million in the senator's home state of Queensland. The government has moved to ensure that there will be no interruptions as programs migrate to the NDIS. Programs that have had their funding extended include the Helping Children With Autism program, the Better Start for Children with Disability program, the Young Carers Respite and Information Services, the Outside School Hours Care for Teenagers with Disability program, and also the Respite Support for Carers of Young People with Severe or Profound Disability program. Service providers within these programs will have their funding extended to 30 June, allowing them to continue their important work with certainty. This funding extension is all about certainty and continuity for organisations and people with disability. The government has been determined to ensure that in transition to the NDIS, which obviously does involve change for service providers and individuals, we are in a position to provide as much continuity and certainty as possible.

Senator McGRATH: Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister update the Senate on funding for advocacy services for people with disability, which will be an important part of helping people access the NDIS?

Senator FIFIELD: I am also pleased to be able to confirm for the Senate that last week the government also announced funding assurance to current providers under the National Disability Advocacy Program, with a 12-month extension to all agreements. The NDAP, as it is known, provides people with disability with access to advocacy services to protect their rights and promote their interests. More than 11,000 people received support through NDAP in 2013-14, and this extension allows advocacy groups to continue to support people with disability while planning takes place for how NDAP will operate alongside the NDIS. As the NDIS rolls out across Australia, NDAP providers will continue to assist people with disability to participate in decisions that impact their lives, including to help them access both the NDIS and also mainstream services.

Senator McGRATH: Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister update the Senate on the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme?

Senator FIFIELD: I think that, as colleagues would be aware, there are currently seven NDIS trial sites in operation around the country. Over the next few months I will be negotiating with the states and territories a series of bilateral agreements which will outline how the NDIS will be rolled out statewide, territorywide and nationwide beyond the existing NDIS trial sites.

Scaling up from the current 10,000 NDIS participants in the seven trial sites to 460,000 participants nationwide is a complex task. It is an important task, and I want to make it absolutely clear to all colleagues that the Abbott government is absolutely 100 per cent committed to delivering the NDIS in full. It is one of the reasons why budget repair is so important—to make sure we can and will fully fund the NDIS.