Disability scheme overhaul transforms access to support

The way Australians with disabilities access support could be transformed under the government's plan to contain budget blowouts and maintain the sustainability of its once world-leading scheme.

As part of the government's attempts to address recommendations made by an independent 2023 review, the 660,000 Australians covered by the National Disability Insurance Scheme would undergo an assessment and receive a plan and budget based on those support needs.

The money they receive can only be spent in accordance with their plan unless their needs "significantly change".

Introducing the changes to Parliament House on Wednesday, NDIS Minister Bill Shorten clarified that any needs tests would be created in consultation with the disability sector.

Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten
Bill Shorten says the changes don't mean people will have to re-prove their disability. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

"The result will be a budget for disability supports that are fit for you," he said.

It will also boost compliance powers for the NDIS watchdog to request and receive information on whether participants are meeting specific criteria like residence and disability requirements.

"I know that much needed and, indeed, much wanted change can produce anxiety," Mr Shorten said.

"This does not result in people having to re-prove their disability.

"But will allow the CEO (of the NDIS) to determine if participants are receiving the most appropriate supports."

The cost of the NDIS - hailed as world-leading when it was established in 2013 - is predicted to swell from $33.9 billion in 2022/23 to more than $50 billion in 2025/26, higher than the annual bill for Medicare.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme NDIS logo
Bill Shorten warns that without an overhaul the NDIS was in danger of losing its way. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

"Every Australian deserves the peace of mind of knowing that if they or someone they love acquires a significant and permanent disability, the NDIS will be there for them," Mr Shorten told the House of Representatives.

"All of us benefit from building a more inclusive and accessible society.

"Despite its life changing impact, the NDIS is in danger of losing its way."

To prevent the scheme eating into other parts of the federal budget, the Albanese government is trying to limit spending growth to eight per cent as part of a broader overhaul.

One of the review's recommendations involves providing "foundational supports" via state systems to 2.5 million disabled Australians in an attempt to reduce pressure on the NDIS while still giving resources to those who need them.

However, the introduction of the bill is just the first step in creating change.

Many improvements cannot take effect until NDIS rules - made with the states and territories - are updated.

But premiers and chief ministers have threatened to revolt, fearing they will be left paying for future NDIS budget blow outs.

The state and territory leaders emerged from a meeting on Monday calling for a delay the introduction of the legislation previously agreed at national cabinet.

However, NSW Premier Chris Minns said the changes would lead more people to seek state support at a cost unknown to his government, while his Victorian counterpart Jacinta Allan says the new legislation goes far beyond what was agreed to in December.

National cabinet agreed to the reforms based on the understanding that the states would be involved in their design, Mr Minns said.

In a joint statement, opposition NDIS spokesman and assistant spokeswoman Michael Sukkar and Hollie Hughes said the coalition would work constructively with the government on the overhaul.

"But it is concerning to see pointed attacks from within the government regarding its failure to convince Labor premiers on these changes," their statement read.

The pair also claimed the bill needed to better address prover fraud and price gouging, both of which contribute to cost blowouts.