Disability advocate Dylan Alcott has hit out at Australians who abuse the country's national disability insurance scheme (NDIS) amid ongoing concerns about the plan's exorbitant cost to taxpayers.
The cost of the scheme has been identified as one of five major pressures on the federal budget and is expected to cost more than $166 billion over four years, leading critics to believe it's unsustainable.
In August, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission chief Michael Phelan estimated that as much as 15 to 20 per cent of the service’s current annual budget, almost $30 billion, might have been misused, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. That's roughly $6 billion a year.
On Wednesday, Australian of the Year and former wheelchair athlete, Mr Alcott, rebuked both NDIS rorters and those who take issue with the costly scheme at a press conference in Canberra. "We have had four questions about the NDIS, they have all been negative," he told media on Wednesday. "I'm starting by saying the NDIS is bloody awesome".
When asked about what he would say to rorters, he said "yeah they can go and get stuffed". "First and foremost, it is awesome, and we need to hear more stories about the good things that are happening," he said. "But secondly, you know, there are some dodgy people out there doing dodgy things, and the government have already commissioned the Fusion Task Force."
Mr Alcott pointed out the victims of NDIS abuse were people with disability. "If you are watching this and you are doing the wrong thing, you are literally taking away from a neurodiverse kid getting care," he said. "You are taking away someone with a high level of disability having a shower."
Misuse of NDIS scheme
The minister for the NDIS and government services, Bill Shorten, also addressed media and defended claims one woman spent NDIS funds on illegal sexual services. Sky News Australia revealed on Tuesday the woman, who has cerebral palsy, is visited by a male escort once a month, at the cost of taxpayers.
"I am not sure ultimately taxpayers would see it as the appropriate use of the funds but can I also just say, before we say people with disabilities are getting benefits they are not entitled to, that is not true," he told media. Mr Shorten confirmed there are currently around 500,000 people under the scheme and majority are "not getting exotic services or special things people see as unusual". "99.9999 per cent of the scheme is going to what the scheme was set up for, wheelchairs, early intervention therapies, assistance animals, home modifications," he added. "So when we talk about the scheme, it is important we don't just blame people for the cost increases, our first priority is to tackle fraud and waste and administrative redtape."
Costly government crackdown on fraud
Last month, the government announced the Fusion Task Force would be introduced to help eliminate the exploitation of the NDIS at the added cost of $126.3 million per year. The federal government will spend $24.1 billion to run the NDIS this financial year, with states spending more than $10 billion. But treasury data estimates the NDIS will grow at almost 14 per cent annually, meaning it will eventually cost more than Medicare, defence and the aged pension, according to reports.
The new body, which will replace the existing NDIS fraud taskforce, will target "fraud and serious non-compliance" with the help of law enforcement and other intelligence agencies, it's been reported. It will also target organised crime groups who've been exploiting the NDIS, according to ABC, following allegations some Sydney crime groups have been rorting billions of dollars.
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