Not a One-Stop Shop: The NDIS in Australia’s social infrastructure

March 30, 2023

Progressive Economics

The NDIS was founded upon a three-tier system, with each tier providing a critical and unique contribution to the overall system of support and care for disabled people. Like a three-legged stool, the removal or weakening of any one of these tiers would fundamentally destabilase the entire NDIS.

Tier 2 was originally designed to provide for a robust community-based support system, which could offer services not only to NDIS participants, but also to the roughly 4 million disabled people who fell outside of the Tier 3 individualised service provision. The primary forms of support provided in Tier 2 are information and referral services rather than funded care and support.

However, the definition and scope of government support to Tier 2 services were diminished under the previous government, despite calls from the sector, and the Productivity Commission, to return the scheme to its original design. Indeed, recent research by the Melbourne Disability Institute shows that 90% of Australians living with a disability who do not receive Tier 3 packages report are unable to access the services and support they need.

Many Tier 2 service providers predate the NDIS, and have traditionally relied heavily on donations and volunteers to remain viable. However, COVID and rising costs of living have reduced the capacity of many volunteers, and economic pressures have resulted in a decline in donor flows, at the same time as overheads have risen.

In the absence of adequate Tier 2 supports, people with disabilities are at greater risk of being excluded from society and capacity building opportunities, and therefore more likely to need more direct support under Tier 3 services in future.

Per Capita calls for increased investment in NDIS Tier 2 services. As shown in our previous report, for every dollar spent on the NDIS, the Australian economy receives a return of $2.25, so we know investment in the NDIS is worth it.