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NDIS Chair Dr Helen Nugent AO

Chairman's Message

The mission of the is crystal clear. We want to help participants have a better life. To do that, participants must be at the core of everything we do. We also recognise the critical role played by carers, providers and disability groups.

But delivering on that mission with the ambitious speed of the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) embodied in the Bilateral Agreements is not easy. This Scheme is a world first and there is no template to follow.

Certainly, we have been successful in the first year of transition in bringing 66,500 participants into the Scheme and the Early Childhood Early Intervention program. This is in addition to more than 35,000 Australians who entered the NDIS during the first three years of trial. However, given the speed of the rollout in other areas, we have fallen short of the high expectations the Board and management have for the fulfilment of our mission. We are committed to addressing the issues that have arisen.

First, we are addressing the quality of the participant experience. It has not always been consistent with our aspirations. Plans have not always been as outcomes driven as we would like. Participants have not always found it easy to interact with the NDIA. Telephone planning has not always delivered an empathetic and value-adding experience for participants. At times, the wait time for the call centre has been too long. And the portal is not as easy to navigate as it might be. We are working with haste to address these and other issues through the Participant Pathway Review.

Through 13 workshops held with more than 300 stakeholders since April, we have sought feedback on what needs to improve. In conjunction with those stakeholders, we are now redesigning the pathway to deliver a quality experience that improves participant outcomes. This is a significant task. The new approach needs to be responsive to a diverse array of participants’ disabilities, backgrounds and geographies. We are trying to get it right for all participants regardless of those differences.

We are making good progress and are looking for quick wins that are consistent with the longer term approach. However, there is little doubt that as we continue to bring participants into the Scheme in accord with the Bilateral Agreements, we will continue to rely on the goodwill and patience of participants and the sector more broadly as we work with speed to address these fundamental issues.

Second, we are engaged in improving the quality of the provider experience. It has sometimes been variable. This became obvious in July 2016 when payments could not be made because of issues with the portal. While the payments issue was fixed, other underlying issues remain, including with the user-friendliness of the portal. To that end, in conjunction with the Participant Pathway Review, we are undertaking an end-toend review of the provider pathway. Again, good progress is being made. In addition, in response to feedback from providers, we are undertaking an Independent Pricing Review. The results of that review are expected to be given to the NDIA in December 2017.

Third, we are striving to roll out the NDIS in accordance with the ambitious schedule in the Bilateral Agreements at the same time as addressing the quality of the participant and provider experience. We are mindful of the need to balance the desire of participants to enter the Scheme as soon as possible and our obligations under the Bilateral Agreements between the Commonwealth and state and territory governments, with our commitment to ensure a quality experience for participants and providers.

Fourth, we are highly conscious of the need to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the Scheme. This is a responsibility we do not take lightly. The NDIS is an insurance scheme for all Australians, paid for through a “premium” by all Australian taxpayers. We have an obligation to them which we are committed to fulfilling. While underlying pressures have emerged, the Board and management of the NDIA are proactively taking measures to ensure the Scheme’s long-term financial sustainability.

Fifth, we are working with other government bodies and the sector to better communicate the role of the NDIA within the broader disability sector. The NDIS is not designed to provide all of the support required for all people with disability. It is designed to supplement the support provided through mainstream service systems, such as health and education, and the informal support provided by families, carers and communities. This complex picture of where to seek such assistance is not clear for many individuals, particularly those with psychosocial disabilities. We are working to eliminate this source of frustration in the lives of people with disability, their families and carers.

These are challenges that the Board of the NDIA is committed to addressing. Indeed, we are very fortunate to have a highly talented Board of Directors who have a shared view of the mission of the Agency and who have the skills to deliver on that commitment. In particular, I thank the Chairs of the committees of the refreshed Board for their dedication to the task: Mr John Walsh (Sustainability Committee); Ms Sandra Birkensleigh (Audit Committee); Mr Jim Minto (Risk Committee); and Mr Paul O’Sullivan ( Committee).

I also thank the other continuing members of the Board, namely Professor Rhonda Galbally (who also chairs the Independent Advisory Council); Mr Glenn Keys ; and Mr Martin Laverty, as well as the other new directors: Ms Robyn Kruk AM, Mr John Langoulant , Ms Estelle Pearson and Ms Andrea Staines. For my part, I consider myself immensely privileged to have been asked to take on this enormously challenging but very rewarding role. Like my colleagues, I am committed to getting it right for participants and to making a difference to their lives.

In that context, I also acknowledge and thank the former members of the Board led by Mr Bruce Bonyhady for all they have done to get this ground-breaking Scheme up and running. This was a Herculean feat for which every participant, I am sure, is extremely grateful. It is a truly significant achievement which will long be recognised in the annals of Australian history. National Disability Insurance Agency Annual Report 2016–17 8 I also wish to acknowledge and thank the management and staff of the NDIA for all they are doing to bring this significant Scheme to fruition. As has recently been announced, there has been a change in leadership at the NDIA. Our outgoing CEO, Mr David Bowen — who announced in March 2017 his intention to retire — has made an enormous contribution to the NDIS and this Agency. Through his vision and tireless work, he has led the biggest social and economic policy reform in Australia this century. He was instrumental not only in establishing the NDIA, but also in wanting to ensure that it could truly change the lives of Australians with disability for the better.

In turn, we welcome our new CEO, Mr Rob De Luca, who is unequivocally committed to the mission of the NDIA. He has the vision, values, will and skill to ensure that the NDIA rises to the challenges it faces and moves forward in making a difference to the lives of participants in the Scheme. The Board of the NDIA knows that with his customer focus, drive, determination and willingness to embrace and engage the sector, our aspirations will be fulfilled.

Finally, the Board wishes to acknowledge the ongoing support it has received from participants and their families, as well as the disability sector more generally, and from the governments—the Commonwealth and the states and territories— as well as from politicians across the spectrum. One of the truly remarkable aspects of the NDIS is the community support that has been forthcoming. That is something we acknowledge and treasure.

Dr Helen Nugent , Chairman

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NDIS CEO Rob De Luca

CEO's Message

I am pleased to have the opportunity to introduce myself and acknowledge the fourth Annual Report of the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).

I am excited by the opportunity to lead the NDIA during this next important phase. I believe in the purpose of the NDIS – to improve the independence, economic and social outcomes for people with disability, their families and carers, and in turn make Australia a better place.

I am driven by my values and look forward to bringing my personal experiences and skills to the NDIA. I have worked for over 20 years in the financial services sector, most recently as Managing Director of BankWest.

I am motivated to lead a high-performing organisation where the experience of the customer, or participant, is at the centre of everything that we do.

I would like to acknowledge the work of the Chairman, Dr Helen Nugent and the Board in improving the experience of participants and providers, and managing the Scheme’s long-term financial sustainability.

The NDIA would not be where it is today without the significant contribution of inaugural CEO, Mr David Bowen. David has taken the NDIA from an idea to a national organisation. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him and mark his significant contribution to people with disability, their families and carers.

This fourth Annual Report of the NDIA looks back at the significant body of work which has occurred over the last 12 months to improve outcomes for people with disability, their families and carers. As new CEO, I am looking forward to the future – both the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. To participants, their families and carers, service providers, peak bodies and the Australian community – thank you for your ongoing support of the Scheme. I am confident that together we can make a significant difference to the lives of Australians.

Mr Robert De Luca, Chief Executive Officer

What is
the NDIS?

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS or the Scheme) is a new way of providing support for people with disability, their families and carers in Australia.

The Scheme represents a fundamental shift in the way supports are provided to, and funded for, Australians who have a significant and permanent disability. It represents a once-in-a-generation social and economic reform, and will better the lives of hundreds of thousands of participants, and their families and carers, through a focus on improved outcomes.

Over and above existing mainstream supports, the Scheme will provide all Australians under the age of 65 with significant and permanent disability (referred to as participants), with the reasonable and necessary supports they need to enjoy an ordinary life, and to participate in employment and the community.

Consistent with the Scheme’s participant-centric approach, funding for these supports will be determined by an assessment of their individual needs, goals and aspirations.

Participant choice and control is a core feature of the Scheme’s design. In this new market-based system, once reasonable and necessary supports are determined, participants are deeply involved in making decisions around how their funds are spent, and how their supports are delivered. Participants are able to choose and move between disability providers rather than having providers contracted for them. In this way, participants are empowered to own their goals and aspirations, and to have a say in how they attain improved social and economic outcomes.

Insurance, not welfare

The NDIS is a social insurance scheme. Building the economic, education and social participation of Australians with disability is the core focus of the NDIS. This means the Scheme is aimed at delivery of better outcomes for people with disability through an insurance approach that invests to produce a long-term social and economic dividend for the whole country.

It marks a deliberate departure from a welfare-based approach, where the costs of providing disability support were viewed through a short to medium-term lens. The Scheme is intended to improve outcomes for participants and produce long-term fiscal and economic gains for Australia.

The Scheme takes a lifetime approach to supporting people with disability, informed by actuarial analysis. This means expenditure is considered over the life of an individual, and Scheme sustainability is measured by calculating the total future cost of supports for participants.

This social insurance approach is based on early investment and intervention, which will improve outcomes later in life and will reduce long-term costs.

This insurance approach is underpinned by four principles:

  1. Develop actuarial estimates of the reasonable and necessary support needs of the targeted population.
  2. Focus on lifetime value for Scheme participants.
  3. Invest in research and encourage innovation.
  4.  Support the development of community capability and social capital.

How the NDIS fits into the National Disability Strategy

The NDIS forms an important part of the Government’s National Disability Strategy 2010–2020, a 10-year policy framework for improving life for Australians with disability, their families and carers. The Strategy supports Australia’s commitments to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It guides public policy across all levels of government and drives change in mainstream, specialist disability programs and services, and community infrastructure.

The specialist disability supports provided by the Scheme complement the mainstream services provided by Commonwealth and state and territory governments, including health, education, housing, transport and safety.

year in review

Number of participants with approved plans by quarter 2016-17

Bar graph of he number of participants with approved plans by quarter from 2016- to 2017

At 30 June 2017:

  • 90638
  • Participants with an approved plan.
  • $7.3b
  • Support committed to participants since 1 July 2013.$3.2 billion was committed for participant support costs in 2016-2017.
  • 6134
  • Children supported through the Early Childhood Early Intervention approach.
  • 8698
  • Registered service providers.
  • 37020
  • Total plan reviews for 2016-17.
  • 14.4%
  • Percent of the Agency workforce who identified as having a disability.
  • 84%
  • Percent of the surveyed participants who rated their experience either good or very good.

Achievements, Challenges and Future Priorities


  • In 2016-17, 60,357 participants entered the Scheme and received an approved plan and 6,134 children were supported through (in addition to the 35,695 who entered during trial).
  • Baseline measures were collected on 98 per cent of participants receiving their first plan in 2016–17. These measures allow the NDIA to assess the medium and long-term benefits of the NDIS to participants, families and carers.
  • The NDIS is supporting small business with individuals/sole traders making up 40 per cent of registered service providers.The proportion of participants who are fully or partly self-managing their plan is growing.
  • The 2011 Productivity Commission estimate for the longer-term costs of the NDIS at $22 billion per annum at full Scheme remains the best estimate of a well-managed NDIS.
  • Grant agreements valued at more than $116 million were awarded to Partners in the Community to deliver and .
  • The first Information, Linkages and Capacity Building () grants were awarded on a national level and in the ACT.
  • The NDIA was recognised as the seventh most appealing Australian Employer of Choice out of a pool of 150 employers at the Randstad Awards.
  • An Agreement of Lease was signed for a new NDIA National Office building in Geelong.
  • Eight information sessions in partnership with Members of Federal Parliament were hosted, with more than 700 people in attendance.
  • A major focus was placed on community engagement through hundreds of events and information sessions, along with the launch of NDIS TV and interactive webinars.


The commencement of transition to full Scheme commenced on 1 July 2016, and the NDIA has acknowledged that it experienced significant difficulties in the implementation of a new Information and Communication Technology () system for participants and providers, the myplace portal.

Whilst a range of system enhancements and increased support for portal users largely resolved these early portal issues, this impacted the Agency’s ability to roll out the NDIS in accordance with the pace of participant intake in Bilateral Agreements.

The NDIA, working with the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments, implemented a recovery plan and by 30 June 2017, the cumulative total number of participants receiving support through an NDIS plan or was 96,772, representing 83 per cent of the bilateral estimates.

Through the resolution of these significant difficulties, it has become clear that the Agency has been unable to deliver the superior service to which it aspires and that participants require. Greater use of the telephone to create participant plans has not delivered the outcomes-focus the NDIS requires and participant satisfaction declined during the first year of transition (reported participant satisfaction however continues to be high at between 84 and 88 per cent for 2016-17).

The Agency also identified a number of emerging cost pressures that require ongoing monitoring:

  • higher than expected numbers of individuals approaching the Scheme;
  • higher than expected numbers of children entering the Scheme;
  • lower than expected participants exiting the Scheme;
  • increasing package costs over and above the impacts of inflation and ageing;
  • a mismatch between benchmark package costs and actual committed support; and
  • inadequately defined boundaries between the NDIS and other mainstream supports, particularly in the area of mental health.

Future priorities

The future priorities for the Agency will be:

  • ensuring quality outcomes and improved participant experiences;
  • building and refining systems and processes to support a nationally-consistent, high-quality approach to Scheme access, and the planning and funding of participant supports working with, and learning from Partners;
  • supporting the development of a disability market of adequate size and quality, including the potential development of an e-Market ecosystem;
  • scaling from administering the Scheme to more than 96,000 participants to an expected 460,000 participants at full Scheme;
  • delivering the NDIS within the agreed funding, and monitoring and managing pressures on the total future cost of the Scheme; and
  • establishing approximately 100 service delivery sites nationally, and significantly growing the Agency and Partners in the Community workforce.

The NDIS at 30 June 2017 by state and territory

Australian Capital Territory

The ACT is the first state or territory to fully transition all state clients to the NDIS.

Participants with an approved NDIS plan

At end of trial (30 June 2016) – 4,098

At 30 June 2017 (including ) – 6,047 (119 per cent of bilateral estimate)

New South Wales

2016 marked a year of rapid growth in NSW as it is the state with the largest participant numbers.

Participants with an approved NDIS plan

At end of trial (30 June 2016) – 9,609

At 30 June 2017 (including ) – 48,266 (87 per cent of bilateral estimate)

Northern Territory

Since July 2014, the NT undertook a trial in the Barkly region. This provided valuable insight into the unique opportunities and challenges in rolling out the Scheme in the NT.

Participants with an approved NDIS plan

At end of trial (30 June 2016) – 155

At 30 June 2017 (including ECEI) – 388 (71 per cent of bilateral estimate)


The benefits of the NDIS are beginning to be seen despite lower than expected participant numbers in some regions and a diverse geography and population.

Participants with an approved NDIS plan

At end of trial (30 June 2016) – 361

At 30 June 2017 (including ) – 7,442 (50 per cent of bilateral estimate)

South Australia

Children and teenagers have been the first to enter the NDIS in SA, providing invaluable insights to inform the NDIS approach nationally.

Participants with an approved NDIS plan

At end of trial (30 June 2016) – 7,118

At 30 June 2017 (including ) – 12,116 (94 per cent of bilateral estimate)


Tasmania transitioned from three successful years of trial to full Scheme, with participants aged 12 to 14 and 25 to 28 joining the Scheme since July 2016.

Participants with an approved NDIS plan

At end of trial (30 June 2016) – 1,162

At 30 June 2017 (including ) – 2,247 (100 per cent of bilateral estimate)


It was a busy year in Victoria, with the conclusion of the Barwon trial and three new regions transitioning to the Scheme.

Participants with an approved NDIS plan

At end of trial (30 June 2016) – 5,284

At 30 June 2017 (including ) – 16,484 (82 per cent of bilateral estimate)

Western Australia

The NDIS trial has been underway at the same time as a State Government version of the trial, known as WA NDIS (formerly called NDIS My Way).

Participants with an approved NDIS plan

At end of trial (30 June 2016) – 2,494

At 30 June 2017 (including ) – 3,782 (71 per cent of bilateral estimate)