The Federal Budget 2023 to 2024 was handed down last week. The following Budget measures pertain to people who are blind or vision impaired and their families. Though the disability sector did not receive all the funding that advocates had called for, there were some significant announcements.
National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
There will be an additional $732.9 million over 4 years from 2023–24 to support participant outcomes and the sustainable operation of the NDIS. National Cabinet has announced an 8 per cent annual growth target by 2026, down from the current rate of 14 per cent, but the federal government has stressed that this is not a cap and that the NDIS will remain demand driven.
NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission
There will be an additional $142.6 million over 2 years from 2023–24 to support the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission (the Commission) in carrying out its role of safeguarding NDIS participants. The additional funding will support the Commission to assist participants; minimise the risk of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation; improve market quality and participant experience; complete outstanding casework; and improve the Commission’s internal information and communications technology (ICT) capability.
National Disability Data Asset (NDDA)
There will be an additional $31.4 million over 4 years from 2023–24 to meet the remaining costs of establishing the NDDA. The NDDA will use de-identified data on Australians with disability to improve service delivery and policy development.
There will be $1.1 million in 2023–24 to undertake initial research, design and consultation work to establish a Disability Employment Centre of Excellence. There will be $11.7 million over 4 years from 2023–24 to establish a targeted disability employment advocacy service and information program for support employees.
There will be $3.5 billion over 5 years from 2022–23 to address the decline in general practitioners’ bulk billing of patients on low incomes, and children. This funding will triple the bulk billing incentive benefits for consultations for Commonwealth concession card holders and patients aged under 16 years of age. There will be $2.2 billion over 5 years from 2022–23 for new and amended listings on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). For example, faricimab (Vabysmo®), for the treatment of neovascular age-related macular degeneration and diabetic macular oedema, has been listed since 1 January 2023. There will be $556.2 million over 5 years from 2022–23 (and $36.0 million ongoing) to strengthen Australia’s mental health and suicide prevention system.
There will be $166.8 million in 2023–24 to release an additional 9,500 Home Care Packages. There will be $10.9 million in 2024–25 to run a trial to test products and services for a new assistive technologies loan program, commencing in July 2024 within 2 states and territories. There will be $7.3 million over 3 years from 2023–24 for a package of initiatives to further reduce the number of people under the age of 65 living in residential aged care.
There will be $10.2 million over 4 years from 2023–24 to establish a Central Coordination of Disability Policy function in the Department of Social Services, to drive whole-of-government action on disability policy and improve accountability against Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021–2031. This Budget adds $589.3 million to the $1.7 billion in the October Budget to deliver the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022–2032.
Climate Change and Energy
There will be $1.3 billion in funding to establish the Household Energy Upgrades Fund to support home upgrades that improve energy performance and save energy.
There will be $10.1 million over 2 years from 2023–24 to scope the capability needs to modernise Australia’s emergency service communications to provide federal, state and territory agencies high-speed and high-capacity mobile broadband services, to improve the operational effectiveness and safety of public safety personnel.