A National Disability Insurance Scheme is a long overdue social reform for Australia that must have bipartisan political support.

ACTU President Ged Kearney welcomed today’s commitment by the Federal Government to implement a national, no-fault disability insurance scheme that will not only provide financial support for hundreds of thousands of Australians, but enhance the caring workforce.

Particularly important is a recommendation to extend the right to request flexible working arrangements to the parents of significantly disabled children aged over 18.

“The NDIS will be a major reform that will be regarded by future generations as akin to Medicare,” Ms Kearney said. “There are hundreds of thousands of Australians who were either born with, or acquired, a physical or intellectual disability.

“They suffer from a chronic lack of services and support, and often have lives of social exclusion, poverty and hardship. The system is currently underfunded and under-resourced, and providing a fully adequate level of care is frequently beyond the resources of the disabled, or their families.

“A disability insurance scheme would guarantee support for people with disability, taking the burden off carers. A properly funded disability sector would create the environment to attract more carers into the disability support workforce, which would be necessary to expand services.

“Proper funding would transform the system with greater pay, more jobs, better working conditions and career structures, and the resources to do the job properly.”

Ms Kearney said an expansion of the right to request flexible working arrangements would make a huge difference to people’s lives.

“It will enable more people to participate in the workforce, while still being able to satisfy their caring responsibilities,” she said.

However, Ms Kearney said unions were concerned at the Productivity Commission’s proposed seven year timeframe for the full introduction of the NDIS.

Unions also believe the scheme should be funded through a small levy on all personal income tax similar to the way Medicare is funded, rather than out of consolidated revenue, which could mean cuts to other government spending.

“Billions of dollars extra are needed to properly fund disability services and support in Australia.

“The most equitable way of ensuring there is adequate revenue for the level of care and support that is needed is through a means-tested levy. A sufficient revenue stream would mean all Australians would be guaranteed of support should they have a disability. This will produce long-term savings for the Australian economy.”