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NDIS costs on track but challenges ahead

“There are unlikely to be enough providers and workers as the scheme rolls out.”

Malcolm Turnbull is drumming up support for a Medicare levy hike to fund the national disability insurance scheme, as a report warns of major cost pressures on the horizon.

The prime minister joined disability advocates on Wednesday to stress the need for NDIS funding certainty, as the Productivity Commission confirmed the rollout was on track and on budget, but not without its challenges.

The commission – releasing a position paper on the NDIS – identified financial risks including an unexpectedly high number of children entering the scheme and greater than anticipated care package costs.

“A key concern is the speed of the rollout and its impact on the experience of participants and providers through the planning process, plan quality and market development,” social policy commissioner Richard Spencer said.

Those responsible for steering the NDIS were told to place greater emphasis on planning before the scheme’s full rollout in 2020.

The commission urged them to strike a better balance between participant intakes, quality plans, participant outcomes and financial sustainability.

Increasing Australia’s disability support workforce was also pegged as a major challenge, with the commission tipping as many as one in five new jobs created in coming years would need to be in the disability sector.

“There are unlikely to be enough providers and workers as the scheme rolls out under current policy settings,” Commissioner Angela MacRae said.

The commission urged states and territories to play a greater role in finding workforce gaps and identifying solutions, telling the commonwealth to keep an eye on how tertiary education, immigration and aged care policies can each play a role.

“Everyone wants the NDIS to work, but there are challenges to be overcome and work is needed by all governments,” Spencer said.

The prime minister and senior ministers were out urging parliament to support increasing the Medicare levy by 0.5 per cent to bankroll the NDIS.

“We speak a lot about compassion, love and empathy and community in this place, but we have to make sure we can pay for it,” Turnbull told reporters in Canberra.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said Labor’s proposal to limit the increase to only those earning more than $87,000 a year would sap $15 billion worth of revenue over 10 years.

The tax increases aren’t scheduled to hit until 2019 but Mr Morrison believes it’s cruel to let the funding uncertainty linger.

“The reason we put it in the budget is because we need the certainty now. Those parents, particularly those older parents, they need the certainty now,” he said.

NDIS campaigner John Della Bosca, a former NSW Labor government minister, said for the scheme to be successful it needed to be intergenerational.

“We can’t leave it to the whim of one parliament or another, one budget or another, or, no disrespect intended, one treasurer or another,” he said.

“The increase to the Medicare levy must happen, in order to secure a consistent, sustainable funding stream for the NDIS.”

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