What the 2021 Federal Budget means for disability

Key facts for people living with disability.

Posted May 12, 2021

What you need to know

  • Increased funding for the NDIS - $13.2 billion over the next four years
  • $12.3 million over the next two years to improve the alignment of the disability and aged care sectors' regulation
  • $860 million is being provided over four years for the transition to NESM
  • $12.7 million of new funds over five years will be directed to health initiatives for people with intellectual disability
  • As well as initiatives and funding that will impact workforce, mental health, ECEI, school students with disability, and aged care

(Article continues below image.)

Federal Budget 1

Increased funding for the NDIS - $13.2 billion over the next four years - will spur a public discussion on sustainability of the Scheme. Tonight’s Federal Budget forecasts that the NDIS will cost almost $32 billion in 2024-25, expenditure that is comparable to the cost of Medicare.

This year it is estimated that $23.2 billion will be spent on supports for NDIS participants, rising to $28.3 billion in 2022-23; $29.4 billion in 2023-24; and $31.9 billion in 2024-25.

The Government is concerned about the rapid growth in expenditure on NDIS supports; for example $17.6 billion was paid for supports in 2019-20, not much more than the $16.7 billion already paid out in the first nine months of this financial year. The Government and the NDIA have argued for the need to constrain this growth.

The Opposition is using NDIA data cited in the Productivity Commission’s 2017 report on NDIS Costs to challenge concerns about the growth in expenditure claims. Those NDIA figures project scheme costs to be $30.6 billion in 2024-25, comparable with this Budget’s forecast for that same year.

Fuelling the debate on scheme costs will be the greater share of the cost being borne by the Commonwealth Government over time (driven by the aforementioned growth). When the scheme began, the Commonwealth’s share of the cost was just over half (about 51 per cent). This year it is about 55 per cent, rising to a forecast 59 per cent by 2024-25. The scene is set for heated intergovernmental discussions.

It is worth noting that bilateral agreements provide for a review of Scheme costs in 2023, and every five years thereafter.

Possible changes to NDIS regulation?

In an interesting but not surprising move, $12.3 million will be expended over the next two years to improve the alignment of the regulation that applies to the disability and aged care sectors.

Over the past year, NDS has noticed greater use of terms such as ‘the care workforce’ and ‘the care and support workforce’. The Government is clearly looking to find ways to achieve greater consistency across the regulation of the sectors as well as ways to facilitate staff working across the sectors.

Limited information is available but this funding will be used for: greater information sharing between regulators; alignment of auditing arrangements; review of the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Framework; and consultation with the sector(s) on options for further alignment.

Under the aged care payment measures, almost $106 million will be spent on introducing a nationally consistent worker screening, register and code of conduct for ALL care sector workers. Many providers will support streamlining these arrangements but will also expect them to simplify processes rather than make them more complex.


Providers of Disability Employment Services (DES) are anxiously waiting to hear the details of planned changes to the program. As they will be aware, jobactive will begin transitioning to NESM from July next year ($860 million is being provided over four years for the transition). Under new arrangements, some job seekers will receive their support via online services.

Job seekers in DES will have the option of moving to these digital services from 1 January 2022, initially through Online Employment Services and then by NESM from 1 July 2022. This initiative is clearly looking for current DES participants to self-select into the new job seeking arrangements that will be available to all Australians looking for work.

A range of programs and initiatives will receive almost $260 million to provide additional support to job seekers, including:

  • $213.5 million over four years to expand the Local Jobs Program (which supports approaches to accelerate reskilling, upskilling, and employment pathways in selected regions)
  • $15.6 million in the next financial year to increase all wage subsidies to $10,000 for eligible participants in jobactive, Transition to Work, and ParentsNext. Unfortunately, this measure does not include DES.
  • Annual Health Assessments through the use of the CHAP tool ($6.7 million)
  • Scoping and co-designing a National Centre of Excellence in Intellectual Disability ($1.4 million)
  • Consultation on the inclusion of mandatory competencies in health care for people with intellectual disability in tertiary education health curricula
  • about $300 million for suicide prevention by ensuring people who have attempted suicide receive support once they leave hospital
  • digital mental health services – online counselling and support - will be boosted by an injection of a quarter of a million dollars
  • $202 million will be available for training nurses and psychologists
  • $107 million will be directed to supporting mental health in vulnerable communities, particularly among Indigenous Australians.
  • $6.5 billion over four years for 80,000 additional home care packages
  • Almost $4 billion over four years to increase the amount of front line care delivered to aged care residents and those using respite services (it will be mandated at 200 minutes per day including 40 minutes with a registered nurse)
  • An additional $10 per day per resident
  • Almost $800 million for additional respite care and payments to support carers
  • $365 million to improve access to primary care
  • About $300 million for the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to improve quality
  • $280 million over three years to further support residential care providers with temporary financial support
  • $200 million for a star rating system to provide consumers with information to make comparisons on the quality and safety performance of providers
  • $190 million over four years to implement a new funding model
  • Almost $75 million to strengthen the regulation of chemical and physical restraints

DSS today announced the members of the DES Reference Group which will consider options to transform the existing program to improve the employment outcomes for people with disability. NDS is a member of the Reference Group which will be chaired by Dr Ben Gauntlett, the Disability Discrimination Commissioner.

Health initiatives for people with intellectual disability

After many years of concerted lobbying, supporters of people with intellectual disability will be pleased to see specific initiatives aimed at improving the health of people with intellectual disability. A total of $12.7 million of new funds over five years will be directed to:


The Department of Social Services is developing a national disability workforce plan or strategy, to be released soon. The Budget papers make mention of extending the Jobs and Market Fund to June 2024, extending the scope of the fund to support the broader care and support sector and workforce. As it does not list a funding commitment, we expect this information to be released at the time of the plan's launch.

Once again, we see pointers to the Government working to bring the disability and aged care workforces closer.

Mental health

An additional $2.3 billion over four years will be directed to additional mental health services, falling short of what the sector was hoping for. Just over half of this will be allocated to Commonwealth-funded mental health centres (which includes Headspace).

Other measures include:

New early childhood program for children with disability or developmental concerns

Almost $18 million over four years will be used to establish a new early childhood program delivering a range of disability-specific information, workshops and supported playgroups for young children aged 0 to 8 years with disability or developmental needs.

Improving the nationally consistent collection of data on school students with disability

Over recent years, effort has gone into improving the data on school students with disability (which is used to make funding decisions). Over the next four years, $20 million will be spent on continuing and improving the collection of this data.

Aged care

Almost $18 billion will be invested over four years to respond to recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. The measures being funded are wide-ranging but are likely to fall short of what many key stakeholders believe is needed. Some of the measures include:

Alongside these investments are a range of measures to support the growth and skills of the aged care services workforce.

This information courtesy of National Disability Services (NDS)