Fundamental problems currently exist in relation to the children’s hearing services under the National Disability Insurance Scheme. These issues present real threats to deaf children’s outcomes and to the goal of optimising their lifelong social and economic independence.

Current NDIA initiatives to address these issues, including reference packages and early childhood early intervention access partners, are unlikely to provide definitive or long-term solutions. The root problem is that NDIS policy and funding settings are incompatible with basic requirements of effective early intervention and do not work with complex, expert, multi-disciplinary early intervention programs such as those provided hearing-impaired children.

As at March 2017 only a small number and proportion of NDIS-eligible hearing-impaired children are in the NDIS. There is an urgent need to resolve these matters, if only on an interim basis, before the scheme is rolled out across Australia to the remaining 3,500-4,000 children who are deaf or hearing impaired.

While specific solutions are needed to address some immediate and urgent issues, these will not negate the need to address the broader structural fit and alignment of early intervention for children with hearing loss within the NDIS.

The best way forward is to develop an outcomes-based funding model for hearing-impaired children that is designed to be applicable more widely across the early intervention sector in relation to evidence-based programs achieving real outcomes with a positive cost benefit.

Read the full copy of First Voice’s Supplementary Submission to the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme’s Inquiry into the provision of hearing services under the NDIS.