First Voice has today lodged its submission with the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme’s Inquiry into the provision of hearing services under the NDIS.

First Voice has been a strong and vocal advocate for children’s hearing services as it transitions into the NDIS.

If NDIS operating policies and funding arrangements for hearing-impaired children are deficient, then deaf children’s outcomes will suffer.

It is now 3 ½ years since the commencement of the NDIS trials and there are many areas of deep concern. These include: restrictive eligibility criteria; referral delays; scope of funded services; duration of services; qualifications and experience of service providers; NDIA planner inconsistencies; the interface between disability and mainstream health and education services; and inadequate funding. These matters need to be resolved urgently.

Over the past 70 years, Australia has progressively developed an approach to identifying, diagnosing and meeting the hearing technology and early intervention needs of children who are deaf or hearing-impaired that is among the best in the world.

Reported outcomes of children participating in listening and spoken language early intervention programs of Australia’s leading service providers show that the majority of early intervention graduates achieve age-appropriate speech and language before starting school and that more than 90% attend mainstream classes in mainstream schools. Graduate survey results from an Australian and New Zealand report shows high rates of school completion (86%), acceptance into higher education (82%), attainment of university qualifications (62%) and employment (77%) and high levels of social participation (84%). Similar results have been reported from North American graduate studies.

A recent cost benefit analysis of First Voice members’ early intervention programs by Deloitte Access Economics shows that these programs have a 2.2 to 1 benefit to cost ratio; meaning that for every $1 invested there is a return of $2.20.

The mission of the NDIS is to optimise the social and economic independence of Australians with disabilities. Many hearing-impaired Australian children already achieve this, but there is more to be done if all Australian children who are deaf or hearing-impaired are to fulfil their potential. The NDIS offers a unique opportunity for further gains. However it also carries the risk of things becoming worse.

Children who are deaf or hearing-impaired are entitled to a clear and adequately funded pathway of services under the NDIS that will secure their future.

View the full copy of the First Voice submission.