How Lucky Are We? Comparing the NDIS to Other National Disability Programs by Murray Berghan

Murray Berghan

An estimated 4.4 million Australians are living with disability  (1). With more than $22 billion in funding, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a government-run program by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), which has provided support and services for approximately half a million Australians with disability within the past five years (2). This scheme has been in addition to government pensions, welfare, and social enterprises like Sensitive Group run by managing director Murray Berghan.

What is the NDIS?

At its core, the NDIS provides information on the support available in each state and territory of Australia and networks to community services such as schools, libraries, sports clubs, doctors, and support groups (2). It also provides funding for any “reasonable and necessary” need an eligible person might require (subject to specific criteria).

The NDIS splits its services into three distinct categories (3):

  • Core support: this includes consumables such as continence aids, assistance with self-care activities, transport assistance, and social participation support for recreational and social activities.
  • Capacity building: assists participants with living more independently and engaging with their community more fully. It includes coaching on future planning and plan management, employment counseling, health and wellbeing advice, physical and psychological therapy, and accommodation support.
  • Capital support: provides funding for expensive assistive technologies such as wheelchairs and vehicles and home modifications such as installing bathroom railings.

This support is offered in addition to other government benefits. So, a person can receive Centrelink’s (Australia’s welfare system) Disability Support Pension as well as NDIS payments with neither affecting the other.

How is the NDIS Unique?

Around 15% of people in the world are living with a disability (4), and most countries have government-run support services for people with disability. How then does the NDIS stack up compared to other developed countries?

To compare foreign schemes to the NDIS, we’re looking at whether the schemes have similar goals to the NDIS: that is, to offer people living with disability greater choice over the support they receive and to provide the specific needs to develop greater independence. We’re also looking at whether these countries have programs separate/in addition to government welfare programs. Every developed country provides welfare payments for people living with disability, but few have additional programs with the same scope/benefits as the NDIS. This means, the program must offer more than financial support; the goal should be to increase the autonomy of participants.

This difference already makes the NDIS unique; of the top 25 countries listed by the Human Development Index—which ranks countries according to life expectancy, literacy rate, GDP per capita, income inequality, etc (5)—very few countries had programs similar to Australia’s NDIS.

New Zealand

For instance, New Zealand began the government-funded Enabling Good Lives initiative in 2012 to make disability support more universally available. However, while it has similar selection criteria and an array of benefits, it is far smaller in scope than the NDIS. It started with a budget of $3 million (far shy of the NDIS’s $2.2 billion) and has helped 43,000 people with disability (6,7). This is still an amazing feat, but if we want to find a fair comparison to the NDIS, we’re going to have to look a little further abroad.  


France has the Presentation de compensation du handicap (PCH), or the Handicap Compensation Benefit Scheme, which provides financial assistance for support carers, purchasing or renting personal equipment like wheelchairs, transport assistance, housing arrangements, and animal assistance like guide dogs (8). The program is currently helping 350,000 people across France (9), is separate from other allowances, and provides similar benefits to the NDIS covering the same types of disabilities.

What differentiates the PCH from the NDIS is its more stringent eligibility requirements: it does not cover residents who are over 60 (NDIS age requirement is under 65) or persons who earn over €27,000 (AUD 43,000) per year (9). In Australia, 22.5 percent of households earn incomes of less than $40,000, which would mean that more than 75 percent of the country would be ineligible for NDIS.  

The NDIS is the Future of Disability Support

While other national disability programs have seen success worldwide, many countries are recognizing the NDIS as a clear progression of what disability programs should look like moving into the future. Jonathan Marchand of the Every Canadian Counts Coalition (ECCC) said the “NDIS is an example to follow”, pointing to its centralized funding as something Canada should replicate (10). And Ian McCreath, the head of the Think Local Act Personal (TLAP), a partnership of 50 health organizations in the UK, said the “NDIS espouses choice and control in the manner envisaged by the policy in England”. And Australians agree; having consulted for Save the Children Fund, Redcross, and many other charities and not-for-profits, Murray Berghan echoes the sentiment that these organizations should “empower others to create bright futures of their own”.

This is what differentiates NDIS from other disability programs worldwide: its focus on “self-directed care”. The NDIS is not a welfare program; it is designed to help people gain the skills and support they need to live more autonomously. It’s also not an insurance policy (despite its name). No one using the scheme must pay as it’s funded entirely by the public. Instead, the program gets its name as it’s designed to “insure” any person living with a disability will have the costs covered for their support.

And that just maybe what makes the NDIS so unique. It offers a variety of support, is given in addition to other government benefits, and offers the people using the program greater autonomy and choice on how they use it. It’s difficult to compare the NDIS to other national programs because there aren’t many like it. Of course, there’s always room for improvement, but there are reasons other countries are looking to the NDIS as a benchmark of what a disability assistance scheme should look like.

Like the NDIS, Raise Your Spirit aims to help others have independent and happy lives. It’s at the core of what we do. It is why we developed a Disability Performance and Wellness program called The RYS Acceleration SystemTM, a practical at-home guide to help our clients determine the tasks, schedules, and key milestones to reach their personal goals faster. We hope to see a world where everyone feels great about themselves and their lives by taking steps together.


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8. Prestation de compensation du handicap (PCH) [Internet]. [cited 2022 Feb 11]. Available from:

9. Corbeel S. Prestation de compensation du handicap (PCH) : comment obtenir l’aide? [Internet]. Dossier Familial. 2020 [cited 2022 Feb 14]. Available from:

10. Bhandari N. Is NDIS the gold standard for disability care and support in the world? [Internet]. Hireup. [cited 2022 Feb 13]. Available from: