Federal Labor's rush to launch the National Disability Insurance Scheme before last year's election contributed to it underestimating the cost of trials by almost $400 million, the Coalition says.
The minister responsible for the scheme, Mitch Fifield, told Parliament on Thursday that trials in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia were likely to cost $392 million more than expected because of ''errors'' in federal-state agreements negotiated by the Gillard government.
''Errors of this sort are far more likely when a political timetable to achieve launch prior to an election is pursued, rather than the more prudent timetable recommended by the Productivity Commission,'' Senator Fifield said.
The Productivity Commission recommended the scheme be launched this year, but Labor opted to launch the scheme in July last year in four locations.
Figures released by Senator Fifield showed the average cost of care and support packages in the second quarter of the scheme, from October to December last year, was $40,466 - about 15 per cent above the budgeted average cost.
This was an improvement on the first three months of the trials, when average package costs were more than 30 per cent higher than the budgeted averages.
Support plans have been completed for just over 2500 people, well short of the target for this stage of 4340.
Jenny Macklin, Labor's spokeswoman for disability reform, said Senator Fifield's claim of a ''political timetable'' was ''completely false''.
''It is extremely disappointing that the Abbott Government is seeking to detract from the significant progress that’s been made for people with disability, their families and carers because of the NDIS,’’ Ms Macklin said.
''Right now, there are 2586 people with approved care packages. Many thousands of people with disability, carers and families will now be benefiting from the extra care and support. These people and many others have been ignored for too long,'' she said.
Across the four trial locations, 5334 people have requested support, and 4052 have been deemed eligible, while 435 have been deemed ineligible.
On average, scheme participants are waiting 63 days between requesting access and having their plan approved.
Senator Fifield said the Ccoalition was committed to delivering the NDIS in full.
In 2019-20, its first year of full operation, the scheme is expected to support 460,000 people at an annual cost of $22.2 billion.