Parliamentary Report on NDIS Released
Wednesday, 30th July 2014 at 4:56 pm
The first Report of the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has pointed to gaps in the service and a lack of full-time disability workers to meet the need of the full rollout in 2018.
However the report praised those involved in the the trial sites and said the rollout was on time and on budget.
In November 2013, Assistant Federal Minister for Social Services, Mitch Fifield confirmed that the NDIS will, in full rollout, have a gross cost of $22 billion per annum and require an additional contribution from the Federal Government of more than $8 billion each year from 2019-20.
The report, which makes 17 recommendations, is the result of public hearings in the Barwon, Hunter, Tasmanian and South Australian trial sites in April and May 2014.
In its recommendations the report said the Committee was aware that there was currently a shortfall in the number of workers in the disability sector, particularly in professional roles.
It said preliminary research was indicating that the number of full-time disability sector workers would need to increase substantially to meet demand by full rollout of the NDIS in 2018.
“The committee recommends that a workforce strategy be developed under the auspices of the Ministerial Disability Reform Council that identifies the issues, challenges, options and recommendations to meet demand,” it said.
The committee said it also heard evidence that “gaps in service” had been identified in each of the trial sites.
“The committee recommends that further work be undertaken by the Independent Advisory Council which is well-placed to identify and inform the Agency about where there are gaps in service and possible options for addressing these shortfalls,” it said.
The report said the evidence gathered —from participants, carers, family members, service providers, disability advocates, state and National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) officials—had provided the committee with a range of views on the Scheme's achievements and the challenges in its first nine months of operation.
“According to the last quarterly report available to the committee, the Scheme is on budget and progress against performance benchmarks is improving.
“The ability of the NDIS to connect participants with mainstream services in transport, health, education and housing will be crucial to its long-term success. It is also important that the NDIS promotes workforce opportunities for people with disability and their carers.
“The challenges that face moving from a system that is fragmented between states and reliant on ad hoc funding streams, to a national scheme based on individual choice and flexibility are substantial.
“Further, during the transition it will be crucial that people do not 'fall between the cracks' of the old and the new.
“That is why it is crucial that the Commonwealth and State Governments, and the NDIA, adopt a ‘continuous improvement’ philosophy,” the report said.
Disability advocacy Not for Profit, People with Disability Australia (PWDA) said it welcomed the release of the progress report.
PWDA President Craig Wallace said the report highlighted some of the issues that had been raised by its members.
“One of these is the uneven quality of some of the plans developed and the importance of independent advocacy to people with disability preparing their plans and engagement with the NDIS.
“Advocacy is a friend of a quality and sustainable NDIS and of person centred approaches. This role of advocacy as a system saver for the NDIS is highlighted in the report.
“PWDA also shares some concerns about the risk that Governments will divest themselves of their roles in disability in advance of the NDIS,” Craig Wallace said.
“Withdrawing from these services too soon could have perverse outcomes and mean that people with disability are left without the information, advocacy or other supports they need to make the scheme work.
“Not all block funded disability services are bad and we need to ensure we don’t lose the pockets of good practice in the old system, in the new system.
Wallace said he also supported a greater focus on housing for people with disability and the idea that this should be a priority within COAG.
“Far too often we look to simplistic solutions like housing “models” for people with disability rather than looking the broader challenges of opening up the market for accessible and adaptable housing in the private sector as well as ensuring that the supply of public and social housing is equipped to meet the needs of people with disability,” Wallace said.
The report said reasonable criticism should not be dismissed as an attack on the goals of the NDIS itself but an opportunity to improve and deliver better results for the disabled people that the scheme is designed for.
“By the time the NDIS is fully rolled out across Australia, more than 460,000 Australians with disability will benefit.
“The NDIS is a massive and complex reform. More than 5400 people with disability have been provided with an NDIS plan in the first nine months of the Scheme's operation.
“This is testament to the success of the Scheme to date in terms of providing people with disability with 'reasonable and necessary' supports that match their life goals. The committee heard many of these positive stories from participants, family members and carers in the trial sites.”
The report said the evidence also identified a number of other challenges that faced the NDIA, and a wide range of NDIS stakeholders:
• in terms of the culture of the NDIA, the committee received evidence from a range of participants, carers and providers about the need to ensure that communication with stakeholders is courteous, clear, consistent and prompt;
•in terms of advocacy, a number of participants, carers, family members and service providers stressed the importance of the role of advocates. They argued that it is critical to the Scheme's success that prospective and actual participants are aware of the NDIS, what it has to offer, how to navigate the planning process, and provided with forums for feedback and discussion with other participants;
• in terms of participants' plan management arrangements, very few currently self-manage their plans (only 3 per cent). Most have their plan managed through the NDIA. Some witnesses emphasised the importance of helping people self-manage;
• in terms of service providers, there is a significant challenge of transitioning from a block funded system to one based on a fee for service. The committee received evidence from service providers across the trial sites expressing their concern with the impact of this transition on their financial viability. Some providers also expressed concern with the non-activation of plans and the administrative errors in plans which led to providers incurring extra costs; and
• the availability of suitable housing for people with disability was a significant theme in evidence from the trial sites. Witnesses expressed a wide range of housing concerns including young people living in residential aged care homes and the deinstitutionalisation of state-run large residential centres.
The full report can be found here.