NDIS in ‘Gridlock’ as Caretaker Period Continues
Friday, 8th July 2016 at 11:18 am
The National Disability Insurance Agency is stuck in caretaker mode with the federal election result still being finalised, leaving its new payment system in “crisis”, according to Australia’s first Dignity for Disability MP, Kelly Vincent.
Vincent, who was elected to South Australia’s upper house in 2010, said the federal government must urgently intervene and fund emergency support for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), as participants are currently unable to pay for services.
She told Pro Bono Australia News on Friday that the new online payment portal had been down for three weeks.
She said the NDIA had failed to fix the problem and the caretaker period, now in its ninth week, prevented the government from providing a stop-gap solution.
“It adds a layer of complexity in that it makes it difficult for governments to intervene and make sure people have the funding they need in the interim to pay for services that they require. But if we have to breach caretaker mode, breach protocol, then so be it,” Vincent said.
“We cannot have three weeks of small businesses not being able to pay their staff, not being able to operate a functional business, and three weeks of people with disability potentially not having services we need to get out of bed, have a shower in the morning and get on with our day.”
The NDIS, the country’s biggest social policy project since Medicare, was rolled out nationwide on 1 July. But the agency has been in caretaker mode since the federal election was called in May.
During caretaker period the government is prevented from making major policy decisions.
— NDIS (@NDIS) May 16, 2016
The NDIA’s new payment portal allows NDIS participants to claim against their funding packages to pay for their services.
“[They] pay their support workers or their speech pathologists or physiotherapists, for example. Whatever services they have under their plan, they have to claim against that funding to pay those people,” Vincent said.
“So if they can’t access that funding, which they can’t currently because the website is down, they’re not able to pay for the services they’re using.
“So this has a big impact particularly on small businesses and, of course, people with disabilities who might not be able to access services because they can’t pay for them.”
She said the NDIA attempted to resolve the issue between 8pm Thursday night and 6am Friday morning.
“There’s still no change, which is very disappointing,” she said.
“The new website launched on 1 July, and people were told that two weeks prior to that it would be down while they swapped to the new system, so they were the two weeks that we did expect.
“But it’s now three weeks without being able to be paid for services that people are accessing. It’s absolutely not acceptable, it’s not good for people with disabilities and it’s not good for business.”
The NDIA said in a statement that emergency payments would be provided to participants and providers in certain circumstances.
“The NDIA is aware that some providers and participants are experiencing issues with the new NDIS portals,” the statement said.
“Anyone who is financially impacted should contact the NDIA on 1800 800 110. There are plans in place to provide payment in emergency circumstances.
“Extended operating hours will also be in place from Monday 11 to Friday 15 July from 9am to 8pm.
“We appreciate that this has been a frustrating time for some and apologise for the challenges that people may be experiencing.”
For more information on how the NDIS works and whether the sector is ready for the rollout, listen to the first episode in Pro Bono Australia’s three-part podcast series.