WA NDIS – Devil Not Just in the Detail
Thursday, 12th January 2017 at 8:15 am
As the Western Australian and Commonwealth governments finalise negotiations on the agreement for the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in WA, people with disability are hungry for the detail, writes Alison Blake, director of Strategic Support.
The announcement last month that Western Australia will be administering the National Disability Insurance Scheme locally has the state government walking a tight rope between binding confidentiality requirements associated with intergovernmental agreements and a community demanding to be involved in the decision making.
The most vocal are demanding a say in the agreement while advocates seek assurances on co-design. People with disability are asking what happened to the principle of: “Nothing about us without us.”
A bilateral agreement is being finalised between the state and the Commonwealth and will include the timetable and sequencing for the inclusion of each metropolitan and country regional area into the WA NDIS. It will also determine the rate at which people join the scheme and the geographic roll out plan. This includes discussion on the appeals process and presumably the quality system and ICT systems. The bilateral will detail the governance arrangements that will be shared between both governments.
Advocacy group People With Disabilities (PWD) WA has called on the state government to develop a co-design model for engagement and involve people with disability and their families in the design of the WA NDIS whether its governance, policy or operational aspects.
“There are still many issues that need to be addressed in WA NDIS such as planning for people with complex needs and independent advice for planning. We are very concerned about the appeals process,” PWD WA president Greg Madson said in a statement following the December announcement of a WA NDIS.
It is not just the bilateral negotiation process that has people concerned. Madson said the legislation was already being drafted and there has been no consultation.
Disability Services Commission director general Ron Chalmers clarified that the only legislation drafted to date is for minor amendments to the existing Disability Services Act 1993 which will enable the state to move from trials to transition from July 2017.
He said that over the following 18 months there would be ample opportunity for consultation and input from stakeholders on the content of the act that will be required for the full roll out of the scheme in WA.
Chalmers said that while the rollout of the NDIS would be challenging, WA was well placed to manage this major reform.
“The reaction to the announcement from the disability services sector and the general community has generally been positive,” Chalmers said.
“The investments made over the past 20 years in the state-wide local coordination network coupled with the high level of individualised planning and individualised funding in the current service system means that the platform for the NDIS in already in place.
“In addition, WA NDIS will offer a personalised service that does not require people to use 1800 phone number Centrelink-style contact or over-the-phone planning.”
Chalmers said he expected every person with a disability entering the WA NDIS would have the opportunity for face-to-face conversation and on-going engagement with a local coordinator to develop and implement a plan. When asked if that was realistic, Chalmers said the transition process for the two state trial sites in WA had proved successful and he saw no reason why that would change.
“We can afford to have individual conversations. People accessing the NDIS, especially people with intellectual disability, need to know that they can deal with a coordinator in their local community,” Chalmers said.
“We expect that about six months before a geographical area is transitioned there will be intensive engagement so that when the area rolls into the WA NDIS, everyone is well prepared.
“There will be about 500 local coordinators by the time we get to full scheme. If it’s not a proper conversation, then people would be right to say: ‘Hang on what’s going on here?’” he said.
He pointed to the WA NDIS expansion areas of Armadale, Serpentine-Jarrahdale and Murray where he said approximately 300 people transitioned into the scheme in October due to effective engagement and pre-planning activity.
Chalmers said that by July 2017 about one-quarter of all people eligible for the NDIS in WA would have access to the scheme. He said people currently accessing the NDIS in existing trial sites could be assured that their supports and services would be maintained as the scheme rolls out across the state.
Approximately 30,000 additional people are expected to enter the WA NDIS scheme in regular intervals over the following three years. He said there had been no waitlist in the WA NDIS trial site areas and didn’t expect that would change.
Chalmers acknowledged that people with disability and families are keen to have more information but that this would be forthcoming over the next few weeks. He said he was seeking to assure all Western Australians that WA NDIS is the NDIS, delivered locally.
“Western Australians with disability will gain access to all the benefits of the national scheme with the added benefit of personalised local support. National consistency will be guaranteed,” Chalmers said.
“People with disability will not be disadvantaged in any way in comparison with scheme participants in other states.”
People with disability and service providers will have to wait to see the detail of the bilateral agreement that will be the basis for the roll out of the NDIS in WA. The timeframes and scheduling will also form part of the agreement. The legislative change required to enable transition to full scheme, in theory should be relatively straight forward and achievable early in 2017.
Beyond that, it remains to be seen what role people with disability, advocates or service providers will have in determining how the NDIS is operationalised and implemented in WA.
About the author: Alison Blake is the founder and director of Strategic Support, a social consultancy providing business services to the disability and community sector in Western Australia. Blake is a former journalist and previously worked in social policy, community inclusion and communications at the Disability Services Commission in WA