WA NDIS Trial Evaluation Slammed
3 March 2017 at 5:21 pm
The Western Australian version of the National Disability Insurance Scheme has been called “indefensible”, following the release of the long-awaited trial evaluation report which surveyed just 21 participants.
When the NDIS trials began in WA two and a half years ago, to compare the state and federal schemes, both jurisdictions committed to an independent evaluation of the two approaches, to ensure the best outcome for participants.
The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) ran the national trial and the Disability Services Commission (DSC) managed the WA NDIS trial.
Inaugural chair of the NDIA Bruce Bonyhady said the evaluation, conducted by Stantons International and released Thursday by the WA government, failed to fulfil this commitment.
“The release of the evaluation report, yesterday, which has been kept secret until now, confirms what was suspected: there is no authoritative evaluation available to support the decision to adopt the so-called WA NDIS,” Bonyhady said.
The criticism of the evaluation largely focuses on the fact that only 21 participants were surveyed out of more than 4,000 participants in each trial site.
Minister for Social Services Christian Porter said the quality of the report was “not high enough”.
“I am aware that Western Australia placed a significant reliance on the report’s contents in reaching its long-standing determination to not join a full national NDIS delivery model,” Porter said.
“The Commonwealth’s consistent position was a strong preference for WA to join the national NDIS delivery model and the quality of the report was not high enough to change the Commonwealth’s position.
“However, the Western Australian position was to insist on a stand-alone delivery model for WA, even if that was more expensive in budgetary terms to the state.
“Given that insistence from WA, agreement was sought to 11 non-negotiable conditions to ensure that the outcome in WA would be consistent on all the key elements including access, eligibility, reasonable supports, funding and full portability. The agreement ultimately reached provided for consistent services and support, but with the increased administrative expense not being borne by the Commonwealth.”
The Commonwealth and WA governments finalised their NDIS negotiations last month.
Bonyhady called Porter’s response to the evaluation a “masterly example of understatement”.
He said the WA scheme was not just deeply flawed, as he wrote in Pro Bono News earlier on Thursday, but “indefensible”.
“Where does this leave West Australians? Hugely let down by the Barnett government and their bureaucrats,” he said.
“At a time when every person with a disability around Australia knows when they will transition into the NDIS, West Australians face a further unnecessary period of uncertainty and anxiety.”
Rayna Lamb, coordinator of Women With Disabilities, a woman with a disability and a founding member of the #nodisadvantage campaign pushing for a fair NDIS model, said the evaluation was “appalling”.
“It’s really, really bad,” Lamb told Pro Bono News.
“They interviewed… less than 1 per cent [of participants]. They’re basically basing a decision that will affect thousands of people on a tiny, tiny, tiny number of people.”
In contrast, 65 service providers were interviewed – three times the number of participants.
“They’ve made it very clear, as they have right from the beginning, the DSC and the Liberal government privileges the opinions of service providers in WA over that of people with disabilities,” Lamb said.
“This is profoundly disappointing and it doesn’t bode well for whatever scheme we may get under the WA Liberals.”
She said she had concerns about being on the WA scheme.
“Firstly that we we not have choice and control, which the national NDIS was predicated on,” she said.
“Instead of the recipients of services having a contract directly with the service provider, and therefore having the choice of what service provider they chose… the WA system will involve contracts between the Disability Services Commission and the service provider.
“Over the last couple of years the four main service providers in WA have systematically swallowed up smaller service providers… and they have a vested interest in keeping WA’s current system as close to the way it always has been.
“The voices we’ve heard in WA over the last couple of years talking publicly about the WA NDIS have all been service providers, very few people with disabilities or their families have had the opportunity to talk publicly about their experience with the NDIS.
“Essentially it’s a dictatorship here in WA.”
Professor David Gilchrist, director of Curtin University’s School of Accounting Not-for-profit Initiative, despite supporting the WA NDIS, was surprised by the quality of the report.
“I think the WA model makes sense for Western Australia, not least of course because a lot of the essential components of the NDIS were originally introduced into Western Australia and we want to be sure we’re protecting the advancements we made in that regard,” Gilchrist told Pro Bono News.
“However, I think it is surprising the material is only based on 21 people and their experience. I think that certainly is a little concerning in terms of what that means for the extrapolation of that data, whether or not those findings can truly be extrapolated across the tests.
“But I also think, at the end of the day, this agreement is in place. I think the fundamental move to this position is a good move for Western Australia, and really going through this process is not going to advance the policy outcome we’re looking to achieve now that agreements in place.”
Bonyhady called on the next WA government to immediately prioritise the negotiation of a new and fair NDIS deal, following the 11 March election.
“The essential ingredients must include a commitment to operate under the national legislation, because this is the only way to guarantee consistency, portability and equity and the financial terms must not disadvantage WA,” he said.
“As Western Australian goes to the polls next week, it is imperative that all West Australians know how any future WA government plans to clean up the NDIS mess created by the Barnett government.
“And all Australians with an interest in the success and equity of the NDIS should now publicly support and work together to help deliver the real NDIS for West Australians.”
The damning criticism follows months of demands for the evaluation to be released.
Porter said his office was waiting on a decision from the Department of Social Services before processing the freedom of information request.
The WA government is currently in caretaker mode ahead of the election.