NDIS Having a Life Changing Impact Despite First Year ‘Teething Problems’
29 June 2017 at 8:10 am
On the eve of the first anniversary of the Australia-wide rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme participants, providers and advocates say despite the teething problems, the NDIS is having a “life changing impact” on people with disabilities.
After three years of trials, the national NDIS rollout began on 1 July 2016 and promised to overhaul a severely fraught and under-resourced disability sector, putting people with disability at its centre.
However, since 1 July 2016, the road to the national rollout has been turbulent. (Check out our infographic below)
A spokesperson from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), which runs the scheme, told Pro Bono News there had been some “hiccups” along the way.
“The NDIA’s processes and systems have not resulted in a participant and provider experience during the past year that is of the consistently high standards that the NDIA aspires to deliver,” the spokesperson said.
“The board, management and staff of the NDIA are committed to delivering a much better experience for participants and providers.
“Improvements over the next year are likely to include more face to face (rather than telephone) communications with participants; an easier to navigate portal; a more responsive call centre experience; and significantly improved interactions with providers and disability organisations.”
The long-awaited position paper from the Productivity Commission, released in June, recommended a slow-down in implementation or else the NDIS was at “risk”.
Social Services Minister Christian Porter told Pro Bono News that the NDIS was an “immensely challenging enterprise” that was proceeding “as expected, not without challenges but so far achieving a better quality of life for those who transition into the NDIS”.
In a special first anniversary interview recorded for the Pro Bono News Not for Podcast Porter said: “Challenges will be ongoing but the issue is how to manage them and work through them”.
“What you need to look at is not just challenges or issues that will arise when you are moving from 30,000 to 460,000 people into the NDIS – those transition issues are inevitable. And in some instances they are unavoidable. And no doubt there are problems that will arise that we have not yet considered,” Porter said.
Porter revealed that the newly reconfigured NDIS board had recently reviewed its operations in detail.
“The NDIS board conducted a detailed review into the planning process and individual experience and there is significant room for improvement,” he said.
“They have identified over 100 things. Some that will be changed in the short term, some in the medium term and some in the long term to consistently make that planning process better for the individuals involved in planning and transitioning.
“The fundamental finding is [that the NDIS] is on budget and on track which is a very significant achievement… but there is an enormous amount of work ahead us.”
In a recent Productivity Commission report, commissioner Angela MacRae warned that under the current policy settings it was “unlikely” there would be enough providers and workers to support the scheme in the future.
“A real challenge is growing the disability care workforce needed to deliver the scheme. As many as one in five new jobs created in Australia over the next few years will need to be in the disability sector,” MacRae said.
Under the strain of the rapid rollout the long-awaited scheme has also faced criticism as to who was missing out.
Aboriginal Child, Family and Community Care State Secretariat senior project officer Mick Scarcella said the problems for Aboriginal people accessing the NDIS is “like the elephant in the room”.
“Indigenous people are 70 per cent more likely to require NDIS funding for services and this grows to an astounding 250 per cent for Aboriginal children and yet to date, the uptake has been so very low and problematic,” Scarcella said.
“This needs to be addressed immediately, funds allocated and resources made available to combat this issue before we have another ‘forgotten’ generation in years to come.”
A spokesperson for Multiple Sclerosis Limited (MS) said that while the NDIS was “a significant transformation” of the disability sector the scheme’s administration had been “inconsistent and challenging”.
“The experience of many people living with MS has not been positive nor adequate,” the spokesperson said.
“Issues include: a lack of understanding of disability within the LAC workforce; absence of specific understanding of MS or other progressive neurological conditions; Local Area Coordinator’s lacking experience in conducting planning conversations and reports of clients being hurried to complete the assessment or coerced into accepting phone rather than a face to face meetings.”
Similarly, the National Organisation for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders also had concerns that service providers had a lack of awareness and understanding of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.
“For the majority of those living with FASD the disability is hidden. For parents and carers this results in frustration, lack of support, a requirement to undertake extensive advocacy to obtain any degree of NDIS support. One of our parent stakeholders recently commented that she had been forced to provide extensive information about FASD to every service provider she has encountered in her child’s life.”
But while the chorus of concerns spanning funding, rollout targets, workforce and eligibility were strong, so too was the chorus of supporters championing the NDIS as “life-changing”.
Disability advocate and writer El Gibbs said the NDIS had already had a profound impact on participants.
“I know for some people with disabilities the NDIS has been profoundly life changing. They are finally getting the supports tailored for what they need and they don’t have to wait in interminable lines and queues. They are getting the supports they need to participate in society.”
The Productivity Commission said that despite concerns about securing funding and a strong workforce, one year on the NDIS was “still on track”.
“The NDIS is a complex and highly valued national reform. The scale, pace and nature of the changes it is driving are unprecedented in Australia,” the commission said.
“If implemented well, it will substantially improve the wellbeing of people with disability and Australians more generally.”
The Productivity Commission said the commitment to making the NDIS work was “extraordinary”.
“The level of commitment to the success and sustainability of the NDIS is extraordinary. This is important because ‘making it work’ is not only the responsibility of the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), but also that of governments, participants, families and carers, providers, and the community,” the report said.
Below Pro Bono News takes a look at the NDIS in numbers: