NDIS Agency Takes Action to Improve Participant Experience
18 October 2017 at 2:19 pm
The National Disability Insurance Agency is to trial new ways of interacting with people with disability, as well as service providers, to improve the experience of the NDIS – a move that has been welcomed by the not-for-profit sector.
The changes, announced on Wednesday, include “improving planning processes, better communication, with less red tape and recognition that the diverse needs of participants in the NDIS require tailored responses”.
The NDIA said the new NDIS “pathway” was “designed to significantly improve the experience that people and organisations have with the ground-breaking NDIS”.
NDIA chief executive officer Robert De Luca said the new pathway was the result of a collaborative review the NDIA undertook in response to feedback from participants and providers that their experience was not meeting expected standards.
“The pathway refers to the experience participants and providers have from their first interaction to their ongoing engagement with the NDIS,” De Luca said.
“Central to the new participant pathway is the delivery of face-to-face engagement for all NDIS plan development, based on the individual’s preference. This improvement has already resulted in a substantial increase in the number of plans being developed in person.
“Having learned from the past, the new pathway will now be progressively piloted and tested over the coming months before being rolled out nationally.”
De Luca said the purpose of the NDIA was to empower people with disability to choose and achieve their goals in inclusive communities and workplaces.
“We must ensure people with disability, their families, carers and providers are confident to engage with and navigate the NDIS,” he said.
“We also need a strong and vibrant provider market that contributes to improving outcomes for participants. As part of the new provider pathway, the NDIA will provide better information and insights to support business decisions and make it easier for providers to transact with the scheme and connect with participants.
“Implementing all improvements will take time, but we are committed to responding as quickly as possible to the feedback. It is important to get the new pathway experience right before implementing all the improvements across Australia. To that end, we will be proceeding to pilot the new pathway before it is rolled out nationally.”
The NDIA said work was also underway to develop tailored pathways to ensure the NDIA had the right response for all participants, including people with psychosocial disability, children, people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and people with more complex needs.
— NDIS (@NDIS) October 18, 2017
The changes have been welcomed by the disability provider peak body, National Disability Services (NDS).
NDS chief executive officer Dr Ken Baker said the news was welcome given the “ongoing frustrations so many people with disability and disability service providers have been experiencing”.
“I think time will tell if this is enough,” Baker told Pro Bono News.
“The introduction of the NDIS was widely celebrated as a landmark reform which would finally give choice and control to people with disability and their families and allow our members to provide responsive, high-quality supports to more people.
“Yet the roll out of the scheme has been mired in inefficient systems and confusion, resulting in frustration and uncertainty for too many people.
“NDS and our members have been advocating for urgent changes to fix the way the scheme is being implemented.
“It won’t solve all of the problems because some of the problems with the NDIS sit outside the pathway experience. But if the experience of the NDIS for providers and participants can be improved then I think that would be a great step forward.”
Baker said that while the sector did not know all the details yet, the directions that had been outlined seemed “to be heading the right way”.
“We presented them with the difficulties that particularly providers are experiencing regularly and brought a lot of that thinking together in the paper we published in May called How to Get the NDIS on Track,” he said.
“We were trying to say in that paper that while we are strong supporters of the NDIS there were a range of implementation problems but none of them insurmountable, every one of those problems has a solution and we in the sector want to work with the agency to come up with workable solutions and this is what I hope this process the NDIA has announced will do.
“We commend the new CEO’s commitment to listen to the sector and ensure people with disability, families, carers and disability service providers are included in ongoing discussions. There is a high level of expertise, experience and commitment in the disability sector which must be utilised to help shape the design and implementation of the NDIS as it continues to roll out.”
People With Disability Australia senior policy officer on the NDIS, Dr Meg Clement-Couzner told Pro Bono News the NDIA announcement was “taking a positive direction”.
“It really shows the agency has listened to the concerns that people with disability have been raising,” Clement-Couzner said.
“We are particularly happy to see there will be a consistent form of contact rather than the long waits that people have been experiencing on the 1800 [phone] line and that information will be more consistently available in ‘easy read’ and braille. And especially for us, the face-to-face planning with both local area coordinators and planners being in the one room rather than telephone planning.
“We know that the telephone planning has been extremely confusing and inaccessible for many people, so we are happy to see all of those things.”
Clement-Couzner said however “the proof will be in the pudding”.
“It’s really key that people with disability continue to be involved in making sure that the scheme is successful so PWDA absolutely welcomes the announcement but we are keen to see more details about the ways in which people with disabilities are involved in the pilot and ongoing evaluation of the changes.”
The NDIA has also announced its intention to increase payments for short-term accommodation – respite services that enable family carers to take a break from their caring responsibilities.
The new rates will be variable, reflecting the higher wages payable at weekends and public holidays and support levels required by some NDIS participants. The new rates will take effect from the end of October.
Baker said the NDIA deserved credit for responding to the critical issue of short-term accommodation.
“The closure of respite services would have been disastrous for families and people with disability. Swift action was needed to avert this serious risk,” Baker said.
“The NDIS is a critical reform and we need to get it right. We are optimistic that these changes are a positive move in the right direction to getting the NDIS on track.
“I think the next stage and very soon we will have a clearer view of what changes the agency has in mind and we can respond to those.”
More than 90,000 people have an approved NDIS plan, with about 60,000 people joining last financial year.