Unfair NDIS Transport Funding Causing Chaos for Participants
Friday, 4th May 2018 at 3:14 pm
Unfair and inconsistent transport funding under the National Disability Insurance Scheme is causing chaos for participants, a community transport peak body has warned.
The Transport Development and Solutions Alliance (TDSA) – the peak body for Queensland’s community transport sector – held their 2018 Symposium on Friday, discussing their lobbying efforts around the NDIS’s transport implementation.
TDSA have strongly advocated for consistent, fair and equitable transport funding for NDIS participants’ plans and last month made a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS.
The submission outlined how inequitable NDIS transport funding was having a critically negative effect on participants as well as the overall success of the scheme.
TDSA’s business manager Jennifer Leigh, told Pro Bono News that transport was the key enabler for NDIS participant’s goals.
“I think transport is essential to the achievement of the NDIS’s fundamental aim – which is consumer choice and control and setting [personal] life goals,” Leigh said.
The NDIS currently offers three participant transport support levels for people who cannot access public transport, based broadly on the amount of work or study a person is undertaking.
Participants receive up to $1,606 per year for level one support, up to $2,472 per year for level two support and up to $3,456 per year for those on level three support.
Participants may also receive higher funding in “exceptional circumstances”, if the participant has either general or funded supports in their plan which enables employment participation.
Leigh warned however, that participants lacked awareness of what was possible by way of transport funding outside of levels one, two or three.
“People aren’t really aware that there is an ability to discuss transport associated with any core supports and also additional access to transport money to achieve core support [listed activities],” she said.
“I think the National Disability Insurance Agency has their way of handling it, but it’s a policy area for them that’s inconsistent in terms of its decision making and it’s inconsistent in terms of how assessors deal with it on an individual by individual basis.
“There needs to be much greater clarity for people about how transport is more than a conversation about levels one, two, or three.”
Leigh said participants were having to “do more with less”, noting that people received less under the current model than they did under the previous Centrelink mobility allowance system.
“They’re actually paying out of their own pocket, having to sometimes pick up the cost of transport. Surely that’s part of getting to an activity?” she said.
“So I think what we’re seeing is unequal in terms of the access to decent levels of funding that considers where someone lives and what they need to get out and about.”
TDSA’s submission said that if an NDIS participant did not specifically ask for transport costs to be included as a component of funded core supports, then NDIA planners accepted no responsibility to inform, educate or guide participants on their rights for it to be considered.
Carers Australia’s submission to the 2017 Productivity Commission inquiry into NDIS costs noted there had been many complaints in relation to transport since the scheme was first implemented.
“In some instances it was not made clear to participants and their carers that the transport services currently received would not be automatically ongoing and that their transport needs would have to be included in their plans,” the submission said.
National Disability Services’ submission to the same inquiry added that: “The already emerging transport problems will be compounded by the fact that a growing number of service providers are considering divesting of their transport fleets.
“If this occurs, participants will be severely disadvantaged (or the expenditure on transport will substantially increase, with participants trading off their participation supports for transport).”
TDSA said that the current lack of awareness around transport funding options meant that all NDIS promises enshrined in its legislation were not being fulfilled.
“NDIS participants entering into the scheme are not appropriately informed of and funded for transport enabling components of their reasonable and necessary supports in their NDIS plans,” the submission said.
“This denies and restricts participants’ access to the community, work, education, medical appointments… curtails their independence, increases their social isolation and significantly impacts on their quality of life.
“This also frustrates the statutory objective of the NDIS to ‘support the independence and social and economic participation of people with disability’.”
In response to a draft of TDSA’s submission, the Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services Jane Prentice, advised TDSA that the government acknowledged the need to provide consistency and certainty to NDIS participants around transport assistance.
“All governments expect that NDIS participants who cannot use public transport without substantial difficulty due to their disability will receive reasonable and necessary transport support through their NDIS plans,” Prentice said.
“The inclusion of transport in NDIS participant plans is proving to be a complex issue. The NDIA is currently considering this matter including the need for a transparent and robust pricing framework for transport support.
“All NDIS participants can seek a review of transport supports in their plans at any time. If a review finds that a participant’s transport supports are inadequate, their NDIS plan will be adjusted according to what is considered to be reasonable and necessary.”
To immediately remedy NDIS transport issues, TDSA’s submission said the quantification of transport costs as part of enabling core supports must be included in participants’ NDIS plans.
“This will require NDIA to immediately and specifically mandate this specific inclusion in all NDIA operating guidelines, on-line and other communications, NDIA staff training, participants’ plan meetings, and participants’ funded plans.”
Leigh said there were a number of other solutions that TDSA would like to see implemented.
“One of the solutions we want is for education, information and material about the NDIS to explicitly contain a statement that transport is more than just a level one, two or three conversation, it’s part of core support as well,” she said.
“Secondly, we’d like the plan to explicitly have a box on its own that says transport. So there is actually a formal trigger to a broader conversation than level one, two, or three.
“And we also want some consistency in terms of transport actually appearing in the price guide. Not level one, two or three… what we want is transport as part of core supports to appear in the price guide because that doesn’t happen currently.”
TDSA will have a private meeting with select members of the Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS in June.