Advocacy groups struggle amid growing NDIS waiting lists
20 March 2019 at 11:46 am
Advocacy services are being swamped with people needing help appealing their National Disability Insurance Scheme plans, disability groups have warned in the wake of new funding to the sector.
The federal government on Tuesday announced a $5.3 million funding boost for NDIS appeals providers, who help people with disability challenge plan decisions in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).
Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher said the government was now providing more than $10 million to over 40 NDIS appeals advocacy agencies across all states and territories.
“While the focus of NDIS appeals is advocacy support, funding for legal services is available for cases with complex legal issues, or where the applicant does not have the capacity to self-represent,” Fletcher said.
Disability Advocacy Network Australia thanked the government for recognising the increased demand for support around NDIS plan reviews, but warned that more advocacy funding was needed to help people deal with all parts of the scheme.
DANA CEO Mary Mallett said there was a growing waiting list at advocacy organisations across Australia as more and more people received an NDIS plan that didn’t meet their needs.
She told Pro Bono News advocacy organisations would “continue to advocate for a system that worked with people with disability and not against them”.
Ross Joyce, CEO of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO), said any funding supporting disability advocacy was welcome.
But he said a major problem not addressed by the announcement was that many advocacy groups were so under resourced that they could not take on new clients.
“I spoke to someone yesterday whose advocacy organisation stopped taking on new clients because they were at capacity back in September last year,” Joyce told Pro Bono News.
“This funding should help to alleviate this to some extent. But I think there needs to be a serious look at the overall funding level that’s provided through the National Disability Advocacy Program (NDAP).”
Joyce also noted this funding would only support advocacy groups to help people with NDIS planning appeals, despite a 77 per cent increase in Disability Support Pension appeals.
This concerned Joyce, who pointed to recent AFDO-commissioned research from Melbourne University that showed the majority of AAT appeals – which can last six to eight months – ended with the applicant being awarded the DSP.
“The advocacy funding is too narrow. They need more funding in general so they can support DSP appeals and other matters,” he said.
“All of the advocacy agencies are doing a brilliant job but they can only do so much with the resources that they’re provided.”
The government also pledged $1.2 million for the NDAP Decision Support Pilot, which offers help to NDIS participants who have limited decision-making capacity and a lack of family support.
This will extend the pilot to 30 June 2020 and is expected to benefit another 300 to 400 people with disability.