Morrison government unveils plan for ‘last 20 per cent’ of NDIS rollout
18 November 2019 at 2:06 pm
The government acknowledged some people were still facing long delays getting on the scheme
Disability advocates have welcomed the Morrison government’s plan to deliver the final stage of the National Disability Insurance Scheme rollout, but say more needs to be done to fix staffing issues making it hard for people to navigate the system.
NDIS Minister Stuart Robert announced the plan during a speech at the National Press Club on Thursday, with six key aims including quicker decision making, fairer decisions and better long-term outcomes for participants.
Robert said the plan was about delivering “the last 20 per cent” of the NDIS and setting it up for long-term success.
He acknowledged some people were facing long delays getting on the scheme, receiving their plan or gaining assistive technology such as wheelchairs.
He said to help with the development of the Participant Service Guarantee – which sets new standards for how long it takes people to get their NDIS plans or have their plans reviewed – there would be a review to streamline NDIS processes and cut red tape.
“One important change that is likely to come out of the review is the implementation of a simple, agile plan adjustment processes – to ensure participants who only require a small adjustment to their plan due to a change in circumstances, are able to do so without a full plan review,” Robert said.
This addresses a key concern of advocacy groups, who warned people were afraid to challenge problems in their NDIS funding plans because they were told this would trigger a full review that could result in other services being cut.
Robert also said the government intends to introduce independent functional assessments – fully paid for by the NDIS – from 1 July 2020.
These independent assessments examine a person’s functional capacity in order to make planning and access decisions.
It was originally piloted last year after analysis showed access and planning decisions had been inconsistent for participants with autism, intellectual disability, and psychosocial disability.
Every Australian Counts director Kirsten Deane told Pro Bono News this was a positive development, although she was keen to see more details.
“We hear some really terrible stories of people who are either forced to go into debt to pay for assessments themselves, or they’re on really long public waiting lists in order to get the assessment done,” Deane said.
“So the idea that this would be taken care of and paid for by the NDIS is really welcome news.”
Deane also welcomed other aspects of the new plan, including being able to see a draft of your plan before it gets submitted for approval, and the ability to be more flexible with plan funding.
On Monday, Robert also announced NDIS participants will be able to request longer plan durations of up to three years.
But Deane said there were still several glaring issues that were not addressed around staff numbers and training.
“There was no mention of the number of staff needed to roll out some of these changes,” Deane said.
“Can they do everything they announced with the existing staff that they’ve got or will they need more?
“Improving the training of Local Area Coordinators is another key issue that is constantly brought up by participants, but there was nothing said about that on Thursday.”
Deane said there was also nothing mentioned about giving people more help to navigate their way through the NDIS system.
“What we hear from people with disability and their families is that the NDIS is so complicated, so confusing, and so hard to navigate,” she said.
“They need help from someone at every stage of the process. So we’re going to keep the pressure up to get some changes in that area.”
Robert proclaimed on Thursday that there were “currently no backlogs or delays in getting access into the NDIS”.
But Deane said the scheme was still plagued by other delays such as getting approvals for assistive technology.
She said there were still people who were waiting months to receive desperately needed equipment.
“We held a community forum in regional Victoria this week and a mother came along on behalf of her son,” she said.
“He couldn’t attend himself because he’s been waiting six months for a functional wheelchair and has been in bed all of that time and unable to leave the house.
“These are the kind of delays that we also want to see addressed. It’s not just getting into the scheme. It’s working your way through it so you can get the help you need.”