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NDIS not yet in tune with the needs of participants

20 January 2020 at 4:46 pm
Luke Michael
Disability advocates say there needs to be a stronger focus on fair access to the scheme 

Luke Michael | 20 January 2020 at 4:46 pm


NDIS not yet in tune with the needs of participants
20 January 2020 at 4:46 pm

Disability advocates say there needs to be a stronger focus on fair access to the scheme 

The Morrison government has vowed to cut wait times and red tape for National Disability Insurance Scheme participants, after an independent review found people were confused and frustrated by delays plaguing the program.

NDIS Minister Stuart Robert acknowledged many people were unhappy with lengthy delays affecting the scheme, but said the government’s incoming Participant Service Guarantee would ensure faster processes and better service for people with disability.

An independent review into NDIS legislation by senior public servant David Tune, said issues with the scheme meant “many of the benefits the NDIS seeks to achieve are yet to be consistently realised”.

The report said the vast majority of NDIS issues were operational or a lingering effect of the transition from state and territory disability systems, which showed the legislation was broadly fit for purpose.

“However, after more than six years of implementation experience, some improvements could be made to the legislation to improve the participant experience,” the report said.

Tune made 29 recommendations to improve the operation of the NDIS.

These include boosting funding to help people navigate the NDIS, improving IT systems, and making NDIS plans more flexible around the use of funding.

The report also said there should be a national outreach strategy to engage difficult to reach groups, such as Indigenous people, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and people with psychosocial disability.       

Minister Robert said the review laid foundations for the introduction of a Participant Service Guarantee, which sets new standards to create shorter timeframes for people with disability to get an NDIS plan or have it reviewed.

He also indicated the government would shortly release its response to the report.

“The government will respond in the coming weeks with more details about what specific improvements we will be making and how we will set the Participant Service Guarantee into law by 1 July 2020,” Robert said.

People with Disability Australia’s director of policy and advocacy, Romola Hollywood, said it was great to see the review acknowledge that the NDIS was too complex and needed to engage hard to reach groups.

But she said engagement needed to be led by disability advocacy groups, many of which are currently fighting for survival due to funding issues.

“We think that this outreach needs to be led by advocacy and community-based organisations that have established and trusted relationships with people in our communities as well as the National Disability Insurance Agency,” Hollywood told Pro Bono News.

“We also think there needs to be a much stronger focus on fair access to the NDIS.  We know that if you don’t have formal or informal advocacy, you don’t get a fair deal, and that is not okay.”

Hollywood noted there were no recommendations in the report to remove the NDIS staffing cap, or improve staff training – two areas which advocates have long called for action on.

“We would like to have seen a clear recommendation for the staffing cap to be removed, for more staff training particularly on disability rights and for a commitment to employing more people with disability across all levels of the NDIA,” she said.

“We support the introduction of the Participant Service Guarantee. However, we don’t want to see greater accountability on timeframes for plan assessments and reviews, to come at the expense of the quality of the plans.”

Meanwhile, disability providers have thrown their support behind the report recommendations.

National Disability Services CEO David Moody said he looked forward to working with the NDIA and government to ensure the changes improved the scheme.

“Recommendations, including real action to provide clarity, reduce administrative red tape, reduce time frames for plan reviews, and greater support for participants to navigate the scheme will benefit participants as well as service providers,” Moody said.

“We’re very encouraged by the findings and recommendations [which] will move the NDIS closer to the original vision for the scheme, one of people with disability consistently receiving fair and appropriate support to lead ordinary lives.”

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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  • says:

    They are STILL avoiding the issue about transport. After 7 months of fighting, a scrupulous fake phone review which made offers to resolve and not getting anything this battle continues as the clients pension gets chewed away. NDIS should be financially benefiting clients, not sending them broke.

  • Andrew says:

    I applaud the proposal to help provide more incentives and better trained workers in the disability sector. However, one of the biggest problems has been the staff cap imposed on the government agency that runs the NDIS (NDIA).
    In 2011 the Productivity Commission proposed an NDIA workforce of 10,000 when the scheme was running at maximum capacity.
    In 2014, this government introduced a staff cap of 3,000. This has caused a multitude of problems because of outsourcing such as:
    • Local Area Coordinators (LAC’s) who were originally meant to have a community development role now taking up the majority of planning decisions
    • Incompetent staff who know nothing about your disability
    • Participants being misinformed
    • Lack of information about available supports
    • Phone appointments instead of face to face
    • Participants waiting 12 months or more for support requests
    • Unacceptable waiting times when requesting a review
    While there should be a participant service guarantee, this must not mean that pressure is applied to make inappropriate decisions for participants.
    One thing for certain is that the staff cap must be abolished.

    • John Homan says:

      Good afternoon Andrew.
      You are correct when you say that reducing staff by 7000 was a critical error. The 7000 positions lost were to be LAC’s. Employed directly by the NDIA they would have positional power and decision making authority. This set up a framework of trusting and equal relationships in which LAC’s and clients could collaborate and get good outcomes. Outsourcing LAC’s reduced them to a mere messenger role and let the elephant into the room: Lack of trust.
      A contractual system with inequality as a major design feature.

  • Dave Grealy says:

    NDIS needs more staff. So does Centrelink. It’s hard to listen to people, and understand their needs, if you don’t have staff to listen.

  • Peter Batini says:

    The Review of the NDIS Act 2013, Removing Red Tape and Implementing the NDIS Participant Service Guarantee by David Tune contains 29 sensible and practical recommendations, half of which propose changes in the legislation and the NDIA Rules. It is clear that many of the current problems with the complexity of the system, the delayed time frames and the stilted and inflexible interactions with participants are due to the prescriptive nature of the original legislation and the bureaucratic tramlines that constrain the activities of the national agency staff. Many of these issues have been evident since the early stages of implementation of the scheme and the government has resisted a number of similar recommendations in the past.
    These recommendations include providing funding to assist participants to navigate the scheme, improving IT systems, and introducing more flexibility to plans regarding the use of funding. The report also states should be a national outreach strategy to engage Indigenous people, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and people with psychosocial disability. The engagement with the participants needs to be built on five principles, namely transparency, responsiveness, being respectful, empowering participants (once again) and encouraging the connection of the participants with services and supports.
    The review has laid the foundations for the introduction of a Participant Service Guarantee, to set standards to provide shorter timeframes for people with disability to obtain an NDIS plan or have it reviewed. I look forward with enthusiasm to a wonderful new national scheme (all pigs are now fed and ready to fly).

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