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.
We didn’t need yet another review to tell us this government’s neglect of the #NDIS is hurting people with disability. The Liberals have ripped $4.6b out of the NDIS and more than 1200 Australians have died waiting for a scheme plan. https://t.co/XhgoFSE12R
— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) January 19, 2020
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.”