Singing to the same tune: Government backs Tune Review recommendations
28 August 2020 at 5:11 pm
NDIS Minister Stuart Robert announces “the most substantial package of reforms to the NDIS since its establishment”
The government’s decision to support all of the recommendations in the Tune Review has been labelled a “step in the right direction” for the National Disability Insurance Scheme by advocates, who hope the reforms will make the scheme quicker and easier to navigate.
NDIS Minister Stuart Robert announced on Friday that the government supports, or supports in principle, all of the 29 recommendations made by David Tune AO in his independent review last year.
These recommendations include the need for simple and clear language to explain key NDIS terms like “reasonable and necessary”, greater flexibility in how participants can use their NDIS funds, and outreach and support for people who are missing out.
Minister Robert said the new reforms would help deliver on the promise of the NDIS.
“The reforms announced today will build a better NDIS, ensuring it is here for generations of Australians to come and I look forward to working closely with the disability community to get these changes right,” he said.
There are 400,000 people currently signed onto the NDIS, with 100,000 new participants signing up in the past 12 months.
Advocates hope the reforms will make it easier for more people to access the scheme.
As part of the changes, the government is increasing funding towards better engaging with people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, culturally and linguistically diverse and psychosocial backgrounds.
The reforms also include the new Participant Service Guarantee which sets clear timeframes for how long key NDIS processes including plan approvals and plan reviews should take.
Coinciding with the announcement, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) released its new Participant Service Charter and Participant Service Improvement Plan, which set out how the NDIA will deliver on the guarantee.
The government said it would work closely with people with disability and the disability sector over the next six months to implement the reforms.
Romola Hollywood, director of policy and advocacy at People with Disability Australia, told Pro Bono News the recommendations were a step in the right direction, providing key changes that will go a long way to making the NDIS less complex, and ensure people with disability have more advocacy support to fairly access and navigate the scheme.
“It is great that the government has recognised that navigating the scheme is a real challenge at present,” she said.
“We believe that a key element to effective navigation of the scheme is people with disability having access to independent advocacy services and we think that the government really needs to work with the advocacy sector on strengthening our work and access to advocates.”
In terms of the Participant Service Guarantee, Hollywood said she hoped it would lead to greater transparency and accountability for people with disability around the time it takes for plan development and plan reviews.
“We heard from so many people that the whole process of getting an NDIS plan and making changes to the plan, including the regular reviews, is just taking way too long and people have been significantly impacted through that process,” she said.
“It has caused a lot of anxiety and frustration and people need certainty. We do hope that the Participant Guarantee will deliver this.”
In addition to the reforms proposed by the Tune Review, the government announced that from next year the NDIA will fund independent assessments for people applying to enter the scheme, as well as for people having plan reviews at critical life points, such as leaving school or leaving home.
Hollywood said they welcomed the move, and hoped it would improve access to the scheme particularly for people in rural and regional areas, where access to assessment can be very costly and time consuming.
But she said the key thing was ensuring that people with disability were fully consulted through the reform process.
In particular, PWDA is keen to work with the government on reforming the Supported Independent Living (SIL) program, to make it a fully person-centred approach to the provision of housing and supports.
“We really think that that is critical,” Hollywood said.
“And so from that point of view we really do need a good consultation process with people with disability and representative organisations. We need to be included so it is not simply service providers working with government. We need a seat at the table.”
Draft legislation will be released in October for consultation, with the view to introducing the reforms to parliament in 2021.
The Australian government’s formal response to the Tune Review can be found here.