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Reform agenda for problem-plagued NDIS


20 April 2022 at 5:10 pm
Danielle Kutchel
Labor has pledged to “fix the NDIS” should it win the May federal election, announcing a series of measures to address issues within the beleaguered system.


Danielle Kutchel | 20 April 2022 at 5:10 pm


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Reform agenda for problem-plagued NDIS
20 April 2022 at 5:10 pm

Labor has pledged to “fix the NDIS” should it win the May federal election, announcing a series of measures to address issues within the beleaguered system.

Australians with disability could look forward to a fairer NDIS should Labor win the upcoming election, the opposition has said.

At an address in Melbourne on Tuesday, the shadow minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Bill Shorten, announced a number of measures aimed at addressing concerns raised with the scheme.

At the heart of the announcement was a promise to co-design changes to the NDIS with people with disability and the sector, and to boost the number of people with disability on the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) board.

Changes to employment at the NDIA are also on the agenda, including lifting the staffing cap and hiring 380 more permanent staff at the agency.

In an apparent nod to well-publicised stories of people’s NDIS plans being cut, Labor pledged to introduce an expert review that will guarantee plans will not be arbitrarily cut. The party also pledged to make changes to the appeals pathway and create a new appeals process separate to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

There are currently lengthy delays for those appealing NDIS decisions via the AAT, with the number of appeals around NDIS plans made to the body having increased by 400 per cent between July 2021 and January 2022.

In addition, Labor committed to reviewing the NDIS’ use of external lawyers and consultants.

In related initiatives, Labor said it would:

  • increase disability advocacy funding by $10 million over four years
  • improve service delivery in rural and remote areas
  • investigate how to reduce the red tape and queues for housing for people with disability
  • create a Centre of Excellence to get people with disability into long-term employment
  • develop a National Autism Strategy.

Shorten and opposition leader Anthony Albanese said the policy was “the result of thousands of conversations with people with disability, NDIS participants, carers, families, advocates and providers”.

Sector cautiously welcomes announcement

The plan was broadly welcomed by peak bodies within the sector.

People with Disability Australia (PWDA) described Labor’s proposals as “a good plan” that largely responded to what people with disability had been calling for.

But president Samantha Connor said more information was needed on what Labor’s top priorities from the plan would be, and the timeline for delivering them.

Connor said while the expert review Labor announced was a “step in the right direction”, PWDA would prefer to see problems in NDIS plans being addressed as much as possible before needing to go to an appeals process. She also hoped the expert review mechanism would be independent of government or the NDIA.

“And while we would welcome the introduction of safeguards such as the expert review mechanism which Labor is proposing, what we still need addressed is the issue of algorithms determining funding as well as the introduction of punitive operational guidelines,” she added.

Connor welcomed Labor’s promise to include more people with disability on the NDIA board.

“There should be nothing about us without us and so it’s pleasing that Labor wants to ensure that more people with disability are included on the NDIA board. However, this must also be reflected across the top tiers of leadership at the NDIA, including the CEO,” she said.

Liberal Party yet to release its plan

The Liberal Party has yet to release its future plans for the NDIS, however in a statement Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme Linda Reynolds criticised several key tenets of Labor’s proposed plan.

Reynolds said the Liberal government was providing “record funding” for disability services thanks to the “strong economy”, and said an Albanese government would create economic insecurity that would risk this funding.

Labor’s promise for yet another review, on top of all the previous reviews, will add more uncertainty for participants and providers. Labor’s introduction of an additional layer of bureaucracy with ‘expert reviews’ will slow down decisions for participants.” she said.

Reynolds also cast doubt on Labor’s promise to hire another 380 staff for the NDIA, saying the promise needed to be “properly accounted for”.

Albanese and Shorten said their plan would be funded using the existing budget in the forward estimates.

The Every Australian Counts campaign called on the Liberal Party to release details of its plans for the future of the NDIS.

 “The individualised, respectful, world-leading disability scheme that people with disability, families and supporters fought so hard for is now facing death by a thousand cuts,” said Every Australian Counts campaign manager Jean Cotchin.

Cotchin said people with disability are concerned that a returned Liberal government would see a continuation in reduced supports for people with disability through the NDIS. 

“People with disability, families and our supporters see this election as a critical moment. We are asking our elected representatives to stop, listen and get the NDIS back on track. People with disability deserve no less,” she said.

 


Danielle Kutchel  |  @ProBonoNews

Danielle is a journalist specialising in disability and CALD issues, and social justice reporting.

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