NDIS roll out still needs work
Posted October 15, 2018
The NDIS is a great system, but the roll out needs more work
Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (18:48): Colleagues, the National Disability Insurance Scheme has the potential to transform people's lives, and it's essential that the implementation is right and meets expectations. There are many success stories of the NDIS working in my community, but, seriously, the rollout is falling short of expectations for some in the community. During August, I facilitated two NDIS public information sessions—one in Wangaratta and one in Wodonga, with the involvement of the National Disability Insurance Agency. I will write to the minister separately with what I've learnt, but I'd like to use this speech to highlight some of the concerns raised in these forums.
There was a large turnout at both of these sessions, with constituents from across the electorate sharing their experiences and ideas for improving the NDIS rollout. There were carers, there were academics, there were service providers and there interested members of public. Concerns were raised about the lack of qualified staff in the NDIA, which is causing anxiety and delays; the NDIS plans that did not meet clients' needs; a lack of coordination between disability and health services, resulting in clients missing out on existing therapies; and the problem of cross-border anomaly—so Albury-Wodonga, different states, and organisations not talking to each other.
Let me talk a little bit about service delay and NDIA staffing. The cause of delay was seen as the result of a lack of suitably qualified NDIA staff and the outsourcing of client and call centre services. Constituents shared stories of delay at every stage of the process, from pre-planning to planning approval and to plan reviews, right through to putting the plans into action. One constituent had been waiting since September 2017 for the final plan approval for her living accommodation, and constituents relayed stories of delays of up to 12 months from when new equipment is supposed to be approved in their plan to when it is finally signed off.
The NDIA plans, in many instances, are not meeting client needs. People are concerned that they did not have a say in the final plan. They were advised to start using their plan and then they had to wait for 12 months for the review. We heard of clients' plans being created and approved without them having a say. One client received her plan with a key request removed, including an alternating mattress for her quadriplegic daughter. She immediately requested a review of her plan and is still waiting a year later. Again, the level of staffing and staff qualifications were seen as the cause of these problems. As a member of parliament sitting there listening to this, I was gobsmacked, because the problems were not that they were too complicated; they were just a matter of resources and the right people sitting down and solving it together.
A lack of coordination between services, particularly across border, was also a problem. For example, when there's a dispute about a service being provided by an NDIS provider or the health system, that can result in clients missing out on particular services altogether. There are also concerns that existing therapies are not being taken into account or being taken off the list of approved therapies. A local equestrian centre had groups of children with autism and other disabilities attending riding classes as approved therapy for many years. This has now virtually ceased since the rollout, as most clients on the NDIS do not have approval for this form of therapy and are unable to fund the session independently. That has had huge repercussions on the actual business that was set up to provide this service.
In closing, it's disappointing that the $2.5 million is being underspent—a significant level of support that's not being provided—and many of the concerns raised by my constituents stem from a lack of staffing resources. I did put questions in writing to the minister. He answered in May, and he promised that there would be action. But, in my community, it's yet to take place. I will finish with a call-out to the many, many people doing a wonderful job with the NDIS. To the Latrobe Community Health Service and Merri Health service providers: thank you for your work. To the planners, to the service providers, to the community workers at the frontline, to the allied health workers and, most of all, to the families and the parents doing their best to make the system work: thank you. Let's continue to make this really work for Australia, because it's a great system.