An independent review of the NDIS has found inordinately long waiting times, complex processes and a failure to grasp the needs of people with disability, the minister responsible for the scheme says.
The report by David Tune makes 29 suggestions for improvements and sets the foundations for a new legislated Participant Service Guarantee, to come into force from June.
In his review Mr Tune says the laws underpinning the NDIS are broadly fit for purpose, “but there are a number of areas that can be amended to remove red tape and improve the participant experience”.
He says the NDIS has improved life for many participants, but not all, and its implementation has been far from smooth.
“It is evident that the pressure of rolling the scheme out across Australia has directly impacted the NDIA’s ability to provide a consistent, effective and high quality service delivery offering,” he says.
He says people with disability have reported frustrations about the administration of the NDIS by the NDIA.
“Transparency, consistency and timeliness in decision-making are critical issues and people with disability have reported poor experiences when working with NDIA staff and its Partners in the Community,” Mr Tune says.
The transition of people with disability from state and territory service systems to the NDIS is due to be complete by July 2020, an event Mr Tune describes as a major watershed for the nation and for people with disability.
“However, it is clear that it will still take a number of years before the NDIS is delivering consistent positive experiences for people with disability,” he says.
Mr Tune says the NDIA, the agency tasked with implementing the NDIS is not yet mature, with a limited ICT system and under-developed work management tools. He also says it needs to be more understanding and responsive to the needs of people with disability.
The report found:
- transition to the NDIS has been confusing and frustrating, with some people saying active case management had suffered
- delays and lack of transparency around decision making by the NDIA
- lack of support for consumers
- a complex and hard to navigate system
- failure by NDIA staff to understand disability or appreciate the challenges faced by people with disability
Participant Service Guarantee.
Mr Tune says the NDIS legislation in its current form is “silent” on when NDIA decisions should be made, apart from “as soon as practical”.
The proposed Participant Service Guarantee, promised by Prime Minister Scott Morrison as an election commitment last year, will set new standards for the time it takes to complete steps in the NDIS process, including being approved for a plan and having plans reviewed.
It is due to come into force from July 1.
Mr Tune says the timeframes included in a participant guarantee should be “ambitious but achievable” and recommends a staged implementation to 2021.
From July 2021 he says an NDIS participant’s plan should be put in place within eight weeks after approval, and unscheduled reviews of a plan should be finalised within four weeks.
However, the review doesn’t go so far as recommending penalties for a failing to meet a deadline, saying this could result in quick but poor quality decisions by the NDIA.
The report also recommends giving people more time to provide information when seeking NDIS approval, from 28 days to 90 days.
He also recommends additional commonwealth funding to help people with NDIS navigate the system.
The government will give a detailed response to the report in coming weeks, including the enshrinement of a participant service guarantee into law by July, NDIS minister Stuart Robert says.
‘We’ll use these findings to update and clarify the legislation and remove barriers to a better NDIS,” he said.
Review of NSW disability laws
The release of the report comes as the NSW government this month invited input from carers, service providers and peak bodies in its review of the state’s disability inclusion laws, which is designed they are relevant to the NDIS.
The laws involved the establishment of Disability Action Inclusion Plans which have been adopted by all government agencies and all 128 NSW councils.
A discussion paper is available here.
“Under the NDIS, more than 40,000 people in NSW are receiving disability supports for the first time, but the reality is that the state’s roles and responsibilities when it comes to service delivery have changed significantly,” disability services minister Gareth Ward said.
“The discussion paper considers the changing landscape of disability services and how NSW can do more to not only support people with disabilities, but break down barriers and help transform their lives for the better.