There are two weeks left to submit your thoughts on proposed changes to the law governing the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
The consultation over the changes closes at midnight on October 7 and the Government is encouraging all people with a disability, their families, support workers and providers to give feedback on what they think and how the changes might affect their lives.
One of the main reasons for changing the law is to legislate the Participant Service Guarantee, which the Government initially committed to do more than a year ago, but the process was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Participant Service Guarantee provides timeframes for processes related to the NDIS, such as explaining a decision within 28 days or deciding on a person’s eligibility within 21 days.
Since July 2020 the required timeframes have been monitored in preparation for the Guarantee to be made part of legislation and the monitoring has shown the importance of making the Guarantee law, with some of the timeframes not met often enough.
Setting up for a plan review 56 days before the review date only occurred in 28 percent of cases during the June 2021 quarter, while explaining a decision within 28 days happened 70 percent of the time and undertaking an approved review within 42 days only happened in 72 percent of cases.
Contact in response to complaints will need to occur within two days once the Guarantee becomes law, but that timeframe is yet to be monitored.
The new parts of the legislation will not only make these timeframes a requirement but also require continued reporting of how often they are being met to hold the National Disability Insurance Agency accountable.
Another proposed change to the law is designed to make it easier under the Plan Administration Rule for participants to amend their plans – sometimes without a plan review – for example for participants to seek further quotes for assistive technology or home modifications without a full review of their existing plan.
Under the legislative change the Plan Management Rule will also be amended to better protect participants from conflict of interest by providers which affects the person’s choice and control over their supports, as well as to better protect those who want to self manage their plan.
The Becoming a Participant Rule will be amended to clarify how a psychosocial disability should be considered permanent and to recognise that people with psychosocial disabilities may have episodic and fluctuating conditions.
A further three rules will be updated to provide more clarity.
In what is being seen as a win for people with disability, some of the talked about changes which have caused concern over recent months – like the proposed changes to independent assessments, reasonable and necessary support changes and debt recovery powers – have not been included in this round of legislation.
The changes have been informed by a review of the NDIS Act conducted by David Tune in 2019 which found the scheme generally supported most participants in the way it was designed to but that improvements could be made to remove barriers and red tape which made some processes difficult or frustrating for participants.
There are 14 recommendations from the review which will be addressed in part or in full by the proposed changes to legislation.
The Government has said the remaining recommendations will be addressed with future legislative amendments because they relate to a new assessment model for improved access and planning.
If you would like to submit to the consultation you can find information about the new legislation and the submission process on the Department of Social Services website.
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre has also put together information about what they believe are the benefits, concerns and missed opportunities around the changes.