A new plan by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) will help children with disability access Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) support faster.
Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), Stuart Robert says a number of initiatives will be implemented over a six month period to resolve delays and waiting lists.
These include working with ECEI partners to secure additional resources, a six-month standardised interim plan for eligible children likely to wait longer than 50 days for an access decision or NDIS plan, and streamlining NDIS Early Childhood specialists for participants with complex support needs.
“As the Minister for the NDIS, I have been working with the NDIA to identify what more can be done to reduce the backlogs that are currently being experienced by families in some locations,” Minister Robert says.
“The NDIS has the potential to be a game-changer for families and children with significant and permanent disability or developmental delay to meet their goals and engage in the community.
“I know this is already the case for many children in Australia. But I also know that unnecessarily complex processes have the potential to discourage families who are already doing so much for their children.
Disability advocacy organisation, Every Australian Counts has been holding a series of community forums across the country, speaking to people with disability about their NDIS experience and what needs to be done to fix it, with many identifying the issue of how long it takes children to access the Scheme and subsequent support.
Campaign Director of Every Australian Counts, Kirsten Deane says the announcement will be “very welcome news to families who have young children with a disability”, however, more needs to be done to fix the NDIS after the backlogs are cleared.
“We’ve been hearing stories of families who have been waiting anywhere from three months to 12 months to get access to NDIS funding.
“We think anything that can be done to clear the backlogs and get kids support much quicker is a good thing.
“But it's not how the NDIS should work and we would, like all the other advocates in this sector, we would like this to be a stop-gap measure, a temporary measure to clear the backlogs and get kids onto the scheme quicker because the individualised approach of the NDIS is absolutely paramount.”
Ms Deane says the early childhood early intervention component of the NDIS is where the insurance aspect really comes into play.
“If we invest in children early and give them the support that they really need, two things happen.
“First of all, they’re much more likely to reach their full potential and the second thing is they’re much less likely to be dependent on the scheme in the long run.
“With kids and young people, in particular, you have a chance to really drive inclusion and get the social change we always want to see.
“It means families can just get a little bit of money to get going while they’re waiting for their plan.”
But Ms Deane says it's not only children waiting for NDIS support, with significant backlogs in equipment, home modifications and plan reviews and groups of people, including those without advocates, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, culturally and linguistically diverse and low socioeconomic people with disability.
“We want some attention on all the areas the NDIA are behind.”
People with disability and their families proposed solutions at the forums when sharing their experiences.
“The thing that is very striking about the solutions that people proposed are they are imminently practical, sensible, common sense, all very workable solutions to the problems,” Ms Deane says.
Among the solutions is an increased NDIS workforce, simpler and easier to navigate NDIS processes, more support for people with disability and their families in navigating the NDIS, clearing the backlogs and supporting people with disability who face barriers in accessing the Scheme.
“So, the good news is there’s nothing that is so wicked that can't be fixed but you’ve got to have some considered attention to doing it.”
According to statistics from 31 March 2019 more than 11,500 children aged up to seven years old were receiving supports through the ECEI approach.