An independent review into the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was released today highlighting frustrations from people with disability as well as “critical issues” with transparency, consistency and timeliness in decision-making.
The review was undertaken by an independent expert, Mr David Tune AO PSM. Mr Tune is the former Secretary of the Australian Finance Department and previously provided a formal review of the Government’s Aged Care System.
In his report, Mr Tune makes 29 recommendations to lessen wait times and improve services.
The Tune report calls for more flexibility in the use of NDIS funds and for longer plans for participants, enabling them to be covered for up to three years without a review.
The review acknowledged the work that the Australian Government and the National Disability Insurance Agency are already doing to improve the NDIS experience.
However, it advises that “governments need to work together to resolve outstanding policy issues.”
The Tune report also acknowledges the issues of long wait times for NDIS participants. “While this review notes that wait times and delays in decision making have significantly improved and continue to be a key focus of the NDIA, interim plans may not directly address the need to help families build their capacity, and therefore may not be a sustainable long-term solution.”
The release of the Tune report comes as figures from July 2016 through to mid-2019 were released by News Corp and revealed the impact of long wait times on people with disability.
Over the three-year period, more than 1,200 Australians, including 65 children, died while waiting for National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) support.
Of the 1,279 people who died 270 were from Queensland and 170 were from South Australia.
The deaths also included 65 children, 35 of whom were aged six and under.
South Australians had the longest wait times for the NDIS in the nation.
Wait times for South Australia sit at an average of 210 days, while the national average is 121 days for children under six and 152 days for Australians aged seven or above.
While South Australia had the longest wait times Queensland's wait times were shorter than the national average. The average wait time for Queensland was 90 days for those under six and 122 days for people aged seven or older.
Also addressed in the report was the lack of information available about the decision making process: “The Government and the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) should publish a greater range of policy information, including in a wider range of accessible formats, to help participants better understand why certain decisions have been made”.
Feedback to the review showed that some NDIS participants found the transition to the NDIS confusing, that they are frustrated about delays and lack of transparency around how the NDIA makes decisions, and feel NDIA staff do not understand disability or appreciate the challenges people with disability face as part of everyday life.
Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme Stuart Robert says the Government “will use these findings to update and clarify the legislation and remove barriers to a better NDIS.”
“The review’s findings reaffirmed what we have been hearing from participants, their families and carers and the disability sector – that while many participants have had excellent experiences and are benefitting from the scheme, many others have had frustrations with wait times, complexity of processes and a lack of understanding of their needs.
“The Government will respond in the coming weeks with more details about what specific improvements we will be making and how we will set the Participant Service Guarantee into law by 1 July 2020.” Mr Robert adds.
Director of Policy and Advocacy of consumer advocate group People with Disability Australia, Romola Hollywood says that although the organisation welcomes the commitment to reducing wait times they don’t want it to be rushed.
“We don’t want greater accountability on timeframes for plan assessments and reviews to come at the expense of the quality of the plans.”
There are concerns that although the recommendations are positive they do not address urgent issues. Ms Hollywood says “it does not make any clear recommendation for staffing cap to be removed, for staff training particularly on disability rights and for more people with disability employed. These are key issues that have to be urgently addressed.”
The recommendations from the Tune report will form the basis of the new NDIS Participant Service Guarantee announced last year.
The Participant Service Guarantee is set to put in place new standards for the time it takes for key steps in the NDIS process. To develop the Guarantee, the Government commissioned the review of the NDIS Act to identify opportunities to make NDIS processes simpler and remove legislative barriers.
You can read more about the expected changes to the NDIS process and the key steps here.
What do you think of the recommendations made in the report? Leave a comment below.