With all the busyness of International Day of People with Disability yesterday it was easy to miss that the Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS released the first of their reports – this one is all about planning.
And from the very first page they have made it abundantly clear they share your frustration with the slow pace of change.
From the media release, to the executive summary, to the recommendations – well the whole 72 pages really – the Committee made it clear that they have heard it all before.
And like all of us they are Just. Over. It.
“It is troubling that many of these issues are not new, and have been raised in previous inquiries. In light of these matters, the committee considers that urgent action must be taken to improve the operation of the NDIS, and in particular the planning process, to maximise choice and control for people with disability and ensure that NDIS participants are fully supported to achieve their goals.”
So what did the report have to say?
Well the first thing the committee made clear is that this is just an interim report. They say they want a little more time to consider what impact the government’s more recent announcements will have.
We don’t remember the Committee ever releasing an interim report before. We figure they wanted to make sure their recommendations got a look in before the Tune review report is finished and released into the wild.
The report makes twelve recommendations for change. And while the language is a bit bureaucratic and government-ish, to be honest they read just like they were written by everyone in the Every Australian Counts community.
✅ Draft plans? Yep says the Committee – everyone should see one.
✅ Meet with the person who is approving the funding? Again the committee says yep – people need to meet with the person who is making the decisions.
✅ Better training for LACs and planners? Can’t believe we are still talking about this one says the Committee. Just get on with it.
✅ Simple communication and consistent terminology? Good to see some recent improvement, says the Committee. But still got a ways to go yet.
✅ Transport? Yeah we hear you says the Committee. Everyone should be able to pay for transport out of their core funding.
There was some other good stuff too. The Committee recommended that participants should be able to request a change to one part of their plan without triggering a whole review (and running the risk of losing funding in other parts of the plan).
And the committee suggested people who don’t get a plan within 45 days should be given some funding straight away to get going while they are waiting.
Finally they also suggested much more needs to be done to make sure kids who have complex needs get into the scheme quickly and get the help they need.
The Committee finished by acknowledging there were many other issues people raised that were not covered in this interim report. Things like
❓ how hard it can be to work your way through the access process,
❓ how little help there is for getting your plan up and running,
❓ the lack of a triage process to make sure people get help quickly when their circumstances change,
❓ and a lack of support for people from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background or Culturally and Linguistically Diverse background.
The Committee promised they would get onto these things in their reports next year.
So what does it all mean?
The good news is that the Joint Standing Committee have heard you. They have taken on board everything you told them. So their recommendations pretty much mirror all your feedback and ideas.
But even more than that, they have made it clear they share your frustration that things aren’t changing fast enough.
The Committee have done some incredibly thorough work over the years. And they have made good, practical, sensible recommendations that have not always been heeded.
So what will make the difference this time? Well the Committee are pretty cranky and are increasingly outspoken.
They have also timed the release of this report so their work can have an impact on the Tune review.
What we all have to do is keep the pressure on to make sure the kind of changes the Committee are recommending actually become a reality.
Want to know more?
The recommendations in the Committee’s words
The committee recommends that fully costed, detailed draft plans be made available to participants at least one week prior to their meeting with the official with the authority to approve the plan, and that at the meeting the participant have the opportunity to rectify the plan.
The committee recommends that the National Disability Insurance Agency ensure that participants are given the opportunity to meet face-to-face with an official with authority to approve a plan before the plan is approved.
The committee recommends that the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 be amended to enable participants to review only part of a plan, or to vary a plan, in appropriate circumstances.
The committee recommends that the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 be amended to require the National Disability Insurance Agency to complete an unscheduled plan review within 45 days of receiving a request from the participant.
The committee recommends that the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 be amended to require the National Disability Insurance Agency to complete internal reviews of decisions within 45 days of receiving a request to conduct the internal review.
The committee recommends that the National Disability Insurance Agency publish settlement outcomes relating to external review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, in de-identified form.
The committee recommends that the National Disability Insurance Agency standardise the terminology it uses to refer to persons, processes and other matters associated with the NDIS.
The committee recommends that the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) clearly define key terms associated with the NDIS, and with the planning process in particular. Where a term refers to a person, organisation or other body, the committee recommends that the NDIA clearly define that entity’s role, functions, responsibilities, limitations and accountability.
The committee recommends that the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) ensure that additional training and skills development is provided to all persons involved in the planning process (particularly NDIA officers and LACs), to ensure that all such persons:
- are familiar with a range of disabilities experienced by participants, and develop specialisation in particular disability areas;
- are familiar with allied health expertise;
- understand the specific needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants, and participants from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, to ensure that they are able to deliver culturally appropriate services; and
- receive training in domestic violence awareness.
The committee recommends—in circumstances where a new plan has not been approved at the plan review date—that:
- the National Disability Insurance Agency continue to provide funding under the existing plan until the new plan is approved; and
- ensure that a plan review is carried out within 45 days of the review date set out in the existing plan.
The committee recommends, where a plan is not approved within 45 days of receipt by an National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) delegate, that:
- the NDIA immediately approve a typical supports package (TSP) for the participant as an interim measure; and
- the NDIA replace the TSP with an individualised plan no later than 45 days after the TSP is approved.
The committee recommends that all participants with complex support needs be immediately streamed to an National Disability Insurance Agency delegate to develop their plan and appropriate funding package.
The committee recommends that the National Disability Insurance Agency develop and implement a mechanism to prioritise access decisions, plan meetings and plan approvals for children with complex needs and/or an acquired disability.
The committee recommends that the National Disability Insurance Agency immediately implement a mechanism to allow participants to pay for transport out of core funding.