The final interview in our federal election series.
We’ve already heard from Greens spokesperson on Disability Services, Jordon Steele-John, and Minister for Families and Social Services, Paul Fletcher on what they have planned for the NDIS. Now it’s time to hear from Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services, Linda Burney.
Once again, we asked the same questions, so you can see and hear for yourself what all the major parties have to say when it comes to getting the NDIS back on track.
With the election just days away, the Shadow Minister has been hot on the campaign trail across Australia and in her home electorate, so we were very lucky she had time to sit down and talk to us!
We recorded the interview in full so that you can watch it exactly how it went down (we only made edits just to tidy things up).
But we do have to apologise – the gremlins got into our gear while we were recording and we lost some of our vision of Campaign Director Kirsten Deane while she was asking questions (secretly we think she might have had something to do with it ….)
But luckily we did not lose any of the Shadow Minister’s answers.
Because the interview with the Shadow Minister ranged far and wide, we’ve pulled together the main points so you can get a quick overview.
1. What would you do to make the system more responsive and quicker?
“Firstly we are going to lift the staffing cap on the NDIA … and I hope that will do a lot in terms of getting some consistency and speed into the planning process.
“I think it’s crazy that people don’t get to see their plans before they are actually sent off … I reckon if people got to see their plans it would be a lot quicker and there would be a lot less back and forth and reviews.
“We are going to establish a taskforce that will get through all those reviews and plans that are backlogged and backed up in the system.
“And we are going to establish a fund, so that any unspent money in the disability space will be quarantined just for disability.”
2. How could you make the system more flexible and more person friendly?
“It is unbelievably rigid and bureaucratic …There needs to be a really big cultural change across the NDIA . You can’t put a dollar figure on that as you know, and it is going to take time. But that cultural change is absolutely crucial to put people with disability and their families back at the centre of decision making.
“It’s become about the bureaucracy and not about the people it should be serving.”
3. What could you do to make sure there is more consistency and fairness in the system?
“I see no reason for yearly plans. I think there should be rolling plans. People with a permanent disability having to go back every twelve months to go through the same story, to go through the same process, really is heavily bureaucratic and I think weighs the system down.
“There just doesn’t seem to be any regulation or proper training or any consistency in those people that are the planners, and I’m hoping that by lifting the staffing cap it will give planners a chance not just to hit the KPIs and go through the process… but actually go and meet with the families, sit down and talk with them, sit down and find out what their needs are.”
4. How will you ensure there’s an adequate understanding of complex needs when assessing NDIS applications and plans? And how will you make sure those assessing and approving plans are properly qualified with the relevant experience?
“People with complex needs need to be looked at as a whole person, not to be categorised … this requires understanding and training … they are the people who should be treated with dignity just like anyone else. It’s not about the level of need, it’s about being treated as a human being.”
5. What do you think needs to be done about transport?
“It seems like there is some kind of disconnect on this issue between states having responsibility and the transfer to the Commonwealth. I think if a person has a plan with unspent money and they need more funding for travel, why can’t they move that money around? They just want a fair go!
“So I want to have a proper look at that travel component to see if there is a better way of assessing what the need is and funding it properly.”
6. How would you make sure that the NDIS is fair?
“Once again lifting the staffing cap, people being able to see their plans before they are sent off for assessment, getting through that terrible backlog of plans and reviews will all help in this. But the other point that’s been made here is… that if people don’t expend all their money in the first year, they should not be penalised for that in the second year. And that is what I think is going on.
I think with plans being over two or three years that will help.”
7. What would you do to make sure families and carers get the support they need so they can keep providing care to their family member?
“It seems to me there needs to be a lot more focus and a lot more understanding about what carer’s needs are. They’re not terribly well understood within the NDIA. I don’t think it is considered enough. … We’ve got to recognise the value of carers. They are saving the government millions and millions and millions of dollars every year.
“We’re going to boost respite for carers – I don’t think that’s in the plan but it’s something I’ve got very much in the front of my mind. And I think we have to change the culture of the NDIA … If this is really about choice and control, let’s give people back choice and control.”
8. What do you think needs to be done to create more housing for people with disability?
“I don’t have a full answer to this, but with the new housing stock Labor has promised… some of those will absolutely designed with people with disability in mind.
“We need to support community housing providers to provide suitable housing. The other thing is that we’ve got to construct new dwellings and also retrofit. And make sure that if people’s plans do not take into account properly housing needs – and employment I’ll add in there – then those plans are not adequate. So I think part of it is about stock, and part of it is about planning to make sure that there are funds available so people can access the market if they want to do that.”
9. What would you do to make sure the people who aren’t eligible for the NDIS get the support they need?
“We’re going to have a new National Disability Agreement, that’s the first thing, and that will be with states and territories. I don’t think states can just say ‘I’m going to wash my hands of this, this is now a total federal responsibility’. That’s just not sustainable.
“We’re going to also make sure that states and territories and the federal government are clear in these areas: employment, education, housing, transport, justice, health, and reducing young people in nursing homes. I’ll be taking a firm line with the states about the NDIS and about their responsibilities.
“I also want to have a look at what the threshold is and what the issues are and what the conditions are that the NDIS will fund. I think that needs a review. I’m very determined to have people with episodic disability included, and hopefully that will pick up a lot of young people. I’m also horrified that for many people that have a clear disability but no diagnosis …don’t qualify and that’s just not acceptable either.”
10. Advocacy is essential for fair and adequate planning if clients are to gain the full benefits of the NDIS. So why is that advocacy so poorly supported? And what do you think needs to be done about it?
“Advocacy is critical … We’ve increased about 10 million additional dollars for advocacy. I’m also conscious that people who are trying to find their way through the planning process desperately need proper advocates. It’s patently obvious.”
11. Where do you think the NDIS should be in about five years time?
“We would have rooms full of people who are satisfied with their plan and can understand and deal with the planning process. We would have advocates and providers properly resourced. We would have a lot more people working in the NDIA. We would have … probably some very different funding arrangements than we have now. And what I mean by that is, it seems to me, particularly in really thin markets like remote Aboriginal communities, individual self managed plans are just not just working … We would have a workforce that feels supported. A workforce that is properly resourced. We would have a Future Fund that guarantees that any money that is coming into the disability space is used in the disability space. And in five years time, this is a proper insurance scheme that is working for everybody”
So what do you think?
We’ve put the same questions to the Minister for Families and Social Services Paul Fletcher MP and the Greens Spokesperson for Disability, Senator Jordon Steele-John, so you can hear what all the major parties have to say.
And with just days to go to the election, don’t miss your chance to make sure your local candidates sign on to Make It Work. You can send them an email by heading to our easy to use tool.