The Productivity Commission report into the NDIS is very detailed – it’s more than 500 pages long!
Here’s the good news. The report says what we already know – the NDIS is making a really big difference to lots of people’s lives. People are getting more support than they did before, they have more choice and control over how and when that support is provided, and they have greater independence. Overall people are much better off with the support of the NDIS than they were before.
That’s great to hear, because that’s the scheme we want. That’s what we all fought for.
But … that experience is not universal. Not everyone is happy with their new plans or how they have been treated by the NDIS. And for some groups, such as those with psychosocial disability or people with very complex needs, the outcomes seem to have been particularly poor.
Improved planning will benefit everyone.
So the PC have made some very detailed recommendations to try and improve people’s experience with the NDIS, and to get more consistent and better quality plans.
They suggest things like:
- No more phone planning
- More information before people come into the scheme to help them get ready
- Better training for planners, so they have an understanding of a range of disabilities
- Specialised teams of planners with expertise in particular types of disability
They also say there should be a different pathway into the scheme for people with psychosocial disability or mental illness. People should be able to access staff with specialised training and get more help linking in to other services.
Importantly for many people with disability, the PC also says that all governments should fund advocacy services to make sure people can get help when they need it.
So that’s planning, but what else does the report say?
There’s more good news. The report notes that the scheme has come in largely on time and under budget so far – and that’s a big achievement for such a complex scheme.
But they are worried that some participants have not spent all the funds allocated in their NDIS plans.
They also say there are some areas where there is a risk of increased costs. For example, there are more children entering the scheme than expected. The PC says that it is good that the NDIA has recognised this and has already introduced some changes– but it is too early to tell whether those changes have made a difference.
The report also says that the disability workforce is not growing fast enough to keep up with demand from new NDIS participants. The PC wants governments consider a range of ways to increase the number of workers, including bringing in workers from other countries.
The PC says that the NDIA currently has a limit to the number of staff it is allowed to employ. They say this doesn’t make much sense, given the big job they have to do. They recommend letting the NDIA manage its own budget, and let it work out how many staff it really needs.
So what’s their conclusion?
The PC understands everyone wants the NDIS to work. They say the level of support and commitment to the scheme is “extraordinary”, and they can see that the scheme is already making a big difference to people’s lives.
But they don’t think the scheme can be delivered on time. They also think much more needs to be done to improve the experience for people, and to make sure the scheme delivers the change we all want to see.
The Australian government has already said that it will not delay the roll out of the scheme in “areas covered by a bilateral agreement”.
That’s good to hear.
But we also know that many of you are frustrated with your experience with the NDIS – how confusing and stressful you have found the new system. We want to make sure the government and the NDIA hears that message as well. We want them to keep improving the system until it works the way we all expect and want it to.
We will be taking action on that very soon – so stay tuned.