Wednesday, 30 March 2022
National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment (Participant Service Guarantee and Other Measures) Bill 2021; Second Reading
There is absolutely no doubt that the NDIS is not functioning as it should under this Morrison government. There are too many people who are tied up in red tape, who are tied up in reviews and who ultimately end up with decisions that they don't understand and that leave them without the supports they should have. In fact, the latest NDIS quarterly report shows the average NDIS plan budget fell by four per cent in 2021 to about $68,000. Before that, the average plan had, in fact, been increasing each year since 2018. This is significant. This number represents what the member for Dunkley was just talking about and what so many of us are hearing from people in our communities—that plans are being cut, that supports are being cut. It seems to be a case of cuts by stealth, of independent assessments by stealth. Independent assessments that the disability community fought so hard against and which this government said were no longer on the table seem to be happening by stealth, and the impact of that is serious for people who are participating in the NDIS, for their families, for their carers and for the people who work with them.
I have a number of wonderful disability service providers in my electorate, and one of them recently invited me to visit. Araluen provide a range of disability services, but I went to meet with them and with two families who use their services for supported independent living. It was a heartbreaking meeting for me. This was just a couple of weeks ago. I had to sit in a room with families who were crying about the lack of support that was being offered to their children with disability under the NDIS. These parents are lying awake at night wondering what the future is for their children. This is the very thing the NDIS was put in place to end, the very thing a Labor government created the NDIS to do—to make sure that families and that people with disability know that they have a good future, to make sure they get the supports that are reasonable and necessary for a good life, and that is not what is happening under this government.
In this meeting I met with a mother who is in her 70s. She has heart issues and an adult son with extremely complex support requirements. His behaviour means he causes significant injuries to himself and to staff. There is a need to ensure his safety in the community because he can display unpredictable and dangerous behaviour, particularly on or around roads, that could lead to significant injury to him or to others. Because of this behaviour, Araluen, the service provider, introduced 2:1 care for this young man during the day. That was not initially part of his NDIS plan but it was their assessment that that was what is needed, and in fact, it was what he needed to be able to be safe and for the people around him to be safe. They submitted multiple incident reports to the NDIA about the impacts of his behaviour when he did not have that 2:1 care in place. They asked for a review and for extra funding support. But instead of getting that extra support, what happened was the NDIS came back to them and, in fact, cut the existing supported independent living funding in his plan. So rather than raising it, as was needed for his care, they actually cut his existing funding. Aspects of his budget were cut by just over $41,000. That is a really significant cut and it has had a significant impact on his life and on the life of his family. Araluen are still out of pocket providing him with this higher level of care, but the worry is that that now his NDIS package will be eaten up before it comes to the end of its lifespan and he will be left with no funding for supports. This is what his mother, in her 70s, is lying awake at night thinking about—that her son is going to run out of funding and have no funding for supports. This is a disgrace and it is on this government.
Another mother I met with during this meeting was just about to take her very first holiday in years and years. She has an adult daughter with severe autism, extreme sensory impairment and self-injurious behaviours which are a significant risk to her health and safety and possibly to those she lives with. She lives in a group home run by Araluen. Unfortunately, in light of her behaviours, she was still struggling in this group home. Araluen put extra support around her, but her behaviours meant she felt quite territorial within her home environment, especially with the bathroom and toilet. She was acting aggressively towards other residents and staff. This was dangerous for the staff and it also meant that other residents were being traumatised and were feeling stressed. So, again, Araluen took it on themselves to try and fix this complex problem. They invested hours of extra support but found that did not work, so they moved this young woman to a house by herself. At that point, they saw an immediate change and de-escalation of the behaviours of concern, and the housemates, who had been feeling attacked and traumatised by her behaviour, also started to improve their behaviour.
In early June 2021, Araluen submitted on behalf of this young woman an urgent request of the NDIS for a change of circumstances and for a review of her supported independent living. Despite ongoing emails for a response, they did not get a planning meeting until November 2021. So after an urgent request in June 2021, they got a meeting in November 2021. They put all the evidence in front of the NDIS at that meeting. The planner agreed that it was an urgent and serious case and that it should be escalated and approved in two weeks. That was in November 2021. Not two weeks later but in January 2022, they heard back from the NDIS and, again, instead of extra support, what happened for this young woman was the funding she received was less than half of her previously approved support for independent living. So, again, not only did they not approve the increased funding that had been shown to be necessary for this woman's safety and for others around her, they approved less than half of her previous funding. Again, this leaves this family in an incredibly difficult position, where they don't know what their daughter's future is going to be.
The NDIS is a life-changing scheme. It should be life-changing for all participants in the scheme, but under this government it is not operating as it should. Too many people are having their plans cut. Too many people are being caught up in meetings where they don't understand what's going on or where they don't understand what they are being asked for. Too many people tell me that they take evidence to the agency and it's not taken into account when they are having their plans built or reviewed. I have had a number of parents come to me and say their experience is that they find themselves halfway through a phone conversation with someone from the agency when they suddenly say, 'Hold on, is this a planning meeting?' They didn't even realise that was what was going on—that's how poor the communication coming out of the NDIS is at the moment.
When I am hearing this every day from constituents in my community, when others on this side of the chamber and, I am sure, on the other side of the chamber are hearing this every day from constituents in their community, it tells us that the NDIS is not working as it should, and that is on this Morrison government. This Morrison government has not supported the NDIS as it should, and it is not supporting people with disability to have the supports they should—reasonable and necessary supports that enable them to lead a life that is good and that enable them to be a part of our community. NDIS and the benefits it brings are good for all of us. They are good for all of us, our whole community, and this government just does not get that. Well, Labor gets it. We are the government that introduced the NDIS. Labor is the party that built the NDIS. We are the party that will fix the NDIS and we are the party that will always back the NDIS.