Senate debates

Thursday, 15 February 2018


National Disability Insurance Scheme; Report

6:27 pm

Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Disability and Carers) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—In respect of the report of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Transitional arrangements for the NDIS, which was tabled earlier today, I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

I welcome the tabling of the committee's report on the transitional arrangements and I wish particularly to thank the committee members and the many organisations and individuals that took the time to share their experiences with the committee both by way of making a submission and by appearing at the public hearings.

The introduction of the NDIS has been one of the most significant reforms in the history of our nation. The scheme is of vital importance to our nation's quest to become a fully inclusive society. As with any major reform, robust transitional arrangements are essential to ensuring access and trust. The committee has made 26 recommendations that we believe will enhance the transition to the full rollout of the scheme, a number of which focus on the dissemination of more information to the general public and participants by the agency. The committee has also identified some real concerns with emerging gaps in service delivery, thin service delivery markets, the pricing that underpins the delivery of services and the planning and preplanning processes.

An open and transparent approach to reporting and sharing of information must be a priority for the agency if they are to continue to receive the trust and confidence of participants and the general community. In order to guide that process, the committee has recommended that the NDIA publish additional data and analysis in their quarterly reports, namely: the number of planned reviews; the waiting times faced by participants; outcomes of plan reviews, specifically whether the overall value of a package has been increased or decreased; and satisfaction ratings by participants following plan reviews. The committee is also urging the NDIA to ensure that all eligible people with disability across all jurisdictions have access to preplanning supports.

The interaction between the NDIA and other service delivery agencies is of particular concern. State and territory health departments and other mainstream health agencies are still reporting confusion around the areas of payment and responsibility for service delivery. What concerns me most about this ongoing confusion is that the person with disability is usually stuck in the middle, trying to access essential health services while agencies from jurisdictions squabble and pass the buck. Much of this confusion arises from the lack of transparency and clarity between the COAG agreements and interpretation and implementation by the NDIA. Individuals and organisations reported instances of hospitalised people with disability experiencing the withdrawal of services by the hospitals concerned, on the basis that those services would be covered by the NDIS.

The committee has therefore recommended that the COAG Health Council and the COAG Disability Reform Council urgently undertake work to address these issues. The committee was also disturbed to learn of cases of delay in hospital discharge, in some cases due to delays in NDIS planning processes and approvals. This matter also needs to be addressed urgently.

There is a similar lack of clarity around responsibilities in the area of education. The committee is also concerned that the current NDIS funding arrangements do not adequately address the transport and accommodation needs of people with disability. We were alarmed to learn of the increase in the number of young people with disability currently being accommodated in nursing homes. This reflects not just inefficient housing stock but also a dire shortage of suitable short-term accommodation options and crisis accommodation.

When considering the planning process, the committee was struck by evidence of the role of strong support and advocacy in securing plans that best suit the needs of participants. The Information Linkages and Capacity Building program provides essential information and linkages to necessary services for all people with disability, both NDIS participants and people with disability who are not eligible for the scheme. The information provided through this program also assists some when considering the development of their plans.

In order to assist with the further rollout of the scheme, the committee has recommended that funding for the ILC be increased to $131 million per year for each remaining year of the transition. The committee has also recommended that the NDIA publicly release its provider-of-last-resort policy as a matter of urgency in order to strengthen confidence and transparency.

Clearly, there is much more work that needs to be done by COAG, the Department of Health, the Department of Social Services and the NDIA as we progress towards the full rollout of the scheme. I would urge the NDIA, its board, the minister and the COAG committees to take note of our report as I believe that this report, along with the recently tabled report by the Productivity Commission, provides significant recommendations that would, if implemented, address the many concerns that have been raised and ensure a transparent and improved rollout of the scheme. I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.