Tuesday, 1 December 2020
National Disability Insurance Scheme Joint Committee; Report
On behalf of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, I present the final report of the committee on NDIS planning, together with documents presented to the committee, and I move:
That the Senate take note of the report.
As an accessible, approachable and timely planning process is central to the success of the NDIS, and as with any significant piece of reform, participants, service providers and the NDIA must always be alive to opportunities to reform the planning process, with a view to making it an even better experience for NDIS participants. With that in mind, the committee makes several recommendations on how to address the longstanding issues in the NDIS planning process.
Of significant concern to the committee was the evidence we received that there are likely to be major inconsistencies in plan funding between participants with the same disability. These issues were first raised when the trial sites were operating and persist to this day. The committee was particularly concerned with the evidence we received of plans that did not include funded supports as the presumption was that informal supports would be available through family members, despite these participants having no family support or having elderly parents with dementia.
The jurisdictional issues of responsibility for providing support also persist, with the NDIA still refusing to fund supports that they deem will be provided by health agencies. These approaches are contrary to one of the fundamental principles of the scheme, which is that it remain person-centred and that the planning process should address all the participants' needs as they relate to their disability.
The majority of our recommendations in this final planning report relate to the NDIA's communications process. Access to timely, accessible information is key to the planning process.
The committee has made a number of recommendations that we strongly believe will improve the efficiency, transparency and overall satisfaction with planning. Our leading recommendation is that the NDIA provide fully costed, detailed draft plans to participants and their nominees at least one week prior to the meeting to approve the plan. Other recommendations go to the provision of information to caregivers where they are involved in the planning process to help ensure that they are informed about the types of support that are available and able to be included in a plan.
The committee remain concerned about the NDIA's level of engagement with participants who are in custody. We have recommended that the NDIA develop, implement and report on a strategy for engaging these participants and that the Commonwealth, states and territories meet and consider and agree on the appropriate action of responsibility for the funding of supports for participants in custody.
The need for the NDIA to advertise and provide training is also covered in the report. Training needs to be readily available to planners, local area coordinators and other professionals involved in the process in accessible formats and locations.
The NDIA often points to the participants' satisfaction ratings to demonstrate that participants and their nominees are happy with their performance. However, the committee received evidence of planners either taking months to respond to queries from participants or not replying at all. We also heard the wording of the survey may not allow for accurate reflection of participants' views and experiences.
The committee has made 42 recommendations in this report. It is the committee's view that these recommendations would bring greater transparency, consistency and accountability to the NDIS planning process. As is noted in the executive summary of our report, the recent announcements by the government and the NDIA about joint planning, improved transparency and the commitment to clear time frames are welcome. However, the announcements do not mean that these issues have been resolved. This work, along with the committee's recommendations, should help improve the planning process. As always, we will continue to monitor the implementation of these reforms and conduct further inquiries should we need to.
Finally, I would like to place on record my thanks to the many participants and their family members and supporters who have contributed to this inquiry. The time you took to provide submissions, give evidence and share your personal experiences was invaluable. I'd like to also thank Bonnie Allan and her team at the secretariat for their work on this report. As always, it was of a very high standard and captured the experiences of those accessing the planning process. I commend the report to the Senate and I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.