The plan says ‘no’ — ex-Finance secretary releases NDIS review findings, points to inflexibility as a big weakness to participant experience

By Shannon Jenkins

January 20, 2020

Former Department of Finance secretary David Tune has released his review findings into the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

In a new report published today, Tune noted that while the NDIS has improved the social and economic outcomes for many people, the implementation process “has not been smooth” and the pressure of rolling the scheme out nationwide in just three years has hampered the National Disability Insurance Agency’s ability to provide a consistent, effective service.

The NDIS transition is set to be completed on July 1. Despite this, it will “take a number of years before the NDIS is delivering consistent positive experiences for people with disability”, Tune said.

The review found service delivery has so far worked well for adults with physical disability, but not for people with psychosocial disability or those with developmental delay, partly due to “a lack of clarity in the legislation on appropriate service responses” and a one-size-fits-all approach. Meanwhile, complaints from people with disability have centred on the administration of the NDIS by the NDIA, as well as transparency, consistency and timeliness issues.

READ MORE: Former Finance secretary to review NDIS

Tune made 29 recommendations, including various legislative amendments and the introduction of the Participant Service Guarantee.

He called for the NDIA to trial a service delivery model that has NDIA delegates perform all planning related functions.

“The trial would reduce the number of people involved in the planning process, and see the role of Local Area Coordinator Partners moving closer to their originally conceived roles – that is, helping participants connect to services in their community and build the capacity of the community for such interactions,” he said.

The Commonwealth should give additional funding to help people with disability navigate the NDIS, he recommended, and should publish accessible versions of the NDIS Act and NDIS Rules.

Governments and the NDIA should be clearer on the definition of “reasonable and necessary” in legislation, and information should be published in accessible formats.

Tune said many of the NDIA’s enabling systems have not been fully developed, its current ICT system has “significant limitations”, and there have been issues with workflow management tools.

He recommended ICT upgrades be prioritised to allow people with disability to track the status of their NDIA processes.

The NDIA should develop a comprehensive national outreach strategy for engaging with people with disability who have not sought support from the NDIS, with a focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and people with psychosocial disability.

The inability to amend a plan is one of the “key frustrations” for participants and one of the biggest weaknesses of the NDIS Act, Tune said. Allowing a plan to be amended when needed “would be one of the most effective levers to improve the participant experience”.

Other recommended amendments to the NDIS Act include:

  • Allowing a prospective participant up to 90 days to provide information requested by the NDIA to support an access decision, before it is deemed they have withdrawn their request,
  • Provide more flexibility for the NDIA to fund early intervention support for children under the age of seven years outside a NDIS plan,
  • Clarify the Commonwealth Ombud’s powers to monitor the NDIA’s performance in delivering against the Participant Service Guarantee,
  • Remove trial and transition provisions, reflect agreed recommendations arising from the 2015 review of the NDIS Act, and reflect current best practice drafting standards.

Recommended amendments to the NDIS Rules include:

  • Clarify that supports in a participant’s plan should be used flexibly, except in limited circumstances, such as capital supports,
  • Give the NDIA more defined powers to undertake market intervention on behalf of participants.

Tune called on the NDIA to work with governments, researchers and experts to establish publicly available information about evidence-based best practice approaches, to assist participants in exercising informed choice and control.

He also recommended the NDIS Independent Advisory Council develop a new independent participant satisfaction survey.

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