Reviewing the NDIS: our take on the Productivity Commission price review.

It’s been a big year for those of us whose personal or working lives are involved with the nascent National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Various sections of the media, participants, advocates and support providers have illuminated specific areas where the scheme is not playing out quite as intended.

The NDIS became a political football in the pre-budget season, but was eventually afforded some security with a Medicare levy increase.

Then in May, the peak body for service providers released How to get the NDIS on track, with recommendations on how to achieve the best National Disability Insurance Scheme possible.

Throughout this year of highs and lows, the Productivity Commission has been completing a study of NDIS Costs, commissioned by the Commonwealth Treasurer. As always our sector was highly engaged, and the Commission received more than 550 submissions and comments from members of the public and organisations.

Endeavour Foundation welcomes the final Productivity Commission report, which identifies issues and provides recommendations, on many areas of major concern to people we support.

First and foremost we support the Commission’s calls for a greater emphasis on pre-planning, in-depth planning conversations and the appointment of planners with specialist disability knowledge.

Better quality planning will reduce costs in the long term by preventing the need for review and appeal, and by ensuring people do not lose the vital supports which build and maintain independence.

The Commission found that some disability supports are not being provided because of unclear boundaries about the responsibilities of the different levels of government. This situation falls far short of the NDIS design and places people with a disability at risk of serious impacts.

Endeavour Foundation believes all governments have a responsibility to ensure people with a disability do not go without important services during the transition phase of the scheme.

In particular all levels of government must agree on a consistent national approach to the funding and support of transport needs for people who cannot use public transport because of their disability.

In keeping with the aims of the NDIS, Endeavour Foundation believes people who require assistance with transport should have access to personal, flexible transport funding that could be used for a taxi, ride-share service, community bus or other solution, depending on individual needs.

The Productivity Commission has proposed that all governments commit to establishing a pool of financial reserves that would help buffer the NDIS budget against significant unforeseen expense.

Endeavour Foundation considers this vital to give assurance to carers and people with a disability, in order to plan their future with confidence.

The Productivity Commission notes the high risk of poor NDIS outcomes for people with psychosocial disability, complex and multiple disabilities, and language and cultural barriers, transitioning from the criminal justice system, the homeless and the socially isolated.

Endeavour Foundation believes that the use of NDIS planners with specialist knowledge and skills, and a commitment to engage with hard-to-reach population groups, are essential to ensuring all Australians with a disability can access appropriate supports.

The Commission recommends the creation of a specialist gateway to the NDIS, to improve how the scheme engages with people with psychosocial disability.

Based on the reported experiences of people with psychosocial disability seeking entry to the NDIS, Endeavour Foundation supports this recommendation. We believe that better intake and engagement processes will result in increased stability and wellbeing for participants with psychosocial disability, and will deliver improved outcomes, reducing the demand on crisis services.

Endeavour Foundation strongly welcomes the finding that phone planning is not appropriate for some participants, and has significantly disadvantaged many people in the planning process.

We also warmly welcome the recent announcement by the NDIA that its default position will now be to hold face-to-face planning meetings, unless participants request otherwise.

The Productivity Commission has found that the pre planning phase of the planning process has not received adequate attention, affecting the quality of plans.

Endeavour Foundation agrees that multiple approaches must be applied to boost pre-planning, rather than trying to ‘fix’ plans over time. Better pre-planning will result in greater choice and control.

Where people qualify for support co-ordination and have requested it as part of their plan, we agree that support co-ordination should be allocated based on need, not time.

We support the recommendation that the NDIS should implement a process for allowing minor amendments or adjustments to plans without triggering a full plan review.

We also support the recommendation that bilateral agreements should phase out in-kind funding as soon as possible. They prevent the development of an open, competitive market (a key tenet of the NDIS design) and expose the scheme to inflationary pressures.

For organisations that utilise volunteers to support people with a disability we would welcome a move towards funding to connect NDIS participants with volunteers and for the ongoing costs of volunteer management. This is a vital and cost-effective way for people with a disability to be more broadly engaged with other members of the community and would provide a valuable boost for many social inclusion initiatives.

We support calls for the NDIA to ensure planners include adequate respite care, in order to support the sustainability of informal care arrangements.

And finally, we hope to see the Western Australian Government and Australian Government finalise an agreement for WA to join the NDIS, enabling all Australians with a disability to have fair and equitable access to reasonable and necessary supports, regardless of where they live.

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