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Robert De Luca
Robert De Luca

Parts of the implementation of this NDIS have been flawed. The official leading of the rollout of this NDIS saying he has heard the community concerns “quite loudly”.

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) recently announced a significant overhaul of the way it interacts with people with a disability and develops their support packages. The NDIA will move to end its much-criticised reliance on phone interviews to make complex decisions about a person’s unique support needs. Face-to-face planning will now become the standard.

Advocates have welcomed the change. But People with Disability Australia has warned it may not be feasible without an injection of staff and funding. “PWDA remains concerned about how these goals will be met without an increase in human resources or budget,” the organisation said.

The overhaul of the NDIS “pathway” has been made after months of consultations with more than 300 people with a disability, their carers and families, and providers.

The NDIA was told the scheme was “not meeting expected standards”.

NDIA chief executive Robert De Luca said the agency was moving quickly to address shortcomings. The consultation process had told him “quite loudly” what was working, and what wasn’t.

“What we’ve heard through the process is that the phone conversation hasn’t always been as engaging as it could have been in a face-to-face environment,” De Luca said. 

The agency has faced persistent criticism over its implementation of the NDIS, the biggest reform to the disability sector in decades. Participants and advocacy groups have repeatedly warned that inadequate and inconsistent decisions are being made on support packages.

Many of the problems have been linked to the pace of the rollout, lack of expertise and knowledge about disability within parts of the NDIA, and a lack of proper resourcing.

A public advocate’s office said that to meet the NDIS rollout deadlines, planners would need to develop support packages for 3600 people a week. But De Luca said many of the problems being experienced did not relate to the speed of the rollout.

NDIS records suggest 70 per cent of planning conversations were occurring over the phone, which critics say leaves planners with an inadequate idea of a person’s home environment and unique support needs.

Phone calls are also not an accessible means of communication for many participants. The changes announced recently would seek to address that problem, and ensure “all NDIS plan development” occurs face-to-face. That is designed to address concerns that the NDIS is faceless and rigid, and bounces participants between offices and staff with frequency.

Communications with participants will be changed to ensure information is clear and consistent, and available in accessible formats. The NDIS online portal and tools will also be improved, to reduce the costs for providers and simplify their use. The new system will be piloted, before being rolled out across the country. PWDA said it was pleased to see the focus on face-to-face planning and the creation of consistent points of contact.

The changes showed the NDIA had listened to concerns that people with disability have consistently raised, the advocacy group said. The NDIA also announced it would place a stronger focus on connecting people with supports in the health, education and transport systems.

PWDA welcomed that approach. “Tailored reponses for children with disability, participants with psychosocial disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants and other diverse groups should include all aspects of a support pathway, and be integrated with other systems, as the NDIS in isolation will not enable them to get the most out of available supports,” it said.

“Lack of clarification in funding responsibility is currently leaving people confused about which system their supports are funded under, and gaps are occurring.”

Owen James, Grampians Disability Advocacy

This story Big overhaul for NDIS pathway first appeared on The Wimmera Mail-Times.