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New head of the NDIS Martin Hoffman

THE federal government’s decisions to raise the National Disability Insurance Agency’s public service staffing levels and appoint Martin Hoffman as chief executive have been met with cautious optimism from groups representing people with disability and service providers.

While the announcement that the NDIA would employ 800 additional public servants drew praise from the Community and Public Sector Union, shadow minister for the NDIS Bill Shorten kept up the pressure on his opposite number, Stuart Robert, while welcoming the announcement.

“People with disability will want to know whether the new CEO has any lived experience of disability,” Shorten said. “It also remains unclear whether he will base himself at the NDIA headquarters in Geelong.”

The head of People with Disability Australia, Jeff Smith, was pleased by the staffing boost and welcomed Hoffman’s appointment but also called on the NDIA to keep looking for opportunities to employ people with disabilities.

“We know that many aspects of the NDIS need fixing so that all people with disability who need support are getting that support in a timely and appropriate way,” Smith said, in comments reported by Disability Support Guide.

“There have been too many delays and too many hurdles to accessing these essential supports so far, particularly for people with disability who face additional barriers to the NDIS. People with disability need the NDIS to deliver on its promise to us about inclusion, equality and support.”

The CPSU said its acting national secretary, Melissa Donnelly, and deputy secretary Beth Vincent-Pietsch met the minister last month to discuss the NDIA’s staffing levels and argue the government’s cap on public service employees was having a direct impact on NDIS participants, and more staff were needed in particular to address a backlog in applications for NDIS support.

“We welcome the decision to lift the cap and provide an extra 800 staff in the NDIA,” said Vincent-Pietsch. “It is a great starting point and a great win for our members who have been campaigning for secure work and more staff.

“This is excellent news for NDIA workers, for the agency, and for the participants that rely on the NDIS for support. We’re glad the government is finally recognising its responsibility to better staff the NDIA, and we now expect the government to recognise its impact on the rest of our vital public services and to lift the staffing cap across the board.”

Shorten was less charitable in his response. “By their actions the Liberals have finally admitted the rigid staffing cap they imposed on the NDIA in 2014 has been hurting people with disability and depriving them of much needed goods and services,” said the shadow minister.

“Labor welcomes the lifting of the cap by 800 employees to 4,000 for this vital national scheme but this is a drop in the ocean when it comes to the expertise that needs to be brought back in-house. The NDIA originally estimated its staffing levels would be 10,595 staff by 2018-2019 but instead a low cap still exists while the bill to the taxpayer for consultants and contractors has ballooned from $70 million in 2016 to $430 million in 2018.”

Shorten repeated his criticism of the minister over the six months it took to find a new CEO for the NDIA. He also suggested Hoffman’s move to the NDIA would affect the Services Australia reforms, as the new CEO was previously playing a key role in guiding the process, which is supposed to transform the Department of Human Services into a more customer-focused organisation.

Several groups representing people with particular kinds of disabilities also welcomed the announcements as did David Moody, the acting CEO of National Disability Services, a peak body for service providers.

“The challenges ahead for the agency and the scheme are well-known and have been publicly articulated by NDS for a number of years now,” Moody said.

“Of primary concern to providers are the issues around pricing and payment delays, and workforce planning and growth necessary so that NDIS participants can be assured of access to quality supports without unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape.”

In Brisbane, the Courier-Mail questioned the minister on the salaries paid to NDIA executives, which total $23 million a year between 94 people, according to the newspaper. “This is an extraordinary national enterprise and it needs [an] extraordinary group of executives to run it,” Robert responded, while Shorten agreed that the head of the agency was paid too much.

Grahame Grant and Jay Crouch

A report released today calls for Commonwealth Government-led collaboration between disability service providers, their employees and unions to implement actions which will improve NDIS clients’ satisfaction and safety, support worker employment security, and service provider viability.

Commissioned by Greenacres Disability Services with funding from the Commonwealth Government’s Innovative Workforce Fund, Where Secure Employment meets Clients’ Needs, the report authored by Dr Fiona Macdonald, investigates the impacts of the NDIS funding model on disability support worker employment and the clients they assist.

In enabling people with disability to determine when and how they are supported under the NDIS, service providers are increasingly looking to casual labour as they seek to balance costs with short notice requests.

However, while casual arrangements can enable responsiveness to people with disabilities requiring flexible access to services, they are a disincentive for attracting and retaining quality staff wanting job security and provide less staff continuity for clients.

Chris Christodoulou, CEO Greenacres Disability Services said, “With the NDIS under stress in terms of workforce issues, this ground-breaking report highlights the need for a collaborative approach where the needs of both participants and support staff can intersect and create secure employment which is responsive to meet client needs.

“Dr Macdonald analysed the risks associated with a casualised workforce under the NDIS and put forward various options for unions, employees and providers to consider which can stem the tide of insecure employment, whilst at the same time, having a workforce that can be responsive to when people with disabilities require their services.”

Key options noted within the report were: adopt secure, adjustable or responsive work arrangements as an option for permanent part time employees; establish reasonable minimum engagement periods for part time employees; build flexibility across services and participants through self-managed teams and work, and; minimise casual employment.

David Moody, Acting CEO of National Disability Services, the peak representative body for service providers said, “The Report highlights that through collaboration we do not have to make choices between employing casuals or permanent staff, because efficiency and effectiveness can be achieved if all parties use a collaborative industrial relations framework to consider the options in the report.

“I believe many providers will look at the proposals in this report and see some real advantages.”

Natalie Laing, NSW Branch Secretary of the Australian Services Union said, “This critical piece of work can be used by the industry to build real careers in what is a very transactional NDIS scheme which, by its very nature, can push employers to use more casual staff.

“The growth in casual employment is in no one’s long term interests. Not Providers, not government, not participants and not employees.

“The ASU is open to have discussions with providers who want to be constructive to find good solutions.”

Dr Macdonald said, “In my view, the NDIS can only meet its full potential to provide quality services to clients if we have a workforce which has secure employment, whilst at the same time being responsive to client needs.”

  • Story courtesy Mirage News
Pat Trout

Higher iron ore prices and a $4.6bn underspend on the NDIS have returned the Australian budget to balance for the first time in more than a decade, but low consumer spending continues to be a drag on the economy.

The treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, announced the final budget outcome for 2018-19 on Thursday, revealing a deficit of $700m – $13.8bn better than forecast in the budget.

The figure puts the federal budget effectively in balance for the first time since 2007-08, when the most recent surplus of $19.7bn was recorded.

Frydenberg credited the government’s “strong fiscal management” for the result, pointing to $11.5bn in higher receipts and $6.6bn in lower payments as the reason for the improvement.

The final budget outcome shows stronger than expected tax receipts from both companies and individuals, up $8.1bn compared to the budget, and a $6.4bn underspend on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the DisabilityCare Australia Fund and family tax benefits.

But indirect taxation revenue, which includes GST, petrol, alcohol and tobacco taxes, was down almost $5bn compared to the estimate in May last year, reflecting a slump in household consumption.

Real GDP grew by 1.9%, which was softer than the 3% forecast at budget time, but nominal GDP – which underpins the budget balance – grew by a stronger than expected 5.3%.

Growth in household consumption, dwelling investment and business investment were all below forecast, but the increase in iron ore prices “more than offset” the softer than expected growth elsewhere in the economy.

Frydenberg said that he would like to see household consumption higher, saying it accounted for 60% of GDP.

“One of the ways we can drive that is through the tax relief that is being legislated through the parliament,” he said. “We are taking action to lift household consumption but there is also uncertainty out there, and I don’t think anyone wants to overlook that fact. There is uncertainty in the global economic outlook and that impact on investment decisions here at home.”

Frydenberg also pointed to strong labour market conditions that saw an extra 300,000 jobs created being better than expected, growing by 2.6% throughout the year compared to the 1.5% forecast.

The underspend on the NDIS, which was due to “slower than expected” transition of participants into the NDIS and lower utilisation of participants’ individual support packages, amounted to $4.6bn.

Frydenberg said the discrepancy was because the NDIS was a “demand driven system”.

“This is in part because of the delays in some of the states coming on board, and also because it’s taken a bit more time for the service provider market to develop sufficiently to meet the available demand it has taken,” Frydenberg said.

But he said there was no policy decision to cut funding to the NDIS.

Labor’s shadow treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said the final budget outcome was the result of “bad faith” because of its reliance on the NDIS underspend, and the “good luck” of iron ore prices.

“The budget improvement is welcome but it’s not a consequence largely of good actions from the government,” Chalmers said.

Labor’s shadow minister for government services, Bill Shorten, said the government had improved the budget outcome by “tightening the taps of the NDIS”.

“It’s a national shame, it’s a disgrace, the Morrison government is balancing its books on the backs of Australia with disabilities and their loved ones,” Shorten said.

Labor also targeted the government in Question Time over the disability insurance scheme, with deputy leader Richard Marles asking about the number of Australians who were waiting for care packages.

“Is the government seriously suggesting that Australians with a disability aren’t out there waiting for care packages?” Marles said.

Chalmers said the treasurer needed to admit that “today’s budget outcome would not be possible without making Australians with a disability wait for the care that they need and deserve and were promised so that he can add $4.6 billion to the budget line.”

The minister responsible for the NDIS, Stuart Robert, said that while there were fewer participants that expected, the amount being spent was $46,800 per person, $400 more than forecast.

Frydenberg said that “everyone who has been approved in the program is getting support under a fully funded NDIS.”

“Only the Coalition can fund services like the NDIS, that Australians need and deserve.”

The final budget outcome coincided with new jobs figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which showed the unemployment rate up a notch to 5.3%.

The NDIS issues will be resolved by mid-2020 according to the Coalition.
MOST of the outstanding issues over the operation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme should be ironed out by the middle of next year, federal minister for the program Stuart Robert says.
He says by that time all the states, bar Western Australia, will be fully involved in the scheme.
“So rather than this fight to get everyone from the states into the NDIS, it’s now on to how we get the NDIS on a normal, natural footing,” Mr Robert told Sky News on Sunday.
“And of course, you run the flag up the pole once WA is into full scheme by 2023.”
However, he conceded the government still has some issues over NDIS’s digital capacity that links providers with participants, which the Productivity Commission has said is crucial to the scheme’s success.
“‘I”m not satisfied that our ICT is where it needs to be in terms of delivering it,” he said.
“It will take us a while to get that into fruition.”
But he said the government would be announcing its full NDIS plan in the next few weeks to lay out what he described as “the new normal” for business as usual.
What is the NDIS?

There are around 4.3 million Australians who have a disability. When it is fully rolled out, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will provide about 460,000 Australians aged under 65, who have permanent and significant disability with funding for supports and services. For many people, it will be the first time they receive the disability support they need.

The NDIS can provide all people with disability with information and connections to services in their communities such as doctors, sporting clubs, support groups, libraries and schools, as well as information about what support is provided by each state and territory government.

To check your eligibility go to – https://www.ndis.gov.au/applying-access-ndis/am-i-eligible

Chris Spicer

AUSTRALIANS with a disability are being asked to share their experiences with a new review aimed at cutting wait times under the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Former finance department secretary David Tune will review the scheme’s legislation and rules, with a view to streamlining processes.

NDIS Minister Stuart Robert said the inquiry will help the federal government deliver on its promise to address issues with timeframes around setting up or altering plans for NDIS participants.

The coalition has vowed to introduce the new standards by mid-2020.

‘We are listening, and will be consulting with people with disability and their families, the disability services sector, ministers and officials from Commonwealth and state governments and the National Disability Insurance Agency as part of this review,” Mr Roberts said on Monday.

Consultations will begin later this month with an online survey, discussion paper and face-to-face workshops across the country.

Mr Tune retired from the public service in 2014 and has since led reviews into MPs’ parliamentary entitlements and the aged care system.

“Mr Tune has a great deal of experience in reviewing important policy and is a great choice to lead this next phase of making the NDIS even better,’ Mr Robert said.

The NDIS will support up to 500,000 people over the next five years.

Mr Robert has already said he wants wait times for children accessing support to be cut in half by October, using a new waiting “cap” of 50 days.

The average wait time for children to receive NDIS plans at the moment is 127 days.

Australian Associated Press

NDIS waiting times are set to be halved by mid 2020 according to Disabilities Minister Stuart Robson

AUSTRALIANS with a disability are being asked to share their experiences with a new review aimed at cutting wait times under the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Former finance department secretary David Tune will review the scheme’s legislation and rules, with a view to streamlining processes.

NDIS Minister Stuart Robert said the inquiry will help the federal government deliver on its promise to address issues with timeframes around setting up or altering plans for NDIS participants.

The coalition has vowed to introduce the new standards by mid-2020.

‘We are listening, and will be consulting with people with disability and their families, the disability services sector, ministers and officials from Commonwealth and state governments and the National Disability Insurance Agency as part of this review,” Mr Roberts said on Monday.

Consultations will begin later this month with an online survey, discussion paper and face-to-face workshops across the country.

Mr Tune retired from the public service in 2014 and has since led reviews into MPs’ parliamentary entitlements and the aged care system.

“Mr Tune has a great deal of experience in reviewing important policy and is a great choice to lead this next phase of making the NDIS even better,’ Mr Robert said.

The NDIS will support up to 500,000 people over the next five years.

Mr Robert has already said he wants wait times for children accessing support to be cut in half by October, using a new waiting “cap” of 50 days.

The average wait time for children to receive NDIS plans at the moment is 127 days.

Australian Associated Press

Trilbie Bermingham, Amanda Clifton and Shane Spicer at Parkes CDS HQ

A NEW report has highlighted the discrimination and hardship people with disability face, with over 60 percent of survey respondents unable to afford to get access to the disability support they require.

Disability Rights Now 2019: Shadow Report to the United Nations Committee on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has been a collaborative effort by Disabled People’s Organisations, disability representatives and advocacy organisations from around Australia.

The report, which has been endorsed by over 80 organisations from around the country, includes the findings from a survey of almost 900 Australians with disability and reviews the country’s progress in implementing the CRPD, which focuses on upholding the rights of people with disability.

Executive Director of Women With Disabilities Australia, Carolyn Frohmader, says the report was an opportunity for people with disability across Australia to tell the United Nations about the widespread hardship, discrimination, violence and poverty they face every day.

“As part of the national consultation, nearly 900 people with disability from every State and Territory filled out a survey.

“The results showed how far we still have to go in making sure we have the same rights as everyone else.

“Australia is breaching our human rights commitments to people with disability, including in the areas of violence, restrictive practices and forced sterilisation, education and the over-representation of people with disability in the criminal justice system,” Ms Frohmader says.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of First People’s Disability Network, Damian Griffis, says the report also shows Indigenous people with disability routinely have their rights ignored, particularly in the criminal justice system.

“Indigenous people with disability are 14 times more likely to be imprisoned than the rest of the population,” Mr Griffis explains.

“50 percent of the total prison population report a history of psychosocial disability, almost one-third report disability, and 25 percent to 30 percent of prisoners have an intellectual disability.”

Mr Griffis says survey respondents reported major concerns over the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

“People with disability emphasised how hard it is to access the NDIS, how difficult the NDIS is to us and about long waits for advocacy to help with the process.

“In addition, a majority of people with disability (61 percent) reported not being able to afford or get access to the disability support they need.

“Many people with disability die decades younger than their non-disabled peers.”

Ms Frohmader added that the report shows how far Australia has to go before people with disability have the same freedoms and rights as non-disabled people.

“We know Australia has made significant progress over the last five years with the implementation of the NDIS and the establishment of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of People with Disability, but many of the issues that we reported on before are still the same in 2019, and that has to change.”

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will review Australia’s progress in September in Geneva and a delegation of people with disability will be in attendance to present this report to the CRPD Committee and discuss the findings.

The groups who contributed to the report include:

  • Disabled People’s Organisations Australia (DPO Australia)
  • Council for Intellectual Disability NSW (CID)
  • Queensland Advocacy Incorporated (QAI)
  • Advocacy for Inclusion (AFI)
  • Disability Advocacy Network Australia (DANA)
  • Australian Centre for Disability Law (ACDL)
  • Queensland Voice for Mental Health (QVMH)
  • Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA)
  • Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO)

The Disability Rights Now 2019 report was made possible by the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department and PwC Australia.

You can read the report here.

Charles Hamer (seated) with Donna Little of CDS.
Charles Hamer (seated) with Donna Little of CDS.
CHARLES LIVING PRINCELY LIFE AFTER GETTING NEW JOB
 
CHARLES Hamer is a great example of dedication and resilience. From having no job, living in shared accommodation and no license, the CDS client is now ticking all the boxes and it is not only because of his drive but the tremendous support from his carers.
 
“I have some great people in my life who have helped me get to where I am today,” said Charles.
 
“From Donna and Jodie through to direct carers such as Ian, Rodney and Martin – they have all played a part.
 
“I am now in my first month at McDonalds, living independently and have a full license,” he said.
 
“It has been a real boost to my confidence and I can say I have never been happier!”
 
Charles also credits his new found happiness to the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in the Central West stating that the new model is one of the big reasons he is in the position he is in today.
 
“The NDIS allows me to choose what I want to do, when, how and who with,” he said.
 
“Currajong has been extremely helpful and supportive.
 
“I have really turned a corner and am now planning ahead with confidence,” he said.
 
“I am actually contemplating doing some TAFE courses and study to further my hospitality skills and add to my existing skill set.”
 
Despite all the positive news Charles remains focused and grounded.
 
“I just take one day at a time and keep doing the best that I can,” he said.
 
“That mindset has brought me this far.
 
“And I hope it continues to serve me well.”
 
(CAPTION: Charles Hamer seated with Donna Little of CDS)
Do you qualify for the NDIS?
Do you qualify for the NDIS?

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is the new way of providing individualised support for people with disability, their families and carers – it’s the insurance that is designed to give us all peace of mind.

“Disability could affect anyone and having the right support makes a big difference,” a spokesperson said. “The NDIS provides eligible people a flexible, whole-of-life approach to the support needed to pursue their goals and aspirations and participate in daily life.

“The NDIS is a big change and will be progressively rolled out across NSW and should be operating statewide by July 2018.”

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) is working closely with the relevant Commonwealth and NSW government departments to ensure there is a smooth transition to the NDIS for people with disability, their families, carers and providers.

If you currently access services you will be contacted to discuss the process of entering the NDIS but if your region has already transitioned, don’t hesitate to be in touch.

Some people aren’t sure if they qualify so here are the rules. To access the NDIS you must:

  1. Live in Australia and be: an Australian citizen OR a permanent resident OR hold a Protected Special Category Visa.
  2. To receive the NDIS you must be aged under 65 years. In some locations, you need to be a certain age to access the NDIS during the trial period. Other supports may be available if you don’t qualify.
  3. To access the NDIS right now, you must live in an NDIS area on a designated date. In some of these areas, you also need to be a certain age to use the scheme.
  4. To meet the NDIS disability rules you need to have an impairment or condition that is likely to be permanent (lifelong) and that stops you from doing everyday things by yourself.

The following questions may help you decide if your answer is ‘yes’.

Do you usually need support from a person or assistive equipment so you can:

  • Understand and be understood by other people?
  • Make and keep friends and cope with feelings and emotions?
  • Understand, remember and learn new things?
  • Get out of bed and move around the home and outside the home?
  • Take a bath or shower, dress and eat?
  • Do daily jobs, handle money and make decisions?

Early intervention rules

To meet the NDIS early intervention rules, you need to have an impairment or condition that is likely to be permanent (lifelong), or be a child under six years of age with a developmental delay and the delay means you usually need more help with your self-care, communication, learning or motor skills than another child of the same age.

Early intervention supports provided by the NDIS are those not provided by any other services such as health and education.

The following questions may help you decide if your answer is ‘yes’. Would early intervention:

  • Reduce the impact of your impairment or condition or developmental delay?
  • Stop the impact of your impairment or condition from getting worse?
  • Strengthen your informal supports, such as helping a carer to keep supporting you?

Call the NDIA on 1800 800 110 if you have any questions or to ask for an access request form.

Patrick Trout of CDS Parkes
Patrick Trout of CDS Parkes

IT might be hoped the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will provide all necessary services, but councillor Stephen Nugent says keeping advocacy organisations afloat will be crucial to ensure no one slips through the cracks.

Cr Nugent will move a motion at Tuesday night’s Orange City Council meeting to note the importance of groups advocating for people with disabilities and support a campaign by the NSW Disability Advocacy Alliance to have advocacy continue to be funded, writing to Disability Services Minister Ray Williams and Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

Cr Nugent said up to half of the state’s 50 advocacy services faced closure when $13 million in funding ran out on June 30 due to a shift towards the NDIS.

He said they provided independent support to people with disabilities and campaigned across issues including making public transport more accessible and ending the high rate of preventable deaths in healthcare for people with an intellectual disability.

“This in turn would put the onus back on local government or the community sector to fund such services, or see them disappear,” he said.

“Neither of these outcomes is desirable or beneficial for people with disability.”

Asked whether he thought lobby groups would be necessary after the NDIS rollout was complete, Cr Nugent said they would not “in an ideal world”.

“But I don’t think we live in an ideal world,” he said.

“The NDIS is a brilliant concept and it’s really history in the making.

“If there is an issue with the NDIS, that a particular group aren’t receiving the services they require, or there’s no funding for a type of service that’s needed, what group is going to stand up?”