So, today the guy responsible for NDIS – Minister Stuart Robert – gave a speech in Canberra to a pack of journalists, and he outlined a bunch of stuff, and here’s a few of the key points, as I see them.
1. ECEI: Wait times for little kid access to the scheme have been reduced and are now sitting at under 48 days. VERDICT: This is good.
2. WAITING: Access decision timing (finding out whether you get into the scheme or not) has dropped to an average of 12 days, and there’s an average of 88 days to get a plan once you’ve been accepted into the scheme. VERDICT: This is good.
3. “Joint planning” sessions: where participants have an input on draft plans etc before approval should be fully rolling out by April 2020. VERDICT: This will hopefully be good, but I see potential problems with availability of staff to make this happen.
4. JOBS: We need 90,000 new jobs in the sector – that’s going to take money, time and effort, and the Gov will work on this. VERDICT: This is good for the economy, but we have to be careful to bring in and train the right people for these jobs, and not use this just as a way to get people off newstart, some of whom will have no interest or skill in serving people with disability. Hopefully it will mean that more people with disability will consider training and working in the industry!
5. DRC/COAG: State and Federal governments are meeting on disability stuff every 90 days. They’ve made agreements on health stuff, disabled children in out-of-home-care and hospital discharge. Also, each state should now have a Justice Liaison Officer to work with disabled youth and adults in the justice system. VERDICT: Slowly slowly, but hopefully with more frequent gatherings, more will be done, sooner!
6. Transport: No big changes in transport other than to continue the taxi subsidy schemes until they sort out a better policy, and to increase transport funding for those who are already heavy users of the taxi schemes. VERDICT: Yeah Nah – they bloody well need to make a proper fix to the transport debacle, not this tinkering with the fringes rubbish.
7. Independent Assessments: by July 2020 independent assessments, funded by NDIS will be available for people seeking NDIS access and for reviews. These functional assessments won’t come out of participants’ plans and are designed to make access and funding more equitable.VERDICT: Jury is still out – this has potential to create more equity but I have concerns that assessors might be grumpy judgy bastards, or that what they see on any particular day of assessment is simply not indicative of overall functional assessment – we all have good and bad days – I don’t want us to go back to the bad ol’ days where you kept your kid up all night and didn’t give meds on the day of assessment!
8. Flexibility in plans: CORE and CAPACITY building “buckets” will be flexible, so if you run out of therapy money, you can shift funds from CORE (assuming you have it) and iuse that for therapy, or vice versa. VERDICT: The devil will be in the detail, but this is a GREAT step forward in choice and control and better utilisation of plans
9. SDA: the original SDA funding model meant that if you lived with people without SDA funding, the payment to the provider was severely reduced. Now, you can live with WHOEVER YOU DAMN WELL PLEASE, and it won’t reduce your funding. VERDICT: YAY!!! (but appalling that it was ever designed in that way to start with)
Now, I also have to mention, that at the same time as Minister Robert was giving this speech, his government quietly pushed some legislation changes through parliament with passage of the NDIS Amendment (Streamlined Governance) Bill 2019 which mean that Government no longer need the States and Territories to agree on NDIA board member appointments – so now the Minister can override the States and can sack or hire whoever they want on the NDIA board. That doesn’t sit particularly well with me.
Overall, I reckon there’s some really good stuff today, but we’ve all got to continue our advocacy and vigilance to turn and keep the scheme on track!
PS: these are my personal views, so your mileage will vary – I encourage your feedback and perspectives below! And if you want to read the Minister’s speech, it’s right here: https://ministers.dss.gov.au/speeches/5266 or you can watch it here: https://iview.abc.net.au/show/national-press-club-address/series/0/video/NC1912C008S00
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Image description: banner of the word VERDICT with lines above & below, dark blue on white background. (with thanks to Susan Hoffmann even though she doesn’t want it ;))