NDIS ‘like a half-built plane’

The NDIS minister has compared the disability insurance scheme to a half-built plane taking off before it is finished.

The minister responsible for the NDIS has compared it to a plane taking off while still being built and admits the scheme is not always living up to expectations.

Suart Robert

In an address to the Press Club last Thursday NDIS minster Stuart Robert outlined the government’s roadmap for delivering the remaining 20 per cent of the ambitious national disability insurance scheme.

He said ten years after the NDIS was first envisaged, only 80 per cent of the rollout was completed, and problems remained that would have to be ironed out.

“The journey of rolling out this national endeavour has not and will not always be easy,” he told guests including secretary of the Department of Social Security Kathryn Campbell and NDIA CEO Martin Hoffman.

“The image of a plane taking off while still being built remains an apt description. We are about 80 per cent there, with 20 per cent left to go. And the last 20 per cent is often the hardest.”

The NDIS Quarterly report released last week shows there are currently 310,000 participants in the NDIS. Of those, 114,000 are receiving support for the first time.

Key concerns

Mr Robert said key concerns remained, including long waiting times for assistive technology and delays obtaining and reviewing plans.

The quarterly report also reveals stakeholders have reported concerns around lower than expected utilisation of plans, challenges related to thin markets and the need to respond effectively to crisis situations.

Mr Robert said retired senior public servant David Tune is currently looking at cutting red tape for providers and streamlining the system and an NDIS Participant Service Guarantee, designed to set new standards for the time it takes for key steps in the NDIS process, is scheduled come into effect midway through next year.

The quarterly figures show people are now waiting an average of 88 days for a plan to be approved, and there is currently a backlog of 5,000 quotations for assistive technology and home modifications waiting for approval. However the statistics show an improvement in both areas compared to the previous quarter.

Mr Robert said there had been a 930 per cent growth in the NDIS since transition to the plan began in 2016. The scheme will cover an estimated 500,000 people by 2025 and is expected to require an additional 90,000 workers, he said.

Workforce strategy

Mr Robert said the government is working to develop a national NDIS workforce strategy by the middle of next year to drive “one of the largest job creation opportunities in Australian history”.

The additional workers represent a doubling of the current NDIS workforce, with six per cent of the new jobs representing managerial positions, 11 per cent case and social workers, 12 per cent allied heath and around 70 per cent support workers.

The report shows there are 13,434 NDIS providers, including 797 new ones this quarter.

The registration groups with the largest number of active providers are therapeutic supports, household tasks, participation in community, social and civic activities, early intervention supports for early childhood, and daily personal activities.

The highest growth was in assistive technology, including vision, hearing and communication providers.

The peak association for disability services, National Disability Services (NDS), welcomed the minister’s acknowledgement of the thorny issues that were troubling the scheme.

But Acting Chief Executive, David Moody said the problems have long been known and highlighted by NDS, advocacy groups and NDIS participants.

“What will give the sector the greatest confidence now is to see actual progress, including reductions in red-tape, waiting times, and reconsidering pricing structures and inclusions that are leaving service providers exposed to unacceptable financial risk,” he told Community Care Review.

*This story first ran on Government News.

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