An NDIS service guarantee promised by the federal government last November to make the scheme better for participants has been delayed until 2021.

Stuart Robert

The proposed Participant Service Guarantee, which will set new timeframes for NDIS processes including decisions on eligibility, plan approvals and plan reviews, was meant to take effect from July.

But NDIS minister Stuart Robert says COVID has delayed the preparation of legislation to enact the guarantee, which now won’t be released until at least next July.

“Unfortunately the impact of the coronavirus has meant that we’ve now had to delay the consultation on the changes to the NDIS,” he said last Friday.

But he said that didn’t mean the government was sitting on its hands as he released two documents which he said would be central to reforming the scheme.

The Participant Service Charter and Participant Service Improvement Plan would deliver on the recommendations of David Tune’s 2019 review of the NDIS Act, Mr Robert said.

The review identified a range of issues with the NDIS and found many participants found it confusing and difficult to navigate.

The government supported, or supported in principle, all 29 recommendations to improve participant experience contained in Mr Tune’s review, the minister said.

The next stage for the NDIS

NDIA CEO Martin Hoffman said the documents marked the next stage in the NDIS.

Martin Hoffman

“We’ve moved from the time that we were focused on getting people into the scheme and getting first plans established, and we want to recommit to the principles and standards and outcomes that the scheme was all about,” he said.

The Participant Service charter sets out what participants can expect from the schemen including transperancy, respect and empowerment.

It also tells participants how to make a complaint and provide feedback.

The Participant Service Improvement Plan sets out some 50 things the government intends to do to improve the scheme over the next two years, including the introduction from 2021 of independent assessments paid for by NDIS.

“Independent assessment will provide an objective unbiased approach to understanding how well a person is able to function at home and in the community as well as the overall impact their disability has,” Mr Robert said.

The government also plans to introduce personalised and more flexible budgets and better operational guidelines, Mr Robert said.

National rollout of the NDIS was completed in July this year and 400,000 Australians now have an NDIS plan.

IPC Grants awarded

Meanwhile the government has announced that 138 disability organisations will get $64 million in grants to encourage the participation in the community of people with disability.

The Individual Capactiy Building grants, amounting to up to $500,000 per year for two years, are part of the NDIS Information, Linkages and Capacity Building program.

Successful projects funded under the latest grant round include leadership courses to further empower people with disability, workshops to build confidence to speak up in the community, and online hubs for helping people with disability sign up to social activities and groups.

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