NDIS – Well intended: wrongly based: seriously flawed

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is required by law to provide “reasonable and necessary supports” to help eligible people with a disability live more independently.

The Agency administering  NDIS is governed by the NDIS Act, (191 pages!) the Rules and the Operational Guidelines.

Not supposed to have  predetermined criteria for ‘reasonable and necessary supports’. Different people with the same type and severity of disability may  require different kinds of help.  NDIS only funds a support if it is considered ‘reasonable and necessary’ and is directly related to a person’s disability. What’s covered varies from person to person.

Determining what supports are reasonable and necessary involves subjective assessments by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), which administers the scheme, or its contractors. 

Planners are employed or contracted by the agency to help each applicant identify their goals and draft a plan. The plan sets out the supports needed to achieve their goals. Participants are then allocated funds for these supports, which, the Agency suggests ‘must represent value for money’. Funds can only be used to achieve the goals in the NDIS plan.

NDIS offers ‘three main ways to manage your plan and its budgets (and you can change how you do this at any time, you just need to ask the NDIS) or you can choose a combination of options. Plan managed and Self managed and Agency managed  How to choose which one is challenging even for someone with tertiary education and no disability!

The NDIS uses tight definitions when  allocating individual support packages. It doesn’t duplicate other formal supports such as health and education. It does not pay  day-to-day living costs or the kind of help able to be given readily by family and friends.

Guidelines say the NDIA will fund daily living activities, social activities, aids and equipment and home modification that are necessary.  At a practical level the NDIA assessor decides what is reasonable and necessary and  if someone gets an individual support package or misses out.

NDIS delivery – more problems than you can poke a stick at, including:-

    • Baffling –  complex,  complicated, too bureaucratic and too hard to navigate
    • People are waiting too long – for entry, for support, for equipment, for reviews
    • Carers, particularly those caring for children, have often to be on hand and work 24/7 – no access to respite and help with a singularly challenging role
    • People need more help at every stage of the process – with applying, with planning, and with getting their plan into action
    • Staff lack basic skills, are not experienced in different kinds of disability and lack resources to call on when they need help.
    • Some employees and contractors stay briefly with  NDIS  – quit ASAP – too stressful and confused
    • Some people have to  go into significant debt paying for assessments to try and gain access to the scheme (if they can borrow at all)
    • People on Newstart, Disability Support Pension, the homeless and others who don’t present well to NDIS contractors and staff often see their applications rejected. Assessors have no life experience or professional understanding of these people and their needs.

In 2018, the Commonwealth Ombudsman investigated the NDIS’s handling of reviews on the basis that around one-third of all complaints it received about the scheme related to this issue. This system was judged “unapproachable” and “lacking in fairness and transparency” and leading to delays of up to nine months to receive an outcome.

The NDIA received significant criticism for spending over A$600 million in 2017-18 on consultants, contractors and outsourced staff.

NDIS is NOT an insurer or corporation – it is about people and society, not an economy

NDIS is set up as a ‘pretend’ insurer or corporation/business – it is not about $$$$ and taxes and budgets and bureaucratic crap designed to scare and belittle those in need. The disabled, aged, sick, and disadvantaged are people. We  live in a society, not an economy.

NDIS should be scrapped and what it is intended to do should be done by the Australian Government’s Department of Human Services, which includes Centrelink and Medicare and Child Support.

 Centrelink is, already,  ‘….responsible for the development of service delivery policy and provide access to social, health and other payments and service. This includes seniors, job seekers students and trainees, families, carers, parents, people with disability,Indigenous Australians , and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Medicare funds access to health care. This covers some of a disabled person’s  needs. The  Medical Benefits Scheme, provides benefits including:-

    • out-of-hospital medical services, including general practitioner (GP) and specialist services
    • selected diagnostic imaging and pathology services
    • allied health services in limited circumstances
    • medical services for private patients in public and private hospitals (excluding accommodation, theatre fees and medicines).

Suggested  ways to effectively deliver “reasonable and necessary supports” to help eligible people with a disability live more independently.

    1. If someone is unable to hold a job because of disability or the needs of a disabled person for whom they are a carer, they  should get a pension, equal to the Australian Minimum Wage, presently about $741 per week. In addition, a supplementary payment aimed at mitigating the financial pressures inherent to disability and common to most disable persons  and carers – travel to health professionals, costs with maintaining houses and equipment and similar things.
    2. Those who work despite disability  should receive supplementary payments to mitigate the additional cost inherent in travel and being in a workplace whilst suffering from a disability.
    3. These supplementary payments should be ‘generic’: those relative few who need more should get more on application – the  bonus for the relative few who need less is offset against the admin. cost of case by case application.
    4. Medicare, which already funds access to health care, should be ‘tweaked’ to cover as many needs common to people with a disability as possible. The special needs of a relative few  should be case-managed promptly competently and with empathy.

Other necessary measures suggested

A Job Guarantee Program, which Australia and much of the World needs desperately, would be particularly useful, cost effective and inclusive resource for the disabled . See this Blog September 2019 Unemployment – A Job Guarantee Solution

A Job Guarantee Program would complement programs aiding people with disability.  A Community Garden is already acknowledged to be an outstanding resource.

Those with mobility issues and many other problems find enormous difficulty  in finding work. Employers don’t appreciate that a disability need  not preclude employment. It needs to be demonstrated by a Government Agency  that the disabled are a valuable resource  too.

There is substantial evidence to suggest that obesity and being overweight along with substance abuse are significant causes or contributing factors in  many disabilities – Type 2 Diabetes, Dementia, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Alzheimer’s – many more.

National action to drawn attention to the dire consequences for both health and disability and to deter or curtail the use of junk food and ‘soda’ and promote health eating and lifestyles would be both efficacious and cost effective.

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