While the release of the latest National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) September 2019 quarterly report confirms a participant experience often characterised by frustration and delay, there are actually some very positive takeaways.
With 114,000 of the current 310,000 participants receiving funded support for the first time ever, this means access to life changing opportunities for a significant cohort of people living with disability across Australia.
Challenges and frustrations aside, it confirms the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) is committed to providing a scheme that’s inclusive and equitable, creating new and exciting opportunities for people living with disability to enhance independence, and increase social and economic participation. As one of the most important social reforms in the country’s history, this is an unprecedented time for disability service consumers in Australia – and that’s exciting!
Automatic plan extension
One of the most serious concerns for participants and providers has been one plan expiring before another one has been approved. This quarter, September 2019, the NDIA began automatically extending all plans due to run out within the next 7 days by 28 days. While this hasn’t delivered a perfect solution, it’s a very welcome start.
Longer plan duration
Subsequent to the release of the quarterly report Minister for the NDIS, Stuart Robert, announced in November 2019 that changes to NDIS planning will provide eligible participants with the option to request longer plan durations of up to three years.
‘We have listened to participants who have told us they would like greater plan flexibility, particularly the option of longer-term plans, when their support needs are unlikely to change,’ he said.
‘A longer plan duration means participants can carry on accessing supports without needing to go through frequent plan reviews and can plan for longer-term goals. It will also provide greater certainty for NDIS providers.’
The longer-term plans are designed for participants who are in a stable situation with their support needs unlikely to change, are confident using their funding to achieve their goals and are focused on longer-term goals such as learning new skills, moving into or maintaining employment or becoming more active in the community.
This is a particularly welcome announcement from participants working towards goals of independent living and transition to sustainable, supported employment.
Cutting red tape through joint planning
Since May 2019, the NDIA has been trialing joint planning, which enables the participant, Local Area Coordinator (LAC) and NDIA planner to come together in order to discuss and agree on the plan. This initiative is designed to increase a participant’s understanding of what has been approved in their plan while supporting on the spot approval.
It has delivered faster and more effective decision making which is a win-win for the participant and the NDIA.
Making it work is up to all of us
The scale, pace and nature of these NDIS changes are unprecedented and provide an opportunity to substantially improve the wellbeing of people living with disability and Australians more generally. Making it work isn’t just the responsibility of the NDIA, it’s up to all of us – government, participants, families and carers, providers and the community.