NDIS report details mass delays, confusion

Matt Woodley

20/01/2020 4:19:59 PM

The review into the National Disability Insurance Scheme contains 29 recommendations designed to reduce wait times and improve services.

Man with a disability looking confused.
Many people have found navigating the NDIS confusing and frustrating.

Commissioned by the Federal Government following the election in May last year, the report has been released for public consultation days after it was revealed more than 1200 people died waiting to access the scheme between 2017 and 2019.
It states many people found the transition from state-based programs to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) ‘confusing and frustrating’, and that the scheme itself is complex and difficult to manage.
There are also concerns related to a lack of transparency around how the body that oversees the scheme, National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), makes decisions.
The report’s author, former senior public servant David Tune, made 29 recommendations on how to improve the program, which includes extending the life of funding support for recipients from two to three years if their needs are ‘stable’.
However, Chair of the RACGP Specific Interest Disability network, Associate Professor Bob Davis, told newsGP while the report accurately describes many of the problems found in the scheme, more work is needed to find solutions.
‘I don’t think its purpose was really to provide the absolute solution, it was more a review to identify what the problems were,’ he said.
‘It’s identified the gaps but hasn’t put forward a process outside of changing legislation of overcoming those deficits.
‘So from a GP-perspective I think it’s “watch this space” at the moment.’
However, one recommendation Associate Professor Davis believes is crucial is the ability to more easily amend disability plans.
‘In the past there have been times when plans have clearly been inadequate, but there was a real problem in getting them amended,’ he said.
‘If plans need to be reviewed, from my perspective they need to accelerate the ability to do that.
‘As well as that, I think one of the fundamental problems is workforce issues. That means, training and developing skillsets so that we have enough people able to do the assessments and provide the support. At the moment there’s quite a lag time.’
The report also calls for more flexibility in the use of NDIS funds, as well as changes that would clarify when an impairment is considered permanent for people with psychosocial disability, ‘appreciating that their needs may be episodic and fluctuate over time’.
Dr James Antoniadis, a GP and psychodynamic psychotherapist, told newsGP such a change would benefit patients and better reflect the real-world experiences of people with psychosocial disability.
‘I see patients who have had periods of up to years in which they’re functioning reasonably well with often some background emotional problems, and then years of being unable to work and totally disabled,’ he said.
‘[Under the current system] the NDIS would treat them as if they’re always having the same level of disability. But for many people, mental health issues fluctuate.
‘That also creates a situation where the patient is in a way discouraged from feeling better, for fear they’re going to be deemed to be well and no longer disabled, and therefore should have any benefits taken away from them.’
The proposed changes would also see the references to ‘psychiatric conditions’ replaced with ‘psychosocial disability’ when determining eligibility, which Dr Antoniadis supports.
‘In the past, if someone really wanted to receive disability benefits, they would seek out a doctor who’s going to find a severe enough diagnosis to justify it, rather than have someone measure their level of disability,’ he said.
‘A common one is Asperger’s syndrome or autism … because if they have a diagnosis of autism, then they can get lots of money for the school to have teacher aides etcetra. But it’s not always helpful for the child to end up with that diagnosis and if it’s inaccurate they’re probably going to get the wrong sort of help anyway.
‘The level of psychosocial disability is much more important than the actual diagnosis.’
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Dr Peter James Strickland   21/01/2020 12:32:22 PM

The biggest problem with the NDIS is who is able to access this fund, and for for what purpose? For instance, who is on the autistic spectrum, as this diagnosis is now over-used? True autism (Kanners Syndrome) is rare, and now children and adults who are a bit outside of the normal behaviour spectrum are being diagnosed (and labelled) with autism, and when they can really communicate and be educated adequately, but often have to be specially employed due to erratic thoughts or inconsistent behaviour outside community expectations. There will be people now jumping on the bandwagon of the NDIS funding --i.e how many people suffer from depression or variations of bipolar disorder --millions, and they can be disabled for work or study --are they NDIS candidates? There must be strict rules about NDIS approved persons, and being able to identify those who are literally "cashing in" on this system. The NDIS has to be for those so disabled i.e are not able to function without others.

A.Prof Christopher David Hogan   21/01/2020 12:45:30 PM

I believe that the significant discussion about NDIS benefits us all.
There are 2 main issues.
* Our understanding about ability & disability helps us define the longterm needs of our citizens (and others) & what resources we can dedicate as a society to meet those needs.
* The efficiency of our bureaucracy in delivering those services. In current times, it is a common assumption that bureaucracy is always inefficient, erratic & intransigent. This should not be the case as the systems & technologies exist to deliver smooth, consistent & adaptable services. This assumes, of course, that our government is dedicated to efficiency & does not use incompetency as an excuse to minimise their expenditure.