New report reveals systemic problems with NDIS review process

Amanda Lyons

16/05/2018 1:42:31 PM

People with disability are experiencing extended delays and lack of communication as they wait – and wait – for incorrect National Disability Insurance Scheme plans to be fixed, according to a new report from the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

The report found some NDIS participants are frustrated with waiting times of up to nine months for reviews to be completed.
The report found some NDIS participants are frustrated with waiting times of up to nine months for reviews to be completed.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s (the Ombudsman) report on the administration of reviews under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has found the process to be riddled with significant systemic problems that are causing frustrating delays for scheme participants.
The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), which administers the NDIS, acknowledged to the Ombudsman that some reviews are taking up to nine months to be completed. The Ombudsman's report found these delays were taking place within a context of ‘higher than expected volumes’ of review requests, a lack of resourcing and considerable pressure on the agency to meet deadlines.
However, the Ombudsman also emphasised these issues should not be used ‘as a reason to deprioritise or delay other work, especially where the decisions in question affect participants’ daily lives’.
The NDIS review bottleneck does not come as much of a surprise to Associate Professor Bob Davis, Chair of the RACGP’s Specific Interests Disability network.
‘GPs support the underlying principle of supporting people with disability that’s come through the NDIS, although we have some concerns about the way it’s been rolled out,’ he told newsGP.
‘It’s probably understandable, given the huge workload of providing over 400,000 people with disability with a plan over a relatively short period of time … but when you have so much pressure to put through these plans and get them out there, things are falling off the side.’
Complaints detailed in the report include a lack of communication to scheme participants from the NDIA, confusion among NDIA staff about different types of reviews and time wasted during the process through double-handling.
Some participants experienced waits of up to nine months for a decision on their review request, with no progress update in the intervening time or explanation for the delay once the decision was finally made. Others had existing plans expire before a decision was made on their request for review, meaning they had to go through the whole process again if they were still unhappy with their plan.
The report concluded that, ‘Without significant efforts to improve the timeliness of NDIA’s administration of reviews and communication with participants, there remains a risk that participants’ right to review will be undermined and review processes will continue to lack fairness and transparency and drive a high volume of complaints’.
The Ombudsman made 20 recommendations during the report, all of which have been accepted by the NDIA. In its response, the NDIA said it accepted the merit of the recommendations and has commenced initiatives to improve the administration of reviews.   
Federal opposition social service spokesperson Jenny Macklin, who is also one of the original architects of the NDIS, has called the report ‘ absolutely damning’ and remains critical of the NDIS planning process that preceded the review requests.
‘Get peoples’ plans right the first time so we don’t need all these reviews done, and people waiting for much-needed support,’ she told the ABC.

Commonwealth-Ombudsman disability-care National-disability-insurance-scheme NDIA NDIS

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