Improvements to the NDIS are a step in the right direction

Improvements to the NDIS are a step in the right direction

Monday, 28 October 2019

National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants will be better supported in the justice and mental health systems and to access transport funding. The changes come after an agreement between governments around the country.  

Coordination and help for NDIS participants in prison

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) will introduce Justice Liaison Officers to support NDIS participants in youth and adult justice systems.

Justice liaison officers will be a point of contact and bring a coordinated approach to supporting NDIS participants who are in the criminal justice systems. The council also agreed to create targeted resources and training to support the new roles.

‘We hope that justice liaison officers will make it easier for people in the justice system to access the NDIS support they need to live safely in the community’ said Sonia Law, Program Manager of Mental Health and Disability Advocacy. ‘When the NDIS and justice systems don’t communicate with each other, our clients can end up in prison longer than they should be’, she said.

For over two years we have worked with disability advocates to highlight the devastating consequences for our clients caused by a lack of coordination between the NDIS and Victorian criminal justice system.

In 2017, we drew attention to 20 year-old Francis’ case, after he was held in custody for two months despite having a fully funded NDIS plan that included accommodation and support workers, because he couldn’t find a disability service provider to support him after he was arrested. More recently we’ve shared 10 stories illustrating how NDIS market failure is  working for our clients.

‘The NDIS should support people to live independently in the community, avoid interaction with the justice system and build pathways out of prison. The introduction of Justice Liaison Officers is an opportunity to resolve problems in communication between government agencies and to secure fairer outcomes for our clients’, said Sonia.

Better coordination of mental health supports

The council agreed to improve the interaction between the NDIS and clinical mental health services to make it easier for people with mental health conditions to access NDIS supports.

A new psychosocial disability recovery framework will be developed in consultation with state and territory governments, responding to calls from mental health advocates for a fairer framework to ensure people with psychosocial disability are not locked out of the NDIS.

Transport funding

While we welcome moves to improve access to transport funding under the NDIS, we are concerned that a landmark court decision has not yet been implemented by the NDIA.

In 2017 the Federal Court ruled that the NDIS is not allowed to only partially fund the supports people with disability need to help them live their lives.

The case, on behalf of Liam McGarrigle, established that people with disability who cannot drive or access public transport in rural areas should be fully funded under the NDIS.

‘The Australian Government has made minor tweaks to the NDIA transport guideline, but many of the same issues around inconsistency of transport funding remain. The amended guideline still contains transport caps and a process for partial funding of supports. This approach was expressly rejected by the court. The McGarrigle decision applies more broadly and stands for the principle that all supports should be funded, including full transport costs’, said Joel Townsend, Program Manager of Economic and Social Rights.  

An independent review of the NDIS currently underway will consider ways to remove bureaucratic red tape and reduce delays in the NDIS through a Participant Service Guarantee.

‘The council’s announcements are welcome and will contribute to helping the NDIS live up to its promise of a brighter future for thousands of Australians. But there’s more work to be done to ensure there is effective coordination so people do not fall through the gaps and to make the NDIS work for people with different needs’, said Sonia.

More information

Read our advocacy on Reforming the NDIS to meet people’s needs.

Read the COAG Disability Reform Council announcement.

Our Independent Mental Health Advocacy service has released a Self-Advocacy for the NDIS workbook to help people with mental health issues better access the NDIS. 

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