NDIS improvements crucial for people with disability during COVID-19

NDIS improvements crucial for people with disability during COVID-19

Friday, 28 August 2020

We welcome today’s commitment from the Australian Government to bring in a service guarantee including setting timeframes for key decisions and creating system-wide improvements, to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

‘Today’s announcement to improve the law and upgrade policies means that people living with disability should have greater choice and control in their lives during a time of significant uncertainty. This is particularly important as many people eligible for the NDIS are at high risk of contracting COVID-19,' said Rowan McRae, Executive Director of Civil Justice Access and Equity.

The Australian Government announced its whole or in-principle support for all 29 recommendations from the 2019 Tune Review and committed to making changes to set service standards, remove red tape and decrease delays for people accessing NDIS plans and supports.

‘These system improvements to the NDIS need to begin as soon as possible to reduce delays and remove barriers to people with disability accessing community supports, particularly in the context of COVID-19,’ said Rowan.

A number of recommendations advocated for by legal aid commissions in our submission to the review will be implemented, including:

  • creating a participant service guarantee with legislated timeframes and service standards
  • providing clarity on the concept of ‘reasonable and necessary’ supports and access to support coordination
  • providing clear guidance for the NDIA on eligibility for people with psychosocial disability, with a focus on recovery, and ensuring people with mental health issues are not denied access due to issues in relation to the ‘permanence’ of their condition
  • improving outreach and engagement to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and people
  • making accessible information and support and additional resources to support people to use their plans
  • greater powers for the NDIA to engage in market intervention to ensure people can access disability supports, and
  • technical legislative amendments to improve access to dispute resolution (e.g. clarifying the AAT’s jurisdiction, removing duplicate use of ‘review’, NDIA guidance on relevant consideration to undertake an unscheduled plan review).

‘In daily casework, we see the distress and hardship people with disabilities and their families endure because of unacceptable delays and unfairness in the current NDIS system. This has been exacerbated for people in isolation and for parents home-schooling children with disability, waiting for NDIS supports,” said Rowan.

Reliable services still needed for our most at-risk clients

These changes are significant, but some challenges which prevent our clients from accessing essential NDIS supports during COVID-19 were not considered as part of the Tune Review, and still need to be addressed. These service improvements could be the difference between our clients living in the community or facing extended periods of time in high-risk closed environments. To address the gaps between the NDIS and state-based services, the National Cabinet must prioritise establishing a framework that makes it clear which agency is responsible for coordinating, funding and providing services to people with disability where these gaps occur,’ said Rowan.

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