NDIS participants need clearer timeframes and review rights

NDIS participants need clearer timeframes and review rights

Thursday, 7 November 2019

In a new National Legal Aid submission we've shared the stories of 28 clients across Australia. These clients urgently need the NDIS to do better to meet their diverse needs.

'We believe in an NDIS that works for all Australians. A fully functioning disability insurance scheme can give people living with disability, their carers and their loved ones a happier, more dignified life,' said Rowan McRae Executive Director of Civil Justice Access and Equity.

‘The stories in this submission show how critical service system gaps, lack of adequate planning and coordination and long delays, are letting down people with disability, their families and communities,’ she said.

The stories were collected for submission from National Legal Aid to the Tune Review. The review is looking at how a ‘participant service guarantee' with legislated timeframes for major decisions, could improve the current scheme.

The submission notes that a participant service guarantee should ‘provide a framework for enforceable minimum standards that decision makers can rely on to recognise their responsibilities, and participants, carers and families can use to understand their rights. A specific and enforceable framework would help to make sure the NDIS operates effectively’. This includes a service safety net for clients with complex needs like Alex, a young man who is currently in prison not because of the seriousness of his offending, but because no suitable supported accommodation can be found for him.

‘Because there was nowhere for Alex to go, he was sent to prison. For almost a month he was held in 23-hour isolation, locked in a tiny cell in conditions which had a significant detrimental impact on his health and wellbeing.’

Read Alex’s experience.

The submission also shares stories of people who have faced problems with NDIS plan reviews and appeals. Sasha’s son Marcus is five years old and has autism. She says she has been in what feels like an ‘endless battle’ with the NDIA to access intervention therapies which were not included in his original NDIS plan.

‘Dealing with the NDIA has been a painful experience. I feel like I have been banging my head against a brick wall. Just when we think we have taken one step forward, we are forced two steps back. We will never stop fighting for our son but it shouldn’t have to be this hard to get the help he needs and deserves.’

Read Sasha’s experience.

In the 2018–19 financial year, legal aid commissions provided 910,348 more intensive legal services to people. At least 154,281 of these services were to people with a disability.

Many legal aid clients are eligible for or receiving services under the NDIS and have diverse legal needs. Because of this we see how the NDIS functions for the most disadvantaged members of our communities.

‘When the NDIS works, it provides vital supports for our clients to live well and safely. When the NDIS fails, it can lead to people struggling to get through each day, losing care of their children or being deprived of their liberty’ – National Legal Aid submission to the Tune Review.

Summary of recommendations

Creating a participant service guarantee that makes genuine improvements to the NDIS

Ensure the service standards – in legislation, rules, policies and guidelines – set effective timeframes, improve accessibility for target groups and improve responsiveness where there is a serious risk of harm.

Guaranteeing a service safety net

Introduce a system to catch people with complex needs when the NDIS market fails, including an enforceable obligation to ensure the participant receives their funded supports and clear responsibility for coordinating, funding and providing services when the market fails.

Improving access and supporting eligibility

Changes to guidelines and practice to remove barriers to access, including relevant, accessible information and support to obtain documents or evidence when applying for a plan.

Creating a plan that sets a person up to achieve their goals

Changes to guidelines and practice to place people with disability at the centre of planning processes and ensure they receive tailored, appropriate plans that improve their lives and wellbeing, including building pathways out of restrictive mental health units and prisons.

Making sure people can use their plan

Changes that support people to use their plans, including resources that help people understand their plan and its potential, recognition of the role and importance of skilled support coordinators for people with complex needs, and measures to improve access to services in regional, rural and remote areas.

Ensuring clear, accessible and efficient reassessment and review processes

System improvements to the reassessment and review processes, including shorter timeframes and creating a pathway for urgent reassessments and reviews to prevent serious harm.

Appealing and resolving disputes quickly, easily and fairly

Technical legislative amendments to ensure that disputes resolve quickly and easily, without people being denied supports pending a review decision.

More information

Read the National Legal Aid submission to the Tune Review 

Read our recent update Improvements to the NDIS are a step in the right direction from October 2019

Get help with the NDIS – find out if you are eligible for free Victoria Legal Aid assistance

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. 

Read our other submissions about the NDIS.

Read about our clients experiences with the NDIA

Read Sasha's story – fighting an endless battle for her son's needs.

Read Alex's story – stuck in prison because he had nowhere else to go.

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