01 May 2018

Last week I spoke to Katie in Hamlyn Terrace, a mother of three young boys with disabilities.

All three have very high needs, but Katie has been told she may have to wait up to six months for an NDIS package.

Katie has already waited 12 months for a carer’s payment from Centrelink, and now her husband has had to drop back to 25 hours work a week in order for him to qualify for a carer’s payment. She is hoping his payment will come through much faster, because things are tight financially.

The couple moved up from Sydney to buy their own home, and don’t want to lose it.

They can’t afford private therapies for their children, but the publicly funded therapies on offer are not sufficient for the boys’ high needs.

They need NDIS support. It is tough going.

Unfortunately, stories like this are being raised with me all too often.

My office has been asked to help 184 people with the NDIS in the past 18 months, and each request for help is complex – participants with high needs, carers who are frustrated over long waits, mistakes in plans and cuts in supports.

A wait for six months for a package, for a review, or to access services, is not uncommon, and this causes a great deal of stress for everyone.

The NDIS has been life-changing for so many people on the Coast, but we can’t ignore the problems that some are facing with the rollout.

Participants and their carers have told me their plans are being developed with little or no input from them; that co-ordinators will not meet face-to-face to fully understand the barriers and support needed; that unnecessary reviews are resulting from a lack of consultation prior to plans being approved; and money not able to be spent in one plan is not being reinstated in the next plan.

In addition, quotes for equipment and modifications are taking too long to be approved by the NDIS, requiring a second quote and often a second occupational therapist report. In the meantime, families struggle.

Many of these problems, I believe, have come about because there not enough staff in the National Disability Insurance Agency to cope with the demand.

The Turnbull Government put a staffing cap on the NDIA, and it is clear that it must be lifted immediately.

Like all of my Labor colleagues, I am committed to ensuring the long-term success of the NDIS.

But there are many frustrations with its rollout that the Government must fix.

This "Dobell Matters" column was published in the Rural Grapevine and the Village Grapevine in May 2018.