Emma's Speeches in Parliament

The Government must get the NDIS right

June 25, 2018

I rise to support the motion put by the member for Lindsay in regard to the NDIS. We heard a lot about aspiration last week, and today I want to speak about the aspirations of some 460,000 Australians who will be assisted by the National Disability Insurance Scheme. What could be a more important aspiration than to aspire to live life to the full? This is the aspiration that the Labor Party embraced when we launched the NDIS in 2013. The NDIS is expected to transform the lives of Australians under the age of 65 living with a permanent and significant disability by providing the reasonable and necessary supports they need to live an ordinary life, the kind of life that many of us can take for granted.

The NDIS became available on the Central Coast of New South Wales from July 2016. My electorate of Dobell spans roughly half the rollout area. According to the 2016 census, in my electorate there were just over 5,000 people aged under 65 who required assistance in one or more of the three core activity areas of self-care, mobility and communication.

The NDIS is bipartisan and overwhelmingly a positive change for our whole community, but for some the NDIS isn't working as well as it could. As a local member, you sometimes here more bad news stories than good. Even allowing for this, I have considerable concerns about the rollout locally. In just over 18 months, my office has received more than 180 individual complaints about the NDIS. I am told of delays in accessing the scheme or services, of excessive or lengthy reviews, of plans being developed with little or no input from participants, of proposals that aren't good value for money, of unnecessary and distressing review processes and of inconsistency in advice between agency planners and local area coordinators.

I would like to cite just a few examples of how these problems affect the day-to-day lives of my constituents and their families. Tom received funding for a new wheelchair in his NDIS plan and provided quotes and reports, as required. More than seven months passed before his request was processed. In the meantime, his wheelchair was being held together by tape and cable ties. The wheels were held on by cable ties. Taylah has multiple disabilities and was granted access based on her autism. However, when she reached the age of seven her level of funding was reduced. As a result, Taylah sees her psychologist less often, skips OT sessions and is being treated exclusively by student speech pathologists because it is cheaper. Her review is ongoing after five months. Martha is vision impaired. During her planning meeting she told her local area coordinator she relies on an iPad and an iPhone to photograph and enlarge images or objects for viewing and uses apps such as the bus timetable to stay independent. She had borrowed the iPad from a family member, and her iPhone battery was faulty and needed to be replaced. Her LAC suggested the equipment be included in her NDIS plan. Vision Australia supported the request with an OT's report—however, it was rejected as not meeting the 'reasonable' and 'necessary' criteria. Martha's request to self-fund a portion of the cost was also rejected. To make matters worse, the agency suggested funding could be provided for a magnifier at a cost nearly seven times that of the iPad. Martha said that she was made to feel like she was greedy and that she would not have lodged a request had it not been suggested by the LAC. Daniel is an NDIS participant who has recently completed his first annual review. He requested to self-manage his plan, but this was rejected based on the agency's risk assessment after his request for a new scooter last year. Daniel tells me that his LAC incorrectly listed funding as repairs instead of replacement, and it had also been incorrectly allocated as core supports. Fixing the mistakes caused delays and distress, and, because of his experience, he requested to self-manage. He was astonished that it's also because of his experience that this request was denied. These poor experiences mean that many of my constituents have continued to struggle to get the support they need, when they hoped that the NDIS would put these struggles behind them.

In conclusion, I call on the Turnbull government to urgently address delays and problems with the NDIS rollout and its operations. I urge the government to reaffirm its strong commitment to making sure all Australians with a disability get the support they need when they need it, to ensure a smooth transition for people with disability and support providers, and to ensure a properly funded and resourced NDIS. The NDIS was introduced by Labor to provide choice and control for people living with disability. The government needs to do better. Let's get it right.

View my speech in Parliament