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Saturday, 31 August 2019


There are functions which rightly belong, and should remain in government hands. 
If the politicians take their Duty of Care to all Victorians seriously, they should not take their hands off the wheel ....

Another example of private outsourcing, this time regarding NDIS applications...
The Federal Government has not allocated enough staff needed to roll it out, and contractors are being used instead to implement the scheme. 

 At an alarming rate, Australia is slipping further and further away from being an egalitarian country.

The following post is in three parts. A quote from Phillip Coorey,Political Editor of the Financial Review explaining the massive underspending by Government on those with serious disabilities,a first hand account of a meeting chaired by Bill Shorten to gather feedback on the NDIS, and finally the scandal of NDIS providers living high on the hog, while disabled people are utterly frustrated, and cannot get their needs met.

Firstly let's clarify the terms.
'National Disability Insurance Scheme'  =  NDIS.
National Disability Insurance Agency which administers the NDIS = NDIA
How does it work ? Individuals with disabilities, their carers or allied professionals apply to the NDIA for a ‘package’. This consists of  a yearly, sometimes a 2 year plan, tailored to the specific needs of the client.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme  has been MASSIVELY under-spending the Commonwealth money allocated to it! This money then went back into Commonwealth Consolidated Revenue.
Severe criticisms levelled at the government prompted a last minute fiscal decision.   
Says Phillip Coorey, Political Editor of the Financial Review in March 2019 
The federal government has dampened criticism its budget surplus will be boosted by money that should have been spent on the disabled after it increased National Disability Insurance Scheme payments by about  $3.5 billion.
As a result of the extra money being rolled out, the underspend on the NDIS – money that was allocated but not rolled out – has been reduced to a forecast $1.6 billion over the next four years, the budget papers will show. Had the last-minute spending decision not been made, the underspend over four years would have been about $5 billion.
The government is facing criticism from the disability sector, the Labor states and federal Labor that the 2019-20 budget surplus to be unveiled on Tuesday could be due largely to money that was not spent on the disabled.
GUEST POST - ( wishes to remain anonymous )

"I am aware of the difficulties faced by many public housing tenants and those on public housing waiting lists. Having grown up in a Public Housing  property, I understand the need to save it as a sorely needed and scandalously scarce public resource which is why I follow and support this blog. I live in Bendigo, which has over 116,000 residents and over 1,500 public housing residences. 
But also spare a thought, dear reader, for another subset of people facing a different set of difficulties -many of them also live in public housing. These folk are people with a disability and their carers, usually their parents. 
The newly introduced Commonwealth Government National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was brought in to provide support for people with severe disabilities. It has been running for a few years now. Although I support it in principle as a very good initiative, it also has a lot of teething problems as can be seen at a recent NDIS Feedback Forum in Bendigo on 19 August 2019, organised by Bill Shorten ( Shadow Minister for the NDIS ).
The room was packed, and Bill quipped that he was still seeking counselling for the recent ALP loss at the Federal election. The purpose of the forum was to gather feedback on how the NDIS was working, to add to a forthcoming Parliamentary Review to improve service delivery. There was only time to take responses from 15 participants. Many others with their hands up, were not able to voice their experiences in the short time provided. There were many distraught mothers in the room. 

Here are some of their stories -
1-    A mother of a daughter with a disability, who is an NDIS client, said that the first year plan was rushed and inadequately delivered, and her second year plan for her daughter was rejected by NDIA. The mother appealed through the Rights Information and Advocacy Centre (R.I.A.C) in Bendigo which she said was a lifeline. She finally won her case. However she is still awaiting a standing frame for her daughter after 2 years.
2-   Another mother told how the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) who administer the Scheme rejected her disabled son’s claim. She went to Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), and fought for 10 months. She got a lawyer who took the NDIA to court. Suddenly after 12 months, the NDIA gave way and allowed her son’s claim. The lawyer took on her case pro-bono, so it did not cost her.
3-    A wife advised that her husband had a genetic disorder, and had been waiting 4 years for NDIS equipment. Her husband was under 50 and had complex needs. No comprehensive care was available for him. She told the room that the NDIA assessors don’t know what they are doing.
4-   An NDIS client who is deaf wanted hearing aids. He was advised that he did not meet the criteria. He is too exhausted and demoralised to fight anymore.
5-   A mother has a son in a wheelchair as a result of an accident. She has tried for 18 months to get a ramp built - without which her son is virtually housebound. The family took their case to R.I.A.C. which deals with disputes with the NDIA. Her son also has additional complex needs. The family ‘overspent$20,000 for what she considers essential supports for her son. She took the invoices to the NDIA but they were all rejected. So the family is out of pocket for that amount. The service provider withdrew their services, and now their son has 2 or 3 falls each week. The mother is totally exhausted. 
6-   Another mother with 8 year old son with Down syndrome, stated NDIA is a basket case. The first NDIS plan was inadequate. For over a year, they attempted to have it modified. The family contacted the Ombudsman who later advised her they were unable to help. The NDIA wanted the boy’s school to pay for speech therapy. Her request for a review was denied. She later learned that the school was not responsible for speech therapy, but NDIA was.
7-   A mother with a 7 year old son had her NDIS Plan rejected 3 times. Her son has a very rare genetic disorder which has required reconstruction surgery and his hearing and vision is impaired. NDIA could not determine his case. He now has a Plan in the second year but NDIS has cut the funds by 50%. His mother has had to curb many services, including therapists.
8-    A blind adult had 7 NDIS reviews, but the agency does not understand her needs. She is taking her case to Administrative Appeals Tribunal. She is requiring assistance technology aids.
9-    A mental health nurse advised Bill Shorten that the NDIS does not work well in her field of expertise. Only 1 in 4 clients with schizophrenia even get a plan. She feels that NDIS is failing her clients. She is upset and frustrated with a system where she cannot help her clients get the support they need. Her clients are all on government benefits. Every 2 weeks she rings NDIA on behalf of a client, but nothing happens. She told Bill Shorten that the mental health system is completely broken. She believes her clients qualify under section 24 (a) (b) or (c) of the Act governing NDIS.
10- An Occupational Therapist Support Coordinator complained that she provides assessments to NDIA on behalf of clients, but they are rejected by non-medical staff with no knowledge or education of the issues.  In 3 years not one of her applications were approved. However the clients are not advised of this rejection in writing which makes it difficult to appeal. 
11- A man in a wheelchair spoke of applying for a new wheelchair plus a power pack. He got nowhere with NDIA. He had to pay $3,000 to refurbish his current wheelchair which is over 13 years old. NDIA was taking 6 months to get his consumables to him. He relies on the NDIA website to contact the service, but he said the website was often down. He is not able to make use of his funds and he cannot pay his service providers. 
12- A mother has a young adult son with cerebral palsy, and additional complex needs. At the NDIS Review he requested support requiring $30,000 but received much less. He desperately needed a new wheelchair, and has paid $4,000 on a deposit for one. 18 months later there has still been no money from NDIA. His mother is $15,000 out of pocket and her son has broken his leg three more times.  They believe that the NDIA team are not up to the job.
13- A complaint was made by a parent that there are inadequate regulations for Disability Service Providers, and many are ripping off clients. Gardeners and cleaning services are no good. Equipment for disability is overpriced - basically a racket. He has heard of 4 cases where carers are stealing money from client’s bank accounts and wants safeguards put in place.
14- Another complaint was made to Bill Shorten that companies employ people in order to receive the Government Employment Subsidies and then sack them when the subsidies finish. This is not uncommon, and also applies to many workplaces employing people from subsets other than those with disabilities. After 6 months or so, when the Government Subsidy expires, they find a reason to terminate their employment. The outcome can be devastating to the morale of a person with a disability who has done their very best, and through no fault of theirs, find that their employment has been terminated. How many businesses are milking the system in this way?  
15- A mother has an adult son in care with a massive brain injury. She is ageing and unable to take her son, who lives in residential care, to sporting and social events. Her husband is dead. She relies on her adult daughter to do this, and wants NDIS to pay travel and incidental expenses of daughter.

Bill Shorten finalised the session, thanking all who attended.
He advised that the Coalition Government had imposed staffing ceilings on the NDIS, and because of this, NDIS has had to use contractors. He believed that this was wrong. Bill also reported that there was a high staff turnover in the NDIS Agency.

He advised the families in the room that all allocated money not spent by NDIA should be segregated in separate accounts for future NDIS expenditure.

The ALP wants the NDIS to favour 3 year plans, rather than 1 year plans. He acknowledged that Mental Health is a very difficult call for NDIA.

He is very concerned that expert medical and health reports are being rejected by employees in the NDIA with no medical knowledge.

Following the meeting winding up, a number of attendees approached Bill with their concerns. They spoke of the lack of disability housing funding available, especially to ageing parents with adult children with disabilities. NDIS SDA housing criteria only applied to a very few clients and needed to be reviewed. Bill indicated he was aware of this problem.
Meanwhile for the NDIS providers ....

From The Australian on 31.8.19

"Former Labor leader Bill Shorten has likened the leadership of the National Disability Insurance Scheme to a “runaway train” after reports that providers are wasting funds on lavish dinners and five-star hotels. Former head of National Disability Services Chris Tanti said he was shocked at the spending extravagance. “I certainly was surprised at some of the hotels people would stay at and the restaurants that were attended ... the use of chauffeur-driven limousines was extraordinary by some,” the Daily  Telegraph reported Mr Tanti as saying on Saturday.