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Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme - 14/04/2014

CASEY-ELAND, Ms Shona, Acting Chief Executive Officer, YMCA Geelong

FITZGERALD, Dr Jennifer, Chief Executive Officer, Scope (VIC) Ltd

HARRIS, Mr Rodney, Chief Executive Officer, Motor Neurone Disease Victoria

HAYES, Ms Karen, Chief Executive Officer, Guide Dogs Victoria

MALONE, Mrs Rosemary, Chief Executive Officer, Gateways Support Services

MARTINEZ, Mr Michael, Chief Executive Officer, Diversitat

MEARS, Ms Libby, Chief Executive Officer, Leisure Networks

ROSEBURGH, Mr Robert, Director, White Cross Healthcare

STILL, Mr Anthony John, General Manager, St Laurence Community Services

VALENTINE, Mr Peter, Chief Executive Officer, Geelong Taxi Network

CHAIR: Welcome back. The reason we have kept you waiting is that we had such a stimulating morning and we certainly did not want to cut off any of our participants from having their say. You are equally as important in this equation, so I welcome you all here.

On behalf of the committee, I declare open this hearing of the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme. As you are all well aware, the NDIS is a significant national reform and one that the Australian government and the Australian parliament as a whole is committed to delivering. We all hope that the scheme will change lives—and we certainly heard this morning that it has changed lives—for the better. This committee was created in December last year. Its main responsibility is to monitor and inquire into the administration and the implementation of the NDIS. The purpose of our visit here today is to provide all of those involved with the NDIS the opportunity to tell us about their experiences with the scheme to date.

We have 12 members on this committee: six members of the House of Representatives and six senators. I am Mal Brough, the chair, and I am from the federal seat of Fisher, in the state of Queensland. My deputy today is Senator Alex Gallacher from South Australia. You will all know Jenny Macklin, of course, the former Minister for Disability Reform, also a Victorian—and a Cats supporter! On my far left is Senator Barry O'Sullivan from Queensland, an LNP member. The Hon. Ursula Stephens from New South Wales is on my right, and Jill Hall from New South Wales is on my far right. Also on the committee but unable to be here with us today are the former Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, the Hon. Amanda Rishworth; Senator Zed Seselja from the ACT; Senator Dean Smith from Western Australia; Steve Irons from Western Australia; and Dr David Gillespie of the Liberal Party, from Port Macquarie in New South Wales. There is one Green, Senator Rachel Siewert from Western Australia.

Today's is a public hearing and subject to formal parliamentary proceedings which will be recorded by Hansard here on my right and with a live audio broadcast from the Parliament House website. A copy of the public transcript will be available on the committee's website. While this session is in public, there will be an opportunity later to provide evidence to be taken privately, and for those people who have indicated that they would like to give in-camera evidence, I would ask you to withhold your comments or to limit them in this forum because time is short. If you think that there is something pertinent to the entire group you are welcome to say it but we do encourage you not to repeat what you are saying in the open forum in the closed forum simply because there is a limit to our time today.

In giving evidence to the committee, you are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to a committee. Such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to a committee. Under parliamentary privileges an officer of a department of the Commonwealth or state shall not be asked to give opinions on matters of policy and shall be given reasonable opportunity to refer questions to superior officers or to a minister. The next meeting that we hold as a committee will be in Hobart later this week and then we will also be moving to the other trial sites at Newcastle and Adelaide next month. I take it that there is no requirement for an Auslan interpreter this session.

Finally, Hansard will not be able to pick up your interjections so unless you have the microphone your comments will not heard or recorded in Hansard. I would ask you to be patient and courteous to others and, when given the opportunity, you are requested to clearly state your name and the organisation that you represent. So with all of that, welcome.

I should state at the outset that this committee is as one in wanting to ensure the successful implementation of program, the NDIS. Our only purpose is to ensure to the best of our abilities that we can reflect some of the comments, the feedback, the bouquets and other comments that are coming forward and, in doing so, try to assist those who are implementing and governing the process. With that, the floor is yours and we are here to hear what your experience has been.

Mr Still : Tony Still from St Laurence Community Support in Lara. The providers have attempted to move from a charity to the free market and have done so without the necessary support and without essential information from NDIS, and whilst putting consumers at the front of all their concerns. Most providers in both the Barwon area and the Hunter are predominantly small businesses, well under $10 million annual revenue. The small providers have a board of management not a governance board.

Small businesses do not have the resources or the expertise to migrate from a charity to a business especially in the time frame given. For the larger providers, the change has come at significant cost. St Laurence, for instance, had to put on well over four staff including chartered accountants just to look at the plans that have been coming in from the NDIS to determine whether they are correct, and on our record the estimation of incorrect plans is somewhere around 80 per cent at the moment. The other thing that the extra staff are doing is determining whether or not the plans are financially viable.

We talk about a free market, but we are not a free market when the prices are set for us. Unlike other health providers, we do not have the ability to co-bill so we cannot provide upskilling for our staff and we also cannot provide the basic repairs for our buildings and all the other things that go with running a business.

We are not a free market when we cannot charge for no-shows, and with our clients there is always going to be a fairly highly number of no-shows. So if one of our buses turns up at somebody's house and they are not available at that time, we do not get paid.

So we are basically stuck between a free market, with all the restrictions that apply, and a government-run type of organisation, with those sorts of restrictions. The charity model in the past has always put the client at the forefront of the business model, and the providers in the Barwon trial site have done that and have attempted to do that right through this trial. It has been to the detriment of the providers. That is all I will say in this first instance. But the premise that we are a free market is certainly not true at this point.

CHAIR: I am sure there will be lots of questions of you. Thank you for your contribution. At the outset, do you have any solutions? Is there anything that you would like to throw up as a way forward?

Mr Still : When we are trying to change the culture from, say, a charity to a business, business models need to be looked at and resources need to be put in place to assist the small and large businesses. Our operation alone would have had to spend well over half a million dollars just to become NDIS ready and everything is changing on a daily basis. So our business models are in and out all the time. Financial support for the providers would certainly help.

CHAIR: Jill, would you like to start?

Ms HALL: Thank you. This morning we heard from participants who identified that the price that providers are charging are nearly double the price that they pay if they go out and purchase those services themselves. I wonder whether you could comment on that for the committee and share with us the rationale for that.

Mr Still : I find it an interesting comment, especially given that the prices are set by the NDIS. The prices are determined for us. For a consumer to say that we are charging more than we have before is an interesting comment.

CHAIR: Just to put this meat on the bone, what they were saying was that, particularly for the so-called interventions or services, there is a set fee but that set fee is a lot higher than what they were previously charging. In your experience, are the fees that are now being dictated to you higher, lower or roughly the same as they were before, in your particular case?

Mr Still : There is very little consistency and that goes to the heart of the matter, that the plans are being pushed out by the NDIS very, very quickly. So there is very little consistency in the plans. For some of our consumers, the average cost of a plan has gone up. A lot have gone down and we have been forced to make hard decisions, to say, 'We can't provide that service anymore; you'll have to go somewhere else.'

Senator O'SULLIVAN: That was not the question. The question the chair just asked you was: in your experience, are there services that you are now providing where the fee, or the per diem—however you charge—is higher than an identical or similar service that you were providing, say, 12 months or 24 months ago?

Mr Still : I would say no, again, because all of the services that St Laurence provides have a set fee. We are not going out to tender for any hardware interventions or those sorts of things. We run day programs and ADEs.

Senator GALLACHER: You said that 80 per cent of the plans you see are incorrect. Can you just tell us in what way are they incorrect?

Mr Still : There are the general mathematical errors where four days at six hours is apparently 30 hours over a week. There are plans that do not add up as far as the interventions are concerned. The plans can be very, very detailed if a person is using a number of different providers, so we are trying to ascertain when we can put the person into a service. The plans can be missing things like transport or services and support that the person has had in the past. So we have a number of people going through those plans with a fine toothcomb.

Senator GALLACHER: You mentioned the financial aspects of them. Can you just flesh that out?

Mr Still : We have done our sums. I assume you are not talking about the unit cost that we have looked at for each of the services?

Senator GALLACHER: I am just repeating it back to you. I think you said 80 per cent were incorrect and financially unviable.

Mr Still : Financially unviable is where we will be given a plan for 43 weeks on the basis of holidays and various different times when the consumer does not think they will be available, according to NDIS. We still pay our staff 52 weeks of the year, so on that basis a $22.70-odd an hour plan will not be viable.

CHAIR: What is your interaction with NDIA? What is your feedback on the discussions you are having regarding these points?

Mr Still : I probably have as great an interaction with NDIA as anybody here, because I am also chair of the GRAND organisation and the BREG, the Barwon Regional Engagement Group. I would probably meet with NDIA at least fortnightly with their manager down here or other people.

CHAIR: Rather than just how often, I am after how you are being responded to. I take it you have raised all of these issues. What is the dialogue like?

Mr Still : The dialogue has been very open but there is little that can be done. Also, through the GRAND we have written to NDIA with some suggestions, and that has not been responded to.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Let me, firstly, ask you the lead question: you pay a service provider that is employed by you an hourly rate for their services—correct?

Mr Still : We employ staff and we pay them as per award wage.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Yes, but when you on-charge for that service to the NDIA, you charge at different rates, don't you?

Mr Still : No. We receive a price from the NDIA. It may be $22.70 an hour or $15.48, for which we have to provide a service.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Then the question is: is the amount that you are paid by the NDIA greater or lesser than what you pay your employee?

Mr Still : It basically depends on how many consumers we have in a particular activity. If we have one or two, then it is below. If we have three or four or five and they have high needs, then the service and support lowers. I am not sure I understand your question.

CHAIR: Obviously there are some plans that you are happy with—20 per cent. So what constitutes a good plan, in your eyes?

Mr Still : One that actually looks at the needs of the consumer long term, one that is not just a six-month rollover from the old day plans, one that actually looks at the service and support that they need, one that looks at a continuum for the consumer, one that looks at early intervention in certain areas, where you are spending a little bit more along the lines of an insurance model so that further down the track you are spending less.

CHAIR: Thanks, Tony. I appreciate your comments. Anyone else?

Mr Harris : I am from the Motor Neurone Disease Association, Victoria. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to be here today. Motor neurone disease is a rapidly progressing degenerative disease that kills people. The average life expectancy is two to three years. So it brings a different context to the NDIA and the NDIS, because we are having to address the needs of people over a relatively short period of time.

We see a real failure in the NDIA in not looking at the experience, knowledge and skills of organisations that are working with low-incidence, small client numbers and drawing on them to help, in particular in planning, to ensure that people are receiving the best possible services and support. We are largely self-funded—20 per cent of our funds come from government that will be eventually contributed into the NDIA and 80 per cent we raise ourselves. So to talk about cost of service delivery, all of our services are largely underpinned by the public through fundraising.

We have made a number of suggestions to the NDIA. One is about bundling for people who have a progressive neurological condition, whereby they should automatically have a small selection of the core needs that we know every person, for example with motor neurone disease, has—some funds to rent equipment; some funds for complex case coordination; and some funds for, for example, respite care. The proposal was put to the NDIA and whilst it was received enthusiastically at the top, it went down like a lead balloon the further through the organisation we went. But we still believe that the NDIA is not drawing on the skills, knowledge and experience of the organisations particularly in this area. We tend to find that we have been treated like the enemy. Communication was very poor. In the last two months there has been a remarkable turnaround. I think the second quarter report has actually raised the issue of more effective use of resources that exist in the community and being able to actually return emails and provide information when it is requested.

There are some confusing issues that are complicated in Victoria by the in-kind relationship that the state government has with the NDIA. We run an equipment service. We run a rental service and not a purchase and forget service. That means our equipment is delivered, used, recovered when it is no longer needed, refurbished and reissued. But we tend to find that the NDIA keep on referring people to the state-wide equipment program, which is a purchase-and-forget program. For the NDIS and the NDIA that is not an efficient use of resources, when people are only going to use a piece of equipment for a relatively short period of time—perhaps two years, perhaps less.

We hold out is great hopes for the NDIA. People with motor neurone disease, people with progressive neurological conditions, have been on the margins of state government funding for many, many years. We see the NDIA as providing the opportunity to provide the services that those people need and want. But it will happen only with the best outcomes if the organisations that are involved in that service delivery now are engaged in the planning process. We would recommend that for low-incidence diseases—and motor neurone disease is my disease, so I have no shame in touting for it. The motor neurone disease association is ideally placed to provide the planning service for clients with that disease. We are already in contact with between 90 and 95 per cent of people with motor neurone disease in this state. That means we have 30 years of experience with the bulk of people who experience this disease, are able to help them, and have been doing so for the 30 years we have been in existence.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Senator GALLACHER: In regard to the problems you cite about not picking up the experience, knowledge and skills which already exist in relevant organisations, what do you ascribe that to—the planner or is it higher up the authority chain?

Mr Harris : It is with respect to the staff that have been recruited by the NDIA. They are generalist staff, which means they have excellent knowledge of a broad range of most common disabilities and the service needs of those clients. But they have little or no knowledge of the lower incidence, more complex diseases. We have planners who say, 'We are going to buy an electric wheelchair for that person because their average life expectancy on this letter from a doctor is five years and it is cheaper for us to do that,' but we know that average life expectancy across the last 30 years is about 27 months. To spend $15,000 on an electric wheelchair versus $6,000 to rent it for two years is not a good business decision for the NDIA, let alone common sense.

CHAIR: You also raised the issue of bundling. You are basically saying that, for circumstances such as those of your client base, a lot more flexibility would be advantageous both to them as individuals and to their lifestyle but also would be a lot more cost-effective. Is that basically it?

Mr Harris : What I am saying is that the needs of a person with motor neurone disease progress so quickly that an automatic entitlement to a small bundle of services that encompasses equipment, case coordination and probably respite actually gets them started in the system, so they can then experience their disease and their disability and identify the key needs that they have as time goes on.

We read about 19 hours for the average planning time. We have already suggested to the NDIA that we could do a first-up plan for a person with motor neurone disease in under three hours, based on our knowledge, our skills and the experience that we have had with so many of these clients. It is a business decision. It is a sensible business decision and a cost-effective decision that we are putting to them, but it is rejected on philosophical grounds that are probably well sustained in the Productivity Commission report. But—when you are running a business—we want the NDIA to get the best value for all people with disabilities. If we can save money at the low-incidence end, then that is what we should be doing.

CHAIR: Thanks, Rod. We appreciate your comments. We will now go to the gentleman at the back.

Mr Martinez : Thank you. I am Michael Martinez, the CEO of Diversitat. We are an organisation that represents the Ethnic Communities Council, so 50 ethnic groups. We took it upon ourselves in the last few months to employ someone to look at the specific needs of people from refugee backgrounds. We estimate that there are about 60 in Geelong who could potentially be registered with the service but are not, and we calculated that we did 50 hours at least of unpaid work to get one person from a refugee background registered. We have run out of money, and we managed to get a little bit of money from the Shine on Foundation to put together this report over the next couple of months.

One of the things that I looked at in terms of a parallel in reform was when, prior to the setting up of the Job Network by the Howard organisation, we had One Nation and we had ESRA. At that time, the federal government funded our organisation and others around Australia because they saw that there was a new service that was being developed, albeit a labour exchange program. Organisations like ours actually got some funding.

Now we have received nothing, and I think it is not necessary that we do. However, there are a large cohort of people—and I would suggest that the Indigenous people would be in a similar type of situation—not only in Geelong but in other parts of Australia. The organisations that have represented them for many years have not got the capacity necessarily to advocate within the new system. Naively, we also thought when we registered originally—because we are registered as a service provider; we do not get any state government or federal funding for people with disabilities, though—that maybe there was a capacity for us to assist in terms of brokerage. One of the other things we do also is financial advice, because, if you logically extend it out, you are talking about some of these refugee families, and they are very frugal—they know how to stretch a dollar—but they certainly do not have the capacity necessarily to deal with big pots of money and the decisions that come with that.

I do not have the answers. I can give you a report once Megan, whom we employed, has completed her work, and she has done an enormous amount of work. We have had a huge number of consultations with our ethnic groups, individually and with the groups. We are working with some of the local agencies—with Gateways. We are setting up some new training, I guess, for those organisations and some new protocols. We have about eight funding submissions, as well, with philanthropics.

I guess one of the things is that we see, similar to what the gentleman was saying about the motor neurone society, that there is a certain amount of expertise that you have embedded in this community that at this point—and we are trying with the agency—has largely just been ignored because we are not an existing service provider. That is kind of it, in a nutshell.

CHAIR: Thank you. I appreciate that. As there are no questions from the committee, we will just take your comments on board. Thank you very much for making them. Who would like to be next?

Mr Valentine : Good afternoon. I am Peter Valentine, the CEO of the Geelong Taxi Network. We are also very proud to have been associated with the NDIS since day one. We believe we were the first transport company registered. However, our issues are not so much in the financial zone but more in the administrative areas, predominantly because our rates are currently approved by the minister for transport and as of 1 July will be set by the Essential Services Commission. In particular, once we set up our transport program, we did speak to NDIS and offered to NDIS—and we still extend that offer—the potential to develop the plan for the dispatching of taxis in Australia. The main reason is that the main dispatch is almost a national system, called an MTData system. Therefore we believe that, if we work closely with NDIS once we roll this out and do it properly in this state, the owners of that system, which is adopted by the majority of large companies, will be able to cope with that.

At the present, we can dispatch easily for single transport users but not for multiple transport users, which is very difficult although totally essential with respect to the NDIS budget and in particular, also, in the assistance of the state government with the MPT Program. If we allow people to travel individually all of the time, we can see that those costs will blow out hugely and, in addition to that, it causes huge bottlenecks at the respective areas where we drop off or pick up if we have too many cars in the one area.

Our issues with regard to administration, however, relate to the fact that, for example, we get the plans far too late. For example, we may get a plan three months after an approval date, and this causes quite a number of issues. First of all, there has not been enough discussion with the planner as to what steps should be taken to speak to a transport provider. We have developed a brochure to give to NDIS to give to the client so that they know what steps to take. And then—when these plans do arrive to us three months later—we have not at one point in time since 1 July stopped transporting people, and we carried the finance debt for six months before we were able to get one stick of payment. The point here is not to do with the finance but to do with the organisation, because at that point in time we had already invoiced other service providers, such as some who have already spoken today. They may have already paid. We get a plan that is backdated two or three months, and there is a lot of messing around and toing and froing to try and identify those individual trips and then credit the actual people or the organisations.

We are told that we could have 2,000 people, for example, in the space of a couple of years under this program. If they travel morning and night five days a week, that is 20,000 individual entries for a little company like ours—although we are the largest urban company in Victoria, with 150 cabs and 589 drivers. I am totally scared, unless we get it right down here, about what will happen when it hits a capital city.

The next issue that we have is with regard to the portal. Say we take a ream of paper. When we go to put a participant into the portal, we can roughly say that a third of those will not go into the portal for whatever reason. We have incorrect information, or the information does not marry with whatever has been put in at the NDIS end.

For the next one-third of that ream of paper, the provider will go in and the system will accept it until it has to be updated to be submitted, and at that point in time one-third of those will not be able to be acceded to, mainly because again, we believe, a number of the issues have not been entered, or the features have not been entered, into the system that will accept. So, if we had three trips equalling $10, we might have to put 10 trips equalling $1 to make the thing work. That does not seem to be efficient.

Finally, one-third out of the ream does get accepted. Even at that point in time when it does, we normally have two or three where, although they have been approved ready to be submitted, the computer will spit those back out, and then there is a long process through the staff to get those corrected.

We have been, accordingly, setting up a spreadsheet of each particular batch that we put through—probably unnecessarily, but in order to get the issues addressed—but we are finding that, even with that spreadsheet, since January we would only have had 20 per cent of those items addressed. So, despite speaking to computer people in other states, we are not able to budge that issue.

The other concern that we have also is that we can see that there are a large number of accounts that we have not actually put in. So, if you think that the NDIS may have factual figures about our accounting, for example, for our organisation, you may very well be 20 or 30 per cent out from the actual estimate because we have not been able to get those items in.

Our other concern is quite a practical concern, and that is that we struggle to understand how we are going to identify customers. I will give you a very simple example. If a person steps out of a shopping centre or a railway station and asks to hop into a taxi, whilst we may have set up a dispatch procedure behind that gives all of the details of the plan, the driver, because this is a walk-on hail, is not able to identify whether that person is or is not an NDIS client. Likewise, if there is a person who lives next door to an NDIS person, it can quite easily lead to abuse of the account. The person next door phones up. He says: 'I'm Charlie Brown. I'm from the NDIS and I wish to go to XYZ destination.' The car pulls up. It pulls up out the front. He walks in. He gets into the car. The account gets charged to NDIS. There is no accountability for any client in that respect. There is no linking to the MPTP card system. So these are the issues that we believe should be addressed in order to tighten the system up and also give our dispatchers more fluency for their dispatch.

CHAIR: Michael, I know the committee is going to have some questions for you—and I should say to everyone that this is not the only opportunity you will have. Anytime you want to drop something to the committee, that is what we are here for: a clearing house to take these questions up to try and get answers—as well as your normal processes. Can we leave it there for the moment and just try and get a little bit of detail, because your questions about cabs also were brought up by many of the participants. If I can just start with that—and I am sure that my colleagues will have some questions—the first one was that they do not know, when they get in your cab, whether it is an NDIA funded trip or whether it is a private trip. And they do not know, for their own personal reconciliation of the money—and you have half gone to it, because of the portal, by the sounds of things—whether, if the NDIA has paid you $100, it was for that trip, this trip or three trips or where it ended. So they are uncertain about the potential for fraud or mismanagement as well, or whether you are overcharging. So can you just give us a little more of an understanding there, please?

Mr Valentine : Sorry, I should correct—probably the microphone was not on. It is actually Peter Valentine, not Michael.

CHAIR: I am sorry, Peter. That is me.

Mr Valentine : That is not a problem at all. Our concerns, I suppose, are that first of all, when we get the plans, some plans are very simple and some plans are extremely detailed. Some, for example, might cover multiple trips to all sorts of things between work placements. We have one that has actually nominated so many medical appointments in Melbourne and eight trips to the football, for example.

What seems to be an issue, first of all, is with the planner. One particular gentleman rang up and he said, 'I want to go to XYZ,' and our dispatcher said: 'Well, hang on a second. We've got the plan and it doesn't allow for that.' So do we dispatch a cab or not? However, we did.

The confusion then is whether or not this person's trip is then actually funded. That part is more controllable because we have the details in our dispatch system. Where it is uncontrollable is where you walk out of a shopping centre or a railway station, for example, and want to hop into a cab, because no-one has any ID or any idea of what your plan is or who in actual fact you are.

CHAIR: Thank you. So the administration is a massive issue?

Ms HALL: So would you take the pay as being NDIA pay and send the account to NDIA? If they refuse to pay, then you would send it to the client? Is that how it works? I just need to understand how it works.

Mr Valentine : As I said, in the majority of cases the drivers, if they have a walk-on fare, will try to gain as much information from their dispatch operator as possible. I do not believe we have rejected or refused any transport to anyone in Geelong. Yes, we would do it. Whether we would get it back out of the client is another issue again. In that instance, there may be a chance.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Do you have any sense of how the NDIA evaluates the transport package? Does it have natural limitations? A witness earlier talked about, I think, six events each month to assist in getting to their place of employment and back. You just talked about a package with eight trips to the football. To me, there would seem to be a conflict if someone were able to get eight trips to the football as opposed to six trips to get to their employment. Do you know whether there are any parameters around this?

Mr Valentine : To be honest, I am not aware of any. We have one particular client who is approved for a trip every three months to see her grandmother, at a total trip value of $15 a day. We have other people who are spending something like $2,500 a month. I am not sure how that is set up. We have not been involved in that but we would be happy to get involved in that. We do direct planners, where possible, to the government website to do like a trip-planned cost. However, we have found that in a number of instances they are nowhere near the mark.

Senator GALLACHER: What percentage of your business is the wheelchair-access mobility fleet?

Mr Valentine : Let me just correct what I have just said in case I have misled you. I am talking about total NDIS work which, out of our 150 standard cars and wheelchair accessibles, would be about 30 to 40 cars of a morning and afternoon. In addition to that, there would be 24 wheelchair-accessible taxis. In this city we do between 1,500 lifts and 1,800 lifts per week for people in wheelchairs. The same number of lifts is done in the city of Adelaide, with 70 cars.

Senator GALLACHER: With a limited knowledge of South Australia's access cab system, predominantly their work is moving people around with mobility issues. They are regular clients, they are booked clients, and there is a voucher system. I have not heard of any problems—and there may well be problems—where there is misaccounting or maladministration, which is the way I would typify it. Don't you have an existing system that works?

Mr Valentine : Absolutely. We have an accounting system.

Senator GALLACHER: So what has changed?

Mr Valentine : We do have an accounting system and there is a docket system that actually operates. What has changed now is that there has been a transition from providers paying for transport to individuals via NDIA paying for transport. The issues are, firstly, the backdating where there has been confusion about pay. Secondly, we are now going to individual trip charges, which we want to make electronic. We have been able to make electronic dispatches for 1,000 standard individuals but, at this point, without development with the national dispatch provider we cannot do that for multiple trips. Our concern in that particular area is that if the portal is not working in a manual sense it is never going to work in an electronic sense. So we are happy to work with them and the provider to get that correct. Does that help?

Ms HALL: Your role is to provide the taxi service, not to determine whether the taxi service is needed. That is the role of the planners, isn't it? So you could not make a comparison between the needs of the person—for example, which is of greater importance to that person, going to see their grandmother or going to the football?

Mr Valentine : No, it has got nothing to do with us at all.

Ms HALL: I just wanted to establish that for the record: yours is to provide the service, not to determine what service is needed.

Mr Valentine : Correct. We provide the service according to the plan.

CHAIR: Thank you, Peter. It is sobering. There is a lot of work to be done there.

Ms Mears : I am the CEO of Leisure Networks, a registered disability services provider in the Barwon region. We have been here for around 20 years. Thank you for this opportunity. It is fantastic to come and hear you and engage with you. It is a privilege to be in the Barwon trial site. It really is a time of amazing change, and the organisation and the team that I lead are fully engaged and fully committed to being part of it. Notwithstanding that, there are issues—and you have heard some of them. Some of the technology issues are a real challenge and we know that improvements are required. At times, we have insufficient information coming back from the agency. That is frustrating. These are issues that I expect would be part of a trial, so they will continue. I talk to the staff about things changing—that they keep changing and we need to learn. I think it is about engaging with providers. Although engaging at the operational level is important, there are probably more opportunities for providers to engage to inform some of the strategic directions so that our experiences might improve and so that we are actually all part of moving forward together. I will leave it at that. I think the providers are probably not as engaged as they could be. There are a lot of day-to-day challenges, but in talking about strategic opportunities, I think that would be really valuable.

With the scheme, we see fantastic outcomes every day. There are wonderful stories that we are seeing and that our staff are engaged in. But it is true that it is working best for people who can advocate for themselves or have people around them who are able to advocate for them. I think that might be part of the challenge—that, in the really challenging and complex cases, the plans coming out that are the best for them. I think the funding to support some DSOs to really support some strong advocacy is fantastic and it is really needed, particularly down here.

I think the policy setting to encourage and reward service innovation is not there yet. There are some very low-funded services. The social and community participation rate of around $34.50 an hour is low. It is lower than what DHS used to fund service providers for connecting people into community activities. The same service in South Australia is $40 an hour. So we have got two services that are the same but with different rates. That is low. When you are making a loss—and all providers are making a loss on that—you do get a bit risk averse around innovation and the opportunity to be creative. And that is a very critical area. So, when the free market arrives, I expect that that rate will need to rise, but some innovation will come with it as well.

Finally, I think it is fantastic that participants can walk out the door with a really well developed individual plan. We are seeing a lot of that. We are seeing some great plans. But it is not enough for participants to come out with their plan. We actually have to think about what our program of community and capacity building in the broader sector looks like so that people can truly engage with their community in a way that embraces everyone's abilities. So people having the money to engage and choose their life is one part of the story; the other part is about ensuring our community and our society are able to fully embrace and welcome people of all abilities into a whole range of mainstream environments. So I would really encourage some targeted work around community development.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: So when you provide an hour of support it is invoiced at $34-plus an hour whereas the employee would be receiving $22 or $23 an hour?

Ms Mears : What you need to do is cost your service. To deliver a service you have employee costs and then you have whatever on-costs the business needs to run.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I understand this perfectly. I have got 150 staff at home.

Ms Mears : So you know.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I just want to come back to the question. I understand how you arrive at a base rate for the cost of services and then put a margin in a free market. But the fact of the matter is that the fee you are paid is greater than the simple hourly rate of the employee who delivers the service on behalf of your company. I am concentrating on salary. I know there are all sorts of other on-costs.

CHAIR: You are getting a fee from NDIA?

Ms Mears : Correct. There is a price per service, yes.

CHAIR: What Barry is trying to establish is that that is different from what you are paying the employee per hour. If the award rate is $25 an hour, are you getting $25 an hour from NDIA?

Ms Mears : No. You are getting more than $25 an hour, absolutely.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: That leads me to the next question. The on-costs, the additional costs—the amortisation of the rent, parking, electricity and all those sorts of things—often vary from region to region. In fact, the base labour cost can vary, notwithstanding that there is an award. If you are trying to attract someone into a position, oftentimes the more remote the community the more expensive it is. Do you know if that is recognised in what the NDIA is doing? Is the payment reward you receive here in Geelong different perhaps from what you might receive somewhere else in the nation?

Ms Mears : The example I was using was our social and community participation cluster. The same cluster service is paid at a different rate in South Australia—$40—

Senator O'SULLIVAN: With the NDIA? I thought you were talking about—

Ms Mears : Yes, the NDIA. In South Australia it is $40 an hour, and in Victoria we are getting $34.50. Frankly, I cannot understand it. I think it has been acknowledged that that is a very low rate, and I do not think there is anyone in the room who can deliver that service for that amount. DHS were not delivering it for that amount. Possibly the TAC does, but we know they are undercharged. I think the service providers in this area are using social and community participation as a loss leader. I cannot think of anyone who would be delivering it at cost.

Ms MACKLIN: Is the NDIA engaging with you on this?

Ms Mears : We had always believed that that price was up for review. We have gone on now for eight or nine months and it has not been able to be reviewed. I understand NDS were negotiating around the review. We certainly engaged in that process. We did detailed costings. We provided NDS with our detailed costings to demonstrate that we could not get it down below a certain price point. Each agency is different—because overheads are different depending on scale. I have not heard any further feedback. We think we are going to go to market in July and that will be when the price change is. Really, it will have been 12 months where providers have been delivering social and community participation at a loss.

CHAIR: Thank you, Libby. I appreciate your contribution.

Mr Roseburgh : I am from White Cross Health Care, a registered provider. I will start with a quotation from section 7 of the NDIS 'Operational Guideline—General Conduct—Supporting Participants’ Decision-Making':

NDIA officers should be sensitive to the role of family, carers and other support people in the person’s life and should not impose decision-making services in preference to existing networks.

We have some long-term customers at White Cross who have been transferred to NDIA. They have indicated to their planners and to NDIA people that they want to stay with White Cross. Unfortunately, they have been told that decision is not theirs because of, as mentioned earlier, in-kind funding. So they get their products through another provider, out of New South Wales, which is not a cost-effective decision because the delivery cost and the actual price of the product is greater than what we can provide locally. I understand in-kind funding, but it is not a cost-effective decision.

Ms MACKLIN: In the example you are using, how long is the in-kind funding going to go for?

Mr Roseburgh : We have no idea.

CHAIR: Are you a funded Victorian service now yourself?

Mr Roseburgh : Yes, we are.

CHAIR: I understand in-kind, so I am a little confused. Wouldn't you be in-kind as well?

Mr Roseburgh : No.

CHAIR: Why not?

Mr Roseburgh : In-kind funding is through the SWEP. We have, in the past, provided through third-party providers—St Laurence and MacKillop Family Services. The funding has come from those organisations in the past, but now the funding comes through NDIA.

CHAIR: Sorry, your funding did not come directly from the government? You were not block funded? You got your funding via other—

Mr Roseburgh : Exactly, yes. It was government funding but not—

CHAIR: That make sense. So you are not in-kind because you are not a direct provider?

Mr Roseburgh : Exactly, yes.

CHAIR: We get the correction. Thank you.

Mrs Malone : I am the CEO of Gateway Support Services. We are a regional organisation with an annual budget of about $14 million. We provide a range of disability services—early childhood intervention, respite, supported accommodation, support and coordination. We have tried to prepare as best we can for the coming of the NDIS. We applaud the goals, which really are to give people with a disability and their families a better life. We prepared for the transition in terms of our cash flow so that we would not be paid in advance with our block funding; we would have to manage that and get paid after we provide a service. We looked at adjusting our workforce—up in some areas and down in other areas where programs have been taken over but what the NDIA now does. And I suppose we have aimed to position ourselves to be a provider of choice.

I think there are different issues depending on the different service types. For us, in our respite and recreation programs we have had a large amount of unfunded work. Tony talked about 80 per cent. I asked our staff and they said, with our respite and rec programs, probably 90 per cent of the plans have required further discussion because the rates during the week, on Friday night, on Saturday, on Sunday—are all different and it also depends on whether it is a group or an individual program. And if families say, 'I would like to use some of this and some of that', and it is not in their plan, there is a process of going backwards and forwards so that the plan actually has the things in it that they need. It might be that they have got community participation but there is no travel for them to actually go somewhere. So we have spent a large amount of time doing unfunded work to sort out our plans. In contrast, in our early childhood intervention plans, there has been more discussion with providers about the actual make-up of the plan and we have had much fewer problems in that area. So I think there are differences with how different programs have actually been managed.

Also, I would like to support Libby's comment about the one-to-one rate. We have made the decision in the last week to stop taking new clients. That is something we hate, because we want to grow with the National Disability Insurance Scheme and support people in our community. But we have looked at projections about how much money we will use lose in the next financial year if we continue. We have said that, at this point in time, we are not able to take new participants for that program with a one-to-one rate of $34.18 because the more people we see the more money we lose. We will be waiting to see what happens with the price discussions which have been going on now for a long time. I suppose deregulation might happen, or it might not. So, at this point in time, we aim to be a long-term provider and we need to place some limits on how much money we are prepared to lose.

The other comment I would make is that there is actually a disadvantage in being a Barwon provider, a regional provider. If you are a state-wide provider, all the rest of your funding across the state continues to be stable, block funded and fully funded whereas we are dealing with multiple issues. And we face the same pricing issues in our ECA services: if a family cancels because the child is sick, we do not get paid. If you are employing professional staff, we are told we can bill the family for $164. Well, sometimes we can't even get families to pay $10 for a service, let alone $164, if their child was sick. So there are a range of issues and the impact is greatest on regional providers.

I think, if people manage their own funding, they can actually pay their respite providers more than the $34.18. For people who are self-managing, I am aware of some providers who are getting paid more than that. I think that the aims of the scheme are really important. I think it has been a very rapid transition and there is a lot of work needed to sort things out. But the impact on providers in Barwon has been major.

CHAIR: Thanks, Rosemary. Your point is well made. Jenny?

Ms MACKLIN: In relation to early intervention, I would be really interested to hear whether you have already changed or are considering changing the variety of early intervention services that you offer as a result of the introduction of the NDIS.

Mrs Malone : We are always listening to what families want, but usually they are coming with plans that are fairly specific in terms of transdisciplinary plans or line items, but I suppose that is a conversation we have with families about what they want, so I see those programs continuing to evolve. It has been kind of a roller-coaster because initially there was a waiting list of clients and we increased our staff; there were no clients for two months and then there were lots of new clients. But one of the issues with the NDIS is that families have to refer themselves; service providers cannot refer them. So we went from having an increase in clients to having no new referrals. That is fairly challenging when you are paying professional staff a lot of money and there are actually not enough clients. And it seems like the Helping Children with Autism clients all postponed joining the scheme because they thought they were better off on the HCWA scheme. They have now been told they need to transition across. So there was a wave of increase and then a significant reduction, and we are now seeing another increase.

Just managing those kinds of fluctuations in demand is an issue, but I think the bigger issue is access for vulnerable groups. There have been some recent discussions about how to support families who have just been told their child has a disability. For them to approach the agency without any support is very difficult, and I think the paediatricians have actually written to Mitch Fifield about this issue. If you cannot have provider referrals, there are a whole range of vulnerable groups who may not get a service at all. There are particular issues around children with developmental delay, where families do not see their child as having a severe disability. So there is still a lot of work to be done.

CHAIR: Rosemary, you mentioned that the plans were incorrect or missing things like transportation. What is your interaction at that point? Is it via the advocate or the person with the plan, or is it directly with the planner?

Mrs Malone : In the initial phase of the scheme, there was a view that providers had a conflict of interest, so there was no communication with service providers and it always had to go through the family. There are some families who are very articulate, but we have had families who did not speak English. In the end, we have rung the local area coordinator or the planner. Even really competent families sometimes feel quite stressed by the whole process of trying to work out what they have got and what they want, so we have gone back for them. Since the second-quarter report came out, there has been a greater openness to receiving feedback. There is a new Victorian manager. There has been improved openness to receiving feedback but we still have the volume of workload. So I think there needs to be more discussion about how plans are organised so people can have some flexibility. If people want to go out on Saturday and they only have Sunday in their plan, you have to keep going back to negotiate.

CHAIR: Can we just address that, because that came up quite a lot earlier—clearly, because of the wage restraints and also your planning restraints. If I have a plan for Monday, Wednesday and Saturday but for some reason Monday and Wednesday are no good, I do not have the flexibility—well, some said they did and others said they did not have the flexibility. What is your experience of my flexibility in dealing directly with you?

Mrs Malone : There are two things. If it is not actually in your plan, I would be really worried if we delivered a service that was not in the plan because there are very strong rules about fraud! I would not be doing things that are not in the plan, and that is just protecting our organisation. The other thing is that the rates are different. The rate for Sunday is higher, so, if you only have Saturday in your plan, you will not have enough money. So there are practical funding issues in things that are already underfunded. As a service provider, if you are already making a loss, unless you have some philanthropic funding, you cannot do it. Effectively. you need to be trying to be sustainable, so you would not be doing it. But what you would do is go back and try to negotiate to change the funding line.

CHAIR: Thanks, Rosemary. We appreciate your comments. Where are we going next?

Ms Casey-Eland : Hi. My name is Shona Eland. I am the acting CEO at YMCA Geelong and have only been in the role a couple of months. It is kind of nice coming into this role and having the NDIS rolled out in the region, because it is new to me as much it is to the organisation that I work with.

The YMCA in Geelong has been around for over 60 years. We are a community-service, not-for-profit organisation. Our primary reason for being is to make people healthier, happier and more connected, and it does not matter whether you have a disability or not. That is where we fit in.

When I first came to the YMCA down here, I spoke to the staff about their engagement with the NDIS. Some of them were quite taken back by the question, 'Why haven't you thought about registering?' It was not that they did not want to. They were quite overwhelmed by the processes. As I have a sister with disabilities, one of my first points was to get on with it and get registered, so we are registered.

But I looked around the room when I was standing waiting, and I thought it was a shame that a few familiar faces from the community recreation sector were not sitting in the room here telling you their experiences. I think maybe it is similar to the reasons why my staff had not decided to register when I first got down to Geelong. Because they are not disability service providers, they may not see that their place is here. It is in our mission. It is in our blood. It is in our DNA. We are about community, so it fits with me.

I guess a couple of my observations, more than anything, are that I have sat for the last two weeks as a new CEO watching how our operations work. We have 95 children at a school holiday program in Newtown today. Over 14 of them have severe disabilities, and I watch their parents with delight as they walk in and they get 10 hours of respite. Their kids' faces are joyous because they get to participate. Today happens to be our disability awareness day. We have had wheelchair basketball. We have had talks around inclusion. We have done a whole lot of stuff. It is great timing really.

But we also have a service that can access the community and is trying to engage with people with disabilities and the broader community in participating in community life. Community life is broader than just getting in a car, going somewhere and doing a trip to sightsee. It is about actively participating. Some of the services that we offer, ranging from gymnastics to educational programs around strength and coordination, to our cancer programs, to our vacation care programs, seem to have different responses from parents. I think one of the familiar things that I have heard in the last couple of weeks is around the confusion that parents are having about what they can access within our services and, again, what the staff can tell them. I guess because they have not come from a disability sector in terms of the administration that they are required to do, there is a lot of confusion out there in the marketplace around: what can families access within our service, and how do they go about that process?

I listened to the speakers before about the providers doing some referral. I think the education of providers, particularly those who are on the outside of the system, would be of great benefit for them to be able to help families who have used our service, whether they have children with severe autism or Asperger's or a whole range of complex needs, and to be able to at least give them some advice on where they go and how they connect into this service. That is what we can do. We can provide connection. They already use our service, but they do not know about what NDIS and NDIA can do for them. So there is that part.

In terms of the children that are using our services, the information has been very slow. We are regulated by the department of education and early years, and they monitor our service like a fine toothcomb, which is fantastic, because we provide a quality service. But, in terms of children being able to access our service, our policies and procedures, it seems to be at lengths to what is happening in the administration of the NDIA. I will give you a live example. When parents want to enrol their children in our holiday program, they need to do so two weeks before so that we can employ the correct staff with the right qualifications. Up to two weeks ago, we still had not had the plans from the coordinators actually in our hands. It makes it very difficult to offer a service to a child with complex needs if you do not know what they are.

The families are very proactive. The ones that know how to advocate on their behalf are very forthcoming with information. The local area coordinators are very keen to say, 'We will send it to you,' but we never see it. We cannot accept children if we do not have that information at the time that they are booked. From a regulatory perspective, we have got one hand saying, 'You have to have this system in place', and the other one not providing the information. I have said to our staff, 'Unless you get the information at the time of booking, we can't take them,' because our organisation is at risk of not providing a quality service. So that is the challenge, and I think that will be worked through as the administration improves.

CHAIR: Shona, I will have to get you to tighten up your remarks a bit, because we have got a lot more to get through.

Ms Eland : Sure, I will. The only other thing that I think is really important is the types of programs that have been funded through the NDIA. We have had parents come and talk to us and say, 'We can't access gymnastics anymore. They have told us that this program has not been funded.' It is the same with swimming, as an example. I would encourage anyone who is making decisions around what community inclusion is to come and have a look at the programs and see what the kids' faces look like and how the parents benefit from it before they make decisions about what programs get in and go out. Thanks.

CHAIR: So you are saying that children that were previously under some other program funded at your service have been told that, under their plans, they are not eligible for direct funding for those same services?

Ms Eland : No. Five families currently have NDIA funding to do gymnastics and others are coming in fresh off the street saying, 'We want to do the program, but NDIA has told us that we can't do this.' The local area coordinators quote was: 'Gymnastics will no longer be funded through the NDIA.'

CHAIR: And you have had that conversation with the coordinators?

Ms Eland : I have actually asked our staff to do that, and they have followed up a couple of times and are waiting for the phone call back.

CHAIR: Thank you. Are there any other comments or questions?

Dr Fitzgerald : I am the CEO of Scope. Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you today. I would also like to acknowledge the comments from some of our fellow service providers, including Libby's comments about community capacity building, which is causing great concern for us. At Scope we ran a communication access network for people with complex and augmentative communication needs. Those funds were tipped into the site as individual therapy. So we are no longer able to provide that support to generalist speech pathologists within the four local government areas in the launch site to help people with alternative and augmentative communication needs.

I would also like to acknowledge Rosemary's comments. We are a state-wide provider. It is certainly much easier, as a larger state-wide provider, to look and learn whilst we are undergoing substantive change in this process. I think everyone in the room wants to see this work and, picking up on the comments from Libby, this really is ideally suited to an action research model, where we experience and learn and change throughout the pilot so that we can be taking these learnings and actually improving the system as it evolves.

One of the areas of concern for me is that, as a social insurance model, we need to be measuring outcomes. I am a researcher by background, so I am very interested in measuring outcomes. But many times when I look at the plans I feel like we are looking through a keyhole and I cannot actually see the total goal that we are trying to achieve in our claim against, so I find it very hard to develop measures that will deliver on a social insurance model. I think that needs to be done at a population level, at a benchmark sector-provider level, but also at an individual level. I just offer that as a comment. I think that is something that needs further addressing.

Some of the comments in the materials that you sent were around business practices. Our business practices have changed totally. We are moving from being a not-for-profit to a social enterprise. With that comes substantial investment in people and in processes. I think you will find in your conversations around the launch sites that everyone is at very different levels of preparedness for those substantial changes.

The other thing I would like to comment on is marketing. I saw a number of questions like: 'Do you have a shop front?' 'Are you marketing?' 'Are you advertising?' I do not know about others, but our budget for advertising is very limited. I think this is a social insurance model. We talk about it very much in commercial terms, and I am trying to prepare my organisation to behave in a commercial manner, but it is still very much a low- or no-margin business, and we are still very much mission driven organisations, so our ability to compete in that manner is going to be fairly restricted and still will rely very much on history in a geographic location and also word of mouth from families. I offer those as comments.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Senator GALLACHER: I note from your website that you have 322 children and adults with disability. How many of those have completed plans?

Dr Fitzgerald : Within the Barwon launch site what has happened for us is we are really just seeing transition of existing clients. We did do a large number of assessments for children coming into the NDIS, and some of those chose to stay with us as a provider, but to date in the first 12 months for us it has really been transitioning the existing client base into the scheme.

Senator GALLACHER: So no plans have been completed?

Dr Fitzgerald : We have had completed plans. They look fairly similar. They are a key worker model, which has been the traditional model largely used in Victoria. I notice we have the president of ECIA here today; they may wish to speak on that further. We are just monitoring to see what types of services families are asking for. We have seen some plans where families have been given 10 sessions of occupational therapy, 10 of physiotherapy and 10 of speech pathology but no crossover time between the three disciplines to coordinate against a goal.

Senator GALLACHER: So you have concerns about the plans that you have seen?

Dr Fitzgerald : I have plans where there is not good evidence of integration of the individual components of the plan to deliver an achievable goal with a measurable outcome.

CHAIR: Thank you. I have a general question for all of you that are not-for-profits: has there been an impact on your fundraising capacity as a result of the NDIS and people believing that suddenly everything is going to be funded by the Commonwealth and the state? I see a few head nods. If it is not an issue, do not say anything. If you think it is an issue, let us know.

Mr Harris : I think it is a great fear and I think it depends really on where your fundraising marketplace perceives you as an organisation. As a largely self-funded organisation, our support groups are actually saying, 'We know we've got to keep working for you,' but organisations that have been significantly funded under, for example, a state government program will have a different perspective from their funders. Fundraising is about selling an idea, and often it has been the idea that government does not give us enough. I think what we have to do as providers is reconsider what our marketing is about from providing basic services to the NDIA providing basic services and us providing value-add services that the NDIA would not fund. I think at this point in time there may be organisations that are seeing a decline in fundraising. I am certainly not. But I think it is a fear that needs to be addressed and we need both to be proactive in ourselves as organisations and also the NDIA recognising that we cannot continue to subsidise the services that have previously been part of a bloc funded arrangement. The key area for me and progressive neurology is what happens and who pays for the person before they become a participant. Up until now, state government bloc funding has helped us inform, educate, upskill and lead them to the point of accessing services. Under an NDIA and the transfer of those funds into the NDIA, that money is not going to be available, and that is a key issue.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Ms Hayes : On the subject of the impact on the donor community: that is a very real concern for us. While at this very early stage of the rollout it is not necessarily impacting our donations, what is happening when we talk to our donor community is they say to us, 'You'll be so much better off under the NDIS.' When we tell them that we have done rough numbers that indicate less than 17 per cent of our clients will in fact be eligible under any form of NDIS funding, that becomes a real surprise to them. I think there is a real opportunity for us, as service providers, and government to work together to start getting some messaging out there that says this is not the panacea of all things disability and that there is still a very great need for the philanthropic funding to continue so that we can continue to deliver our services.

CHAIR: Thank you. If there are no further questions, is there anything the panel members would like to ask?

Mrs Malone : Sorry, I just wanted to add one more thing about volunteer coordination. I think that, in terms of community, volunteers have played a really important role. That is one of our programs that is transitioning, but no-one knows where to put it. There has been an acknowledgement that maybe volunteer coordination is one of those areas that would be better off bloc funded. We are in this no-man's land of transitioning across without the details being worked out. There is a discussion, but there is not any certainty. I think the role of volunteers where everyone wins—the person with disability, their family, the community that becomes more inclusive through those experiences—is a key issue not to be lost. It is very difficult when everything is transitioning so quickly, because there is so much to be worked out. I think that is a really important thing to the community.

CHAIR: Thank you. I thank you all for your contributions and your efforts in this important sector. I reiterate what we said at the outset: the task of the committee is to add value to what we are all trying to achieve here. We hear your concerns. We will echo those concerns and be part of trying to work with the NDIS, the department and the ministers at state and federal level as best we can to get more of those answers and take into account some of the wise advice that you have provided. I thank you all for participating in the hearings today. They are valuable to us as a committee. Thank you very much.

Proceedings suspended from 15 : 47 to 18 : 09.

CHAIR: This committee is now adjourned.

Committee adjourned at 18 : 09.