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Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme - 16/04/2014

BAIN, Ms Donna, General Manager and President, Tasmanian Association of Disability Employment Services

BANTICK, Ms Cathy, Office Administrator, Riding for the Disabled Association of Tasmania

BESWICK, Mr Drew, ‎Chief Operating Officer, Optia

CAMPBELL, Mr Glenn, Chief Executive Officer, Optia

DOEDENS, Mr Ralph, Chief Executive Officer, STAR Tasmania

EASTLEY, Mr Dale, Chief Executive Officer, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Tasmania

ENGLISH, Mr Daniel, Chief Executive Officer, Guide Dogs Australia

GLOVER, Mrs Linda, Disability Liaison Officer, TasTAFE


KLUGG, Mr John, Able Australia

MACKEY, Ms Tracy, Executive Director, Life Without Barriers

PATON, Mr John, Chief Executive Officer, Oakdale Industries

SULLIVAN, Ms Louise, Area Manager, Able Australia

SYMONDS, Mr Peter Jonathan, General Manager, Ability Tasmania Group


CHAIR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to our first day of hearings here in Hobart and our second set of hearings as the National Disability Insurance Scheme joint standing committee. I am going to read you the formalities that we are required to do as part of this formal hearing.

I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land we are meeting on today and welcome your. As you are all aware, the NDIS is a significant national reform and one that the Australian government and the Australian parliament is committed to delivering. We all hope that the scheme will change lives. This committee was created in December last year and its main responsibility is to monitor and inquiry into the administration and the implementation of the NDIS. We have a 12-member committee: six senators and six members of the House of Representatives. I am Mal Brough, the chair, and I represent the seat of Fisher in the state of Queensland. The deputy chair, who cannot be with us here in Hobart, is Senator Alex Gallacher from South Australia. Also on the committee is Jenny Macklin, the former minister. She was here this morning but gives her apologies for this afternoon. The Hon. Amanda Rishworth will be back this afternoon, but is a little delayed. She was the former Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion and the Voluntary Sector in the previous government. The committee also comprises Senator Zed Seselja from the ACT, who cannot be with us; Senator Barry O'Sullivan, from Queensland, who is with us; as is Senator Dean Smith from Western Australia and Senator the Hon. Ursula Stephens. Also on the committee are Geoff Lyons from Western Australia and Jill Hall, the member for Shortland in New South Wales. Finally there is Greens Senator Rachel Siewert from Western Australia. Welcome, ladies!

Senator SIEWERT: Wimmin!

CHAIR: Yes, 'wimmin'. I just thought I'd try that one on for size—a little inside joke.

This is a public hearing and are subject to the formal parliamentary proceedings, although I do not seem to be doing a very good job of being formal. It will be recorded by Hansard 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 I think a number of people have indicated their wish to do so.

In giving evidence to the committee today 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 and such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to the committee.

We will be travelling to Newcastle and Adelaide in May to continue our deliberations on the trial sites. This morning we met with NDIS participants, their carers and family members and also from some providers who came along as well.

What we are here to do is, as a bipartisan committee, assist state and federal governments and all the agencies, and to be a conduit for information to make the system as robust, sustainable and as flexible as we possibly can. Our experience in Geelong was very positive in taking evidence from providers and from participants and carers and then putting that the next day to both the state jurisdictions and the NDIA. It is helping us but it is also helping them. So we see this as a partnership in not testing whether this is going to continue, as one person asked us this morning, but how we make it as strong as we possibly can. As a committee we are as at one with that.

I invite anyone of you to kick it off—ask a question or make a statement. We are here to hear from you.

Mr Symonds : Good afternoon. I am the general manager of Ability Tasmania Group. We are registered provider in the NDIS field focusing on employment and employment preparation. If I may, I would like to read my script, which is two minutes and 40 seconds long, according to my timing.

CHAIR: Your time starts now!

Mr Symonds : The rollout of the NDIS in Tasmania has created a significant barrier for people with disabilities, who may need extra time and real experiences to learn about real work. We know that if we get the transition from school to work right, the pay-off to the community and the individual can be significant. It is one of the fundamental principles of the NDIS that economic participation occurs. We have a really poor record of doing this to date in Australia.

The COAG Reform Council showed that in the period 2005 to 2010 there was an 18 per cent increase in the number of people going into non-work segregated day programs. The research shows that for people with cognitive impairments a longer transition period post school needs to occur, as the maturation process is slower. We know that people with cognitive impairments need real work experiences to understand what work is like in a particular setting and how it is done. We know this not only through the study of the successful programs overseas but from what we have done here in Tasmania. We self-funded a program with TasTAFE in 2013, assisting 12 school leavers in their transition to work process. Seventy-five per cent of those 12 found work two months within leaving school. The national average for people with disabilities finding work in the employment program is 30 per cent. Sixty-six per cent of those people will go on to hold their job for 26 weeks or longer. The national average is 28 per cent, and here in Tasmania it is only 25 per cent.

Pre-NDIS such a work experience program which produced these outcomes was funded by the Tasmanian supporting individuals pathways program. That no longer exists because it was taken over by the NDIS at the end of 2013. Despite knowing that a period of work preparation is critical to gaining and maintaining employment, the only way that you can have work or work preparation in your NDIS plan is if you are deemed by Centrelink to be unable to do community based work. There is some inherent contradiction here. If you are deemed able to do community based work by the Centrelink assessment process, you cannot have community based work preparation in a program funded by the NDIS. If this policy is replicated across the country as the trial sites expand and move into a more formal footing then the New South Wales Transition to Work program and the Victorian Futures for Young Adults program will not be able to get people ready for work. The disability employment service purports to do this. Being a provider, I know that it simply does not.

So, really simply, what needs to happen—and I say 'simply' because it is a very simple process—is that the NDIS needs to allow work preparation to be included in the plans of any NDIS participant who wants that work component in there. Otherwise, we condemn or re-condemn a number of young Australians with a disability into the segregated and disadvantaged lifestyle that they currently experience. Thank you.

CHAIR: It is quite disturbing, and I am not aware of what you say to be accurate. Do not get me wrong by that. I am trying to say that I am unaware of it. I do not know whether any other committee members have ever heard that before.

Ms HALL: I have not heard it before.

CHAIR: This is what we are here for. Just to reiterate that the principles behind the NDIS would be to ensure that people reach their potential. As I said earlier today, this is not just a social program; it is an economic program. So, ultimately, we want people that can be working to be working. As such, your evidence flies in the face of what this scheme is designed to achieve. So we will take on board what you have had to say.

Ms RISHWORTH: I would like to tease out what you have said. You said that some people do have the work preparation in their plan. Could you elaborate on what exactly Centrelink has to sign off on? I was unaware of that being a formal threshold. Is it a formal threshold that Centrelink must deem a person unable to work, and what threshold is it that Centrelink uses?

How has that been formalised? Is that an informal understanding from your perspective or is it a formal understanding?

Mr Symonds : I will respond in two parts. The Centrelink assessment process is the job capacity assessment. Out of that process—

Ms HALL: That is for eligibility for the Disability Support Pension?

Mr Symonds : Something different.

Ms HALL: Also to get the special assistance with employment?

Mr Symonds : Yes.

Ms HALL: But that is different to the NDIS.

Mr Symonds : Yes and no. It is done by a different department, but its process has a significant impact on what happens in the NDIS planning process. If you were deemed to have a work—

CHAIR: Through your experience with some of your clients, what has actually happened to them? That might help us to understand.

Mr Symonds : They have been deemed to have a work capacity of eight hours-plus two years since from the assessment. If they have that work capacity assessment of eight hours-plus in their job capacity assessment, they are immediately ineligible to have work preparation or work in their NDIS plan, or funded through their NDIS plan.

Senator SIEWERT: Who set that rule?

Mr Symonds : I believe it is in some of the formal NDIS documentation.

CHAIR: Do you think it could be in the bilateral? Let us deal with that. We will see if we can find out. It does not matter. You made the point that that is what you believe is happening, so we will dig into it from our end rather than going around the mulberry bush. You have had clients whom this has actually happened to?

Mr Symonds : Yes.

CHAIR: Does anyone else have any points of clarification?

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I have a question. My interest goes beyond the work. This is a developing work in my very slow mind. It is one thing for people with a disability to have capacity to work and go into the workforce and make what would be regarded or measured as a productive contribution. That is one test. What about bringing people with disability into the workforce who cannot make a productive contribution to a workplace? If you measure it by any sort of viability of having them there doing whatever they are doing, it is more a case of allowing them the social infrastructure that comes from the workplace: the development of friends and relationships and networks that work outside of that space. I have had some experience with this. This will be a recurring question as I go along: do you know of any programs, any outreach programs, any initiatives, that might deliver that?

Mr Symonds : No. We do not get into that space. We have a fundamental belief in my organisation that everybody should be working. It is as simple as that. Anything else is just fudging. The 12 people who came to that TAFE program were all deemed unemployable by the Centrelink pathway process. They are now working 15 hours or more a week. It is a skill set that might lie inside the service to make sure that happens. If you want to put people in segregated settings, that is really easily done. We have been doing it successfully for hundreds of years. If you want to start to move to something beyond that—

Senator O'SULLIVAN: If you are levelling that at me, you have misunderstood completely what I said.

Mr Symonds : No, I am not levelling it at you; I am levelling it at the Australian community.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: But my question is, and I will not labour on this or try to get clarification: do you know of any trials or any current initiatives for a person whose productivity contribution would be measured at even zero or five per cent, regarding their capacity to deliver work or participate in the workplace, but they are placed into workplaces so that the other benefits might flow?

CHAIR: As a paid employee.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Yes, as a paid employee. I am talking about an altruistic approach by an employer, obviously.

Mr Symonds : There is a range of federally funded and state funded programs that do that. I referred to the Transition to Work program in New South Wales and the Futures for Young Adults program funded by Victoria, which do that.

Mr Paton : I just want to expand on the role of the Australian Disability Enterprise system. We have got situations whereby we have amongst our ADE participants supported employees, people who are making absolutely no contribution. That is probably the example that you are referring to, where for them actual participation makes their day. Their whole reason for being is getting up in the morning and knowing and thinking that they are going to work. They get paid a productivity-based award wage based on a wage assessment system that is in a bit of a conundrum at the moment. People get value out of turning up and going to work.

We are trying to transition most of our ADEs into what the department refers to as 'social enterprises' and that effectively means that we can no longer, I think, afford to keep having so many people with disabilities in the one spot. We actually need more able-bodied people in that enterprise to provide a greater balance, I suppose. But we would do so probably at the expense of people with higher support needs, and I think that is one of the difficulties that the NDIS is going to create.

We are all encouraged to be viable business enterprises, those of us who have ADEs. To be a viable enterprise you certainly have to create profits to be able to replace equipment and the like. Some of our businesses turn over $2 million or $3 million a year each, but the profits are two per cent or three per cent and it is not viable, to be honest. In order for us to be producing product at the right price we probably can no longer afford to keep employing people with high support needs and it is a matter of discriminating in a way against their particular needs, the reason for them to come to work to enjoy the friendship and the group participation. They may make no contribution to a product but they are there adding value in the sense of their simple joy in being there. But can we afford to keep doing that? I think part of the ADE conundrum is that they have to be viable enterprises, that we have to have greater product throughput and we have to look at ways of expanding our market stretch, and in Tasmania that is difficult in our economic climate down here.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: My comments are more directed at the private sector providing this, altruistic business owners who are prepared to take the complete responsibility to bring these people into their workplace and do what they do without these sorts of challenges you are talking about. My question is: is there any sort of outreach program? Is someone trialling this?

Mr Paton : I do not know of people doing that in Tasmania. It might be on a one-to-one basis.

CHAIR: Does anyone else want to comment on that question of Barry's?

Ms Mackey : We have got an example of what you are asking about, but it is not here in Tasmania. Life Without Barriers is a national organisation so we would be intending to try to replicate it in other places. We have just started a trial in the Northern Territory, up in Darwin, with an employment service provider. It is looking at two different pathways for people that basically attend our day services.

One pathway is the traditional one that people are talking about in terms of getting people into the workforce doing something productive that is helping a particular employer. But we are conscious that there are people with disabilities that we support that are not going to be able to contribute in that way, but putting them into a workplace is a really valuable thing for them personally. We have got a couple of employers who have indicated a willingness to trial having people with disabilities in their workplace in more of a social support context than anything else, and we are going to see how we go with that.

CHAIR: How do you fund that, Tracy? I think that is what Barry was after.

Ms Mackey : We are doing that as part of the corporate social responsibility of the employment provider. They are one of the larger employment providers, Maximus Australia. They are a for-profit and we are a not-for-profit, and we are exploring what that means for the two of us to work together. But we are conscious that, not only with NDIS but a whole range of other divestment across the social sectors that we work in, that we need to be looking at things differently. So for us that is working with a range of corporate partners and thinking about what we can achieve in terms of shared value. That is how we are aiming to do it.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: With your indulgence for a minute, I understand this completely and mine was a bit of a trick question. I have four of these people working for me and Life Without Barriers put them there. My sister works for Life Without Barriers up in Toowoomba and we get zero productivity. I have got one man who mows the same piece of grass every day, and if someone touches his mower I have got to go and buy him another mower. He has got really serious conditions. But for us it is an altruistic thing. My board has taken it on. The benefits are enormous in the sense that they make relationships in the workplace and the next time they are picked up the following Sunday to go to someone's birthday party—and so on and so forth. My question is whether this has been explored. In my case it came because my sister forced it on us. There are plenty of business people, I think, who would willingly take one, two, three people into their work environments and do this, and I was interested to see whether it was a formal part of what we are developing here with the NDIA.

Ms Mackey : I do not think it is a formal part at all. One of the issues that we wanted to raise today was around, if you like, how black and white the funding is now. It is around particular services. That initiative that your sister may have started up in Toowoomba—we have got lots of examples of those across the country, but they are based on individuals who have been working out of grant-funded programs that have decided that, in good faith, part of delivering those grant-funded programs was to be an active part of the community and to look at how they can stretch all of the relationships. The things we are doing are now being motivated by a revenue issue, which is that we are not going to get funding for coordination and case management, which needs to be really individualised. It is not about picking from a menu of services.

Ms HALL: This is linking in to everything that has been said so far, and it can generalise out to everyone here: how many NDIS clients do you have in programs or working for you? How many are you working with to get into work here in Tasmania? What have you experienced in relation to NDIS clients and work, and when you take an NDIS participant as one of your agency's clients, written into their program can be the work component but it can be a work component where the main aspect of it is social. I am interested to hear how that works. Also, as a business enterprise centre you are talking about profit, but if a participant is working there it would be part of their plan and there would be dollar value with it.

Mr Paton : We are now providing support to, I think, 14 or 15 participants in our ADE.

Ms HALL: Can you be funded for that?

Mr Paton : In kind. As you are probably aware, the 'in kind' is a bit of a problem. We have had great difficulty with the NDIS system. The IT system is just abominable.

Ms HALL: That is a good point.

CHAIR: We would be happy for you to deal with that separately. If we could finish with that and then we might come to specific issues.

Mr Paton : Specifically what we are getting is in kind, so people who are already in work—and that is what is happening across this trial site: people who are already in work being placed in employment.

Ms RISHWORTH: Could I follow up on this. Once the in-kind system phases out—once you no longer get funded by the Commonwealth block funding and you go on to a per person system—you said that you would no longer be able to employ those with more support needs. But assuming that those people with higher support needs come with higher money for support, surely you would be able to accommodate them if they were coming with more money for more support. You could still run your business as long as they had more money that covered their support. So then it becomes about pricing.

Mr Paton : I think that is a fair comment. I think that is exactly the point. I think the issue is: are they legitimately in employment or are they just sitting there at a token point pretending to be in employment? If they are in employment are they being paid a wage? My understanding is that one of the points of the NDIS is to get people off disability support pension and into employment.

Ms HALL: No—

Mr Paton : Ultimately—

CHAIR: It is to reach whatever their potential is.

Ms HALL: It is not about getting people off the disability support pension.

Mr Paton : But the potential is to move people into employment.

Ms HALL: Not necessarily. It is about—

Mr Paton : I thought the Productivity Commission were saying—I am sorry, it is my misunderstanding.

CHAIR: We really need to get this right because we do not want people going around with the wrong attitude. Jill, what did you want to say?

Ms HALL: The NDIS is a person centred program. A person may have the goal of working, but it may be that they will never work. It is about the person; it is not a work program.

CHAIR: The Productivity Commission was talking about its economic benefits across the sector. It said there is potential for carers to be more productive and that there are people within the disability sector who could become wage earners and taxpayers or have a more functional capacity. According to the Productivity Commission, viewed holistically, it is not a drag. That needs to be clearly distinguished from it being aimed at pushing people into employment. It is about them reaching their potential, whatever that may be; and social inclusion, if it is able to be achieved, is equally important. I hope that helps.

Mr Paton : One of our past funding contracts with DSS said that we had to have five per cent of our supported employees move across into open employment. That was almost like a forced—

Ms HALL: But that was the past.

Mr Paton : No, it is still current.

CHAIR: Let's deal with that, John; I think that is really important. Earlier we asked some of the family members how they thought the providers were dealing with and understanding the new paradigm. It is not the new paradigm yet because we have a mixture of in-kind—we still have block funding. But where we are heading with the NDIS is that the empowerment lies wholly and solely with the individual and your relationship with them, as opposed to your relationship with government or with some third party paying. Hence, that individual may have, if you like, a KPI. It is not about getting five per cent into open employment; it is about where they want to be. That is a living document—someone used that terminology—and it will change as their life journey changes and their expectations change. Your task will be to survive and thrive with them basically as your master-as opposed to some document from a third party that you have to rely upon to get your funding from the Commonwealth or the state. Does that help?

Mr Paton : It does. And, in that case, the future looks a bit rosier.

CHAIR: I am glad you came!

Ms Mackey : In response to your question around how many: we have transitioned around 145 people, both here and in New South Wales. It has certainly not been a feature of any of the plans we have seen here in Tasmania as an employment option for people, and it would be a very minute feature of those in New South Wales. What we are doing is continuing to support people through the in-kind work that we already do. For example, up in Launceston, with the programs that we have out of Rocherlea, where we run a market stall and have people doing deliveries and a range of things, we are only able to do it right now because we have got existing grant funding for the other part of the program. So it will be interesting for us and other service providers to see how we can fund those types of things into the future.

CHAIR: Are there any comments or questions?

Ms Bain : I want to make two remarks about the employment issue. Firstly, in terms of employment, we use the language of 'participant' in the NDIS—and we appreciate the value system that applies to that. The challenge with designing NDIS going forward is understanding that that relationship changes in the employment context. So, yes, they are a participant, but they are also an employee. And with that comes a very complex and large suite of industrial relations obligations on both the employer and the employee. As we finetune through the trial and as we roll out the scheme we need to try and accommodate the unusual work environment which employees in ADEs and other places have with their employer. There is a suite of obligations attached to that, which, to be frank, the current language of the NDIS does not really accommodate. I know it is very early days, and we would like to be engaged with government and the NDIA around how we might do that to create more employment opportunities. That is my first point.

CHAIR: Can we deal with that one first?

Ms Bain : Certainly.

CHAIR: It is very important. We would appreciate some real examples, not necessarily now. Today is not the end of the game—you can provide comment, feedback, letters to this committee at any time and we would welcome them. In your particular case you are saying that the language, the wording, the documentation does not sit well.

Ms Bain : It is more of a cultural issue at the moment rather than a black-and-white, letter-of-the-law issue. I will give you two examples. The first one is around performance management. As an employer, I performance manage all of my staff, including my 53 supported employees. Being an employee comes with a set of obligations, irrespective of their productivity in the workplace. I expect my employees to be respectful and I expect my employees to be safe. Should that not occur then there are a series of performance management things which we put in place, being a responsible employer. That conversation with the employees and their carers changes. They may well come to me with a sense of: 'I have a funded package. Your job is to give me, and keep me, a job.' We will move heaven and earth to support them to stay, but that arrangement and those conversations become much more interesting—and we have already had a few in my workplace. That is part of the language.

The other issue is in terms of funding and probably a little more prosaic. At the moment under NDIS they come with a funding package. As a employee they are employed irrespective of funding. There may well be a situation that arises in the future with a participant employee where, for whatever reasons, their funding support changes. Their employment with me remains unchanged—I still have an obligation as an employer under fair work legislation and all the other bits and pieces to continue to employ them—but there may well be some viability issues that arise if that funding package decreases substantially or disappears and that employment obligation still exists. So probably over the next few years we need to tease out some of those issues about how we might work those arrangements so that we do not disadvantaged people with a disability; so that they can continue to work for as long as they want to and do a variety of things but understand that the employment context in which that occurs in supported employment is a little bit different to the relationship they have with a community service provider or their accommodation provider.

CHAIR: That was very useful. Does anyone wish to comment on that? I think it was well put and we understand the context. Can we hear your second point, Donna.

Ms Bain : My second point was about the engagement of the corporate world. Ideally we would love, as Peter said, to have more people with disability out there in open employment doing all the sorts of wonderful jobs that we know they are capable of. We are a long way from that. There are a whole series of cultural issues that we need to change in Australia. Until businesses catch up, I will continue to have a job, but there are other ways for the commercial world to be involved. For example, we are constantly working with customers about providing labour force teams—that is, taking a team of my employees out to their workplace, working alongside their workers to do all sorts of bits and pieces, whether that is packing timber, catering, washing cars, all sorts of things. That is part of the way of engaging my supported workplace in their business: they are my employee, but they are in their business. That starts to dismantle some of the barriers.

The other thing is about encouraging corporations to procure from ADEs. For example, we have developed a wonderful relationship with a Melbourne based company. They came to us and said: 'We would like you to cut parquetry flooring. We will buy you the parquetry cutting machine, we will install it at our expense, we will write the safe work method statements that go with that, we will put in all the ducting and wiring and then we will provide you with the parquetry flooring to cut.' They have worked out that we are really good at providing supported employment; we know what we are doing. It does not make sense for them as a business to try and do that in their enterprise. What they want to do is build our capacity in our enterprise so that we can do that and employ more people. So there are conversations that we can have as NDIS rolls out about different ways of engaging the corporate world in supported employment. Yes, it is about employing people, but there are lots of other things the Australian community can do to increase those employment opportunities and that long goal of economic independence.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Can I get you to clarify something. I interpreted what you said as there being a cultural impediment within the corporate world to be able to do the things that I described. I had my own experiences. In our case we got out in front of that and talked to our staff before we even brought the first person in. It was by agreement, because you cannot do it on your own. What are those cultural impediments that you think cannot be dealt with in my workplace, in a corporate workplace?

Ms Bain : Part of that is the invisibility of people with disability. In one of my other hats I work with government agencies on disability action plans. They have been very candid about their experience. They have said to us that one of the challenges they face in writing disability action plans is that they actually do not have a great deal of interaction with people with disability, so they do not understand what it means to ask a person with a disability in a wheelchair to travel in the lift three floors down to access the disability toilet in the basement. They do not see people in their workplace. One of the reasons we are a big fan of putting people in work teams in the corporate world is to dismantle some of those barriers and perceptions. You actually need to see people with a disability and work alongside them to start dismantling some of those barriers and misconceptions that people with a disability cannot do good work.

I have an extraordinary team. They produce high-quality products that I would sell anywhere on the planet. I need people to see that to believe that to be true. We encourage people to visit Self Help Workplace. You see the light bulb moment: 'Oh, that is what you do. This is what your team does. This is the difference you make.' One of the things we need to do is get more people with disability out there on secondment, work experience and all sorts of short-term, long-term and medium-term employment arrangements to work alongside other people and share their experiences and tell their stories. Gradually it will become not just because your sister works with somebody but because you have lunch with them and do stuff with them after work. This is part of dismantling all of those barriers. It is not just about employment in a particular place; it is about employment opportunity everywhere.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: You should not underestimate the capacity that is out there. I do not entirely agree that there is some blanket cultural issue to it. Secondly, I want everyone to know that my thrust is not about people who can go into the workplace and be productive; mine is purely a social dimension to people who could not go into a workplace and be productive. I think we all need to remain open to that idea as we go forward.

Ms RISHWORTH: I think you have raised an important issue around the self-control and the self-management of the package and then the intersection with being an employer. Have you had any circumstances where the individual or the carers and families have said, 'Because of that disciplinary action we are going to take our support elsewhere'? Have you had that happen yet or are you just concerned about that happening in the future?

Ms Bain : Not at this stage. The only issue that has been raised so far is around wages. As John mentioned elsewhere, it is a very busy space with other things, so it is probably a conversation for another time. Because of the initial conversation we had with the employee and his parents we understand that there are other emerging issues.

Ms RISHWORTH: Are you only operating on in-kind support at the moment or have people come to you with a package in which you have been funded to do that support directly?

Ms Bain : At the moment we have transitioned seven across under in-kind and we have two potential new people who will be the cash NDIS participants. We are waiting for those plans to eventuate, but we expect to have conversations with them over the next few weeks.

Ms RISHWORTH: We know the issues around the in-kind and the block funding and I know that in the ADE funding system there are three tiers et cetera. I would be very interested to hear how in the long term it will be transitioned to cash to pay for that support. I would be very interested to hear how those two go, how you find the level of money you are given to provide that support and how that works. We are a standing committee so we will continue to monitor this. I will be very interested to see how you go with that.

Ms Bain : I understand from a briefing with the department this morning, DSS are working with NDIA on some funding and costing issues. There was already work in progress before NDIA commenced, so that process will roll through.

Mr English : We have kind of moved on, but I would like to respond to Barry's point. I am aware of two of our clients—and I am with Guide Dogs Tasmania—who are employed in the manner you discussed. In some ways I would agree. I am not aware of any structured program that deals with that. You spoke about the personal experience of your sister putting you in the position of getting you to explore that. I think from our experience people only really get those opportunities in small family businesses where there is a very real impact on the families and they make that choice. To be fair, I doubt very much those people are actually getting what would be constituted as a wage in any way, shape or form. Yes they come in, yes they are treated as an employee, yes they get all the social benefits that come from that, but I am not aware of a structured program and it is really only happening where there is a very real personal engagement with either the person or a specific disability.

I would say that there are some cultural impediments to it. Most of our client base, if they are employed, are only, for those who are in open employment, in government employment. We have very few people—despite the fact that vision impairment is not a significant barrier to employment; I can think of one who was previously, and I am not sure if he still is—in what you would call open employment in the commercial sector.

Ms Bantick : We are a voluntary organisation. We have no paid employees. We are currently not a member of the NDIS. We would like to become one but we are uncertain of the procedure and protocols for doing so, because we are a state body with centres running under us. They are all voluntary, but we provide equestrian activities to people with disabilities. With the NDIS packages coming up, and I understand that the plans will be made to suit that individual, we are not certain as to whether we should be a member of the NDIS or whether both the state and centres should register. We do not get any payment for those clients who go horse riding or carriage driving or vaulting. The centres actually get it. Currently, the participants pay the centre.

CHAIR: Just to clarify, Cathy, you have the state and you have the centres—and probably all of us here are well familiar with Riding for the Disabled—where do you fit in again?

Ms Bantick : I run the state office.

CHAIR: Which is the group that you said does not get any—give us the three layers.

Ms Bantick : We have a national body—state is a member of the national body—then we have centres under state, which are members of the state body. State gets funding through DHHS, currently, and the centres do not get funding other than grants—or their local councils or whatever—but they charge the clients to access their programs.

CHAIR: So there are two things: one is that you should have a conversation directly with NDIA here in Hobart and get them to understand your structure—

Ms Bantick : We have done that and—

CHAIR: Have you been happy with that?

Ms Bantick : it is still in a pickle.

CHAIR: Okay. This is not surprising. It is early days and people are still trying to work it through.

Ms Bantick : Yes, we are still trying to find out whether we register, the centres register or we all register individually.

CHAIR: I have a view on that, but there is no point in me sharing my view. I know where I would go.

Ms Bantick : I do not know if other organisations are in the same boat as ours.

CHAIR: For the money to flow, you obviously want to be registered. We want people to have opportunities to do all of these social-inclusion activities, and this is a very important one. So we will certainly talk to NDIA tomorrow about your particular situation and encourage them to have the dialogue and see if there are any barriers we have not identified yet. If there are, we will certainly see what we can do to facilitate with those. It would be the intention for your organisation, whatever the appropriate level is, to be directly involved so you empower those families and individuals with payment.

Ms Bantick : Any payments would not come through to the state body, they would have to go to the centre.

CHAIR: There would be a complication which potentially comes in here, which is about this in-kind funding, because the state's providing you money, which is helping you facilitate no doubt even though it is not going to the centres. We will ask those questions.

Ms Sullivan : I have some operational issues. Are you up for those?

CHAIR: Absolutely.

Ms Sullivan : This is a good news story, because I am often complaining at these sorts of things and everyone knows it is me again. We have a new client. He is 25-ish—32. He looked very young. He was electrocuted when he was 18 months old and has never spoken to his family. Yesterday, with the use of some technology, for the first time he spoke to his dad and said, 'Go the Cats.' So that is excellent news.

CHAIR: He waited all that time for that.

Ms Sullivan : His father is delighted because he goes for the cats. His mother doesn't!

Operational issues: we have been involved right from the start at Able Australia. We have had a couple of goes at getting a good plan up. The great thing about the scheme is that we can have lots of goes at it. We have not got our plan right yet—and thank you for allowing that flexibility. Some of your planners are really hard working. The problem is that a successful plan is where we work with a planner. That has pretty much stopped now, and we have to work with a case manager. One of the reasons we have been told is, 'We're too busy now because it was trickling in and now there's a tsunami of clients, so we can't talk to you,' so we have to go through a case manager. The case managers in Tasmania at the moment—and I can understand that it is early days—are usually our competitors. They are case managers under the NDIS—

Ms RISHWORTH: Are they local area coordinators?

Ms Sullivan : No, that is completely different?

CHAIR: Can you tell us who they are?

Ms RISHWORTH: Not names but the position I have, because I am not aware of these cases.


Ms Sullivan : They are other NGOs.

Ms RISHWORTH: And they have been nominated? Sorry to interrupt, but we have this structure in our heads. Is it correct that they have been nominated by the client to manage their plan?

Ms Sullivan : Yes they have, and at the moment there are not many. As you can imagine, if you do not want to do it yourself—and not many Tasmanian parents or users of the scheme are doing it themselves, and I can understand why, because we are finding it really hard ourselves—you need to go to somebody. So they are going to Brain Injury Tasmania or whoever.

CHAIR: So, to clarify: what they are is registered plan managers.

Ms Sullivan : Yes they are.

CHAIR: Gotcha.

Ms HALL: Is Able Australia a registered plan manager?

Ms Sullivan : We are but not for that sort of stuff. We case manage and get funded from time to time on certain clients that we work with but not to have the interface between a mum and dad and another organisation.

CHAIR: Hang on for one moment. I think we have a comment that might be able to add to this.

Mr Beswick : I just wanted to clarify plan management as opposed to case management. Plan management as the scheme defines it is a financial intermediary. Case management under the line items is the coordination of complex life stages. They are separate and distinct functions.

CHAIR: So are we talking here about plan or case?

Ms Sullivan : The ones we are dealing with call themselves case managers, and then they tell us to go to the case manager.

CHAIR: We will leave it at that at this stage.

Ms Sullivan : So I am a case manager doing complex case work, but the person who works for an NGO is also called a case manager. They are not called a plan manager.

CHAIR: Okay.

Ms Sullivan : As you can imagine, that slows the process down and is quite costly to the scheme because what we are trying to do is negotiate our complex business needs for this person that they may or may not know about what we can do for them—whether they are one on one funding or what they require in their life. As you can imagine, it is now a three-way discussion.

CHAIR: Can you back up a bit? Say I have gone to the NDIA. I have been registered. I am now at the stage that I am with my planner. Walk me through what your experience is from there.

Ms Sullivan : There are two experiences. One, the planner employed by the Commonwealth government would come—usually because we already have these people with us—and negotiate what a plan would look like. In that plan we have to negotiate what we need to be able to support the person we are looking at. As most of us in this room will realise, what we are actually being asked to provide is the same amount of work for a lesser amount of money.

Ms HALL: Are you being asked or are the participants being asked? Isn't the plan about the participant developing the plan that they want, not about the organisation developing a plan that they think that they want? That is a little bit contrary to what the NDIA—

CHAIR: There may be an answer here. Are these people who already have state based plans?

Ms Sullivan : Yes they have.

CHAIR: So they already have a package from the state. Is that always the case with the ones you are referring to at the moment?

Ms Sullivan : No, we have some new ones as well.

CHAIR: But the ones who are falling in with the planner coming down and trying to negotiate with you—are those clients? Do they already all have existing packages from the state?

Ms Sullivan : All bar one, yes.

CHAIR: So there is one who is not—who has nothing or very little—and the same process has been worked through?

Ms Sullivan : Yes.

CHAIR: You are aware that it is the up to the individual, so let's go through that process you have been through. I am the person with the disability. They have done all of that, and that is great, but then I decide I want to go with this company over here. They really are only looking at indicative figures about what you do and what your costs will be. Is that your understanding of it?

Ms Sullivan : We are not at the base where we are being competitive yet. We are just starting to quote. We are not down that far. For example, we recently got a new client. They came to us and said, 'This young lady wants to be with you for six days a week.' This is like a day support service or alternative to work. 'This is the amount you're going to get.' Then we say: 'We note this person has behaviour issues and this is what we require. This is the amount of money we can do it for.' Then we start the negotiations. 'What can you do for this person?' We say, 'For that money, we can have that person five days a week but only for three hours a day.' It is that sort of negotiation. That is where we are at.

CHAIR: All right.

Ms HALL: Can I ask another question? Wouldn't an NDIA participant usually be told, say, 'You have five hours a day that you can go to Able for day care,' and then that would be funded? That is my understanding of the NDIA.

Ms Sullivan : That is the end result, but there is a lot of work that goes before that can happen.

CHAIR: And you are discussing this with a planner, aren't you?

Ms Sullivan : Well, we were. It is now a case manager or case planner.

Mr Beswick : To pick up on that point: yes, people come with a plan which has a number of hours which say what it is for, and it is up to a provider to accept that or not. The planning process itself has evolved quite significantly from the start of the scheme, and there has been a fairly significant shift from not talking to providers and not seeking the appropriate information to actually now coming and talking to us, because the tos and fros between the agency and service providers—of which the family are the tennis ball in the middle—were pretty complex with up to as many as four or five iterations. That is not anyone's fault. We are learning as we go; and, through that process, sometimes clients who are not able to advocate well for themselves or their families who do not fully understand the service suite or do not have the language of the sector come back with a plan that is not sufficient to meet their needs. A lot of our clients and their families are disadvantaged. They are not working. They have poor literacy. There are a number of compounding factors that make that journey a lot more difficult for those families under the arrangement as it is. It is improving, but there has been a process of learning and getting that right.

Ms RISHWORTH: So what you are saying is that, as a result, people have been going back and forth getting to a plan, and the negotiations between organisations have been about getting to the point where the plan accurately reflects the needs of the individual that they originally expressed.

Mr Beswick : Yes.

Ms Sullivan : Thanks for interpreting for me; I didn't realise I was speaking in Chinese!

The point I am trying to get to is that we still have case managers in the system and it is that that slows it down. This is just a heads up. We prefer it where we are the planner rather than a third party who is negotiating on our behalf. We are talking about money. These might be our competitors or they might not. There is no need for that there. That is my first operational issue.

I go to the second issue. I used to be the director of the pharmacy guild in Tasmania, and we put in a lot of government programs. Pharmacists were always funded when their operational business way of doing things changed. The way we do business now has changed dramatically in this sector, and at the moment we are not funded for that, so it is actually costing us money to implement this program. As you can imagine, as an NGO, we do not have that money at all. Then we look at where we can get some money to do that, so we look at capacity grants. We were encouraged last week, when we met with your advisory committee, to apply for this funding. We had a look at what the business rules were, and we are not allowed to, because it is seen as a conflict of interest. So where can we go to help us be able to spend hours and hours going through the portal, understanding line items et cetera? Where do we get the funding to get a project officer to come in or whatever it is it takes so we can be ready for business?

CHAIR: Okay, now we understand a couple things. By the way: we are not the NDIA. You keep saying us, but we are not. We are the parliamentary committee whose job is to take some of this stuff, seek answers and make recommendations around your case—the questions you are raising about sector development and how certain programs have been put in place which from your observations are not going to be helpful—and bring that to people's attention so ministers, governments and COAG can make appropriate decisions with that information. Does anyone wish to add anything? Amanda?

Ms RISHWORTH: I wanted to ask whether you have had any examples where there has been a specific conflict of interest between the case manager doing their role as a case manager and also being a service provider? Do you have any specific examples or are you concerned about this conflict of interest happening in the future?

Ms Sullivan : Yes, we have been through one. I am not going to talk about that person—

Ms RISHWORTH: No. But this is a current experience that you are having. For your information, this conflict of interest with the stakeholders and service providers was something that previously in the New South Wales state based package system was a big concern to families. So I wanted to know whether or not you believe there has been a current conflict of interest, whether or not anything was done to manage that conflict and what you can see—obviously your solution is to deal directly with planners, not case managers, to alleviate that conflict. Is that correct?

Ms Sullivan : There is a conflict of interest in a couple of ways. If you are a planner and I am a businessperson being a planner, I would want it to take as long as it could because you are going to get paid on an hourly basis for a plan.

Ms RISHWORTH: All the planners are employed by the NDIA, though, aren't they?

CHAIR: No, not down here.


Ms Sullivan : The other thing is that, if we are competitors in the market for the people we are trying to support with, then of course it is a conflict of interest on that. I am not going to say any specifics, but the option is there because we are such a small market at the moment. It will not be like that when you have people who have their business set up to do that.

CHAIR: Okay. You have made a valid point about transitioning with the NGOs at the moment and having no support. I have experience in other portfolios where it was similar to what you said with pharmacies. I think it would be helpful if you could give to us—not today, but you could write back to us on behalf of your individual organisation or any that you are part of—what sort of assistance you are seeking in the form of advice, technology, IT or whatever it may be. I think that in the first instance will allow the committee to review that.

Ms RISHWORTH: Probably also the NDS. It is doing a big workforce development program for organisations, so it is worth getting in contact with them.

CHAIR: The NDIA, we heard yesterday, will be releasing a report fairly soon about sector development as well, and I think that issue will be part of it.

Mr Beswick : I wanted to add something about case management in defence of how the agency have changed their practices around case management. I take it there were instances where case management for unexplained reasons took too long and was not adequate case management. There is no effective oversight of that. Recent experience of the plans that are coming out of the agency say, 'Here's a block of case management. This is the outcome that it is to achieve.' It is reviewed after that time to make sure that that outcome has happened, and if not, it will look at why not and look at the impediments to that happening. I think that that is a more sensible approach to ensuring that the case management serves the purpose that it was established for. Things are not given just because they would be nice to have; there are specific purposes around access to housing, when a person is homeless and other transitions that people are going through in their lives. I think that that is a sensible way of resolving the case management process.

Mrs Glover : I would like to share an experience that we have at TasTAFE, being a general community education provider of VET, not a disability-specific organisation. We have a very small slice of students around the state in TasTAFE, who have a package that has an interaction with us. So we are a registered provider. It is usually to provide personal support for someone to be a student in their chosen course—usually a generic mainstream course. Some students may be in the certificate I vocational education training programs.

In speaking with students and their families, the experience has been positive for those people who have a plan. From what they are telling me they seem to have funding for the things that they have requested—the things that they knew they could request—and that has certainly allowed them to take some control of their lives as they learn how to do that. There is still a long way to go for people to know what to do when they have their plan. We have had some people who have their plans. I knew that TasTAFE was being asked, for example, to provide some personal care and I had not heard from the student or their family or from a local area coordinator to actually start it. I kept asking the student; they seemed a bit vague.

So there was that step: 'I've got my plan; how do I enact it?' That plan is a couple of months old and not much seems to have happened from the perspective of the individual. But what is in the plan is what they wanted, and it is covering their bases, as they could see it, in that planning phase. That is a really positive example of how a generic service can just be providing a very small amount of support to an individual for them to participate in a mainstream activity of vocational education and training with thousands and thousands of other students across Tasmania. It was the next step that seemed to be where it was a bit slow.

CHAIR: Thanks, Linda. That is evidence that we heard in Geelong, where it seems that people far too often have a plan which is fully funded and nothing happens with the enactment of it. So that is something that will certainly exercise the minds of the committee.

Mr Symonds : That is an experience that we had. We have had a number of people rolling through our door: 'What do I do with this?' I can back up what Linda said.

One issue that we have been finding is around people with more complex needs, and perhaps a gap in the provision of services. Under the old state funding process we had access to specialist experts. So, if we had some challenging behaviour by individuals, we had a resource that we could go to. I suspect a lot of organisations here—small NGOs—do not have a large skill set or expertise that might deal with more complex, one-off behaviours. That team was called the DAAT—the Disability Advisory Assessment Team. We would go and talk to those people: psychologists, social workers and so on—people who are skilled around some behaviour management issues.

Under NDIS we have had a number of clients transfer in-kind funding across. Unfortunately, we can see a day when that resource will go, and there is nothing in anyone's plan that can fund a private consultation with a psychologist. It is perhaps a gap in the NDIS framework for people with more complex needs.

CHAIR: Who is currently funding that again? What was the bucket of money?

Mr Symonds : It is the DAAT—the state funded department of human services.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Mr Harvey : I am Scott Harvey from COSMOS. COSMOS is a day support organisation. Forty per cent of our current clients are in the cohort and the remainder will be coming over when the scheme is fully rolled out. The issue for us at COSMOS now is looking at our sustainability. There is uncertainty around where we are going as far as the number of clients we are going to get coming through the NDIS. We fully understand the contestability and that sort of thing and we agree with that. Our problem is that on the other side of that we are not getting much information about what services are being required. So while we are doing our current services it is very hard for us to project into the future and say what we will look like as an organisation, because under the current funding that NDIA is providing for our cohort, we would need to do something different or something more. That is going to be our major issue.

Senator STEPHENS: We have heard that message a few times in our travels to date. I am wondering, because the whole state is the trial site, whether or not the providers network have started to work out any solutions or any suggestions to help us allow that to happen?

Mr Harvey : Not that I am aware of.

Senator STEPHENS: Has anyone got some thoughts? Glenn?

Mr Campbell : I just wanted to reinforce that comment. We are largely an accommodation respite support provider. When you project that lack of information long term, we have respite clients who are coming through NDIS and we need to be able to make provision for that respite care, and we need reasonable lead times to be able to make those capital investments. Notwithstanding the sustainability issue and the fact that probably most organisations do not have the balance sheet to be able to develop facilities, even if you are able to get access to capital to be able to do the development, there is a long lead time with that sort of work—whether it be around group homes or respite provision. Even beyond the current lack of understanding of the clients that are coming through, that longer-term ability to project where they are going to be is really critical information for us.

Senator STEPHENS: Thank you. We are very mindful of the lead times and the fact that we are in a trial site—that is actually a very important factor for us to take into account. Is there a way in which the Sector Development Fund can assist you to get a better understanding of the scope, that might help you with your business model?

Mr Harvey : We haven't explored that yet.

Mr Paton : I think it was Tim Flowers who was part of the Sector Development Fund and he was engaged to come down and talk with providers about clarifying what our cost of service was and coming up with a better model of service to try to look at sustainability. I think the issue for us in Tasmania is that, as a day service provider, we get—on 1 July—40 per cent of that annual grant, which actually sustains the organisation through a whole range of ups and downs throughout the year. What is going to happen in the NDIS world is that you will get it on payment of invoices. So the ability to have a cash injection at a particular critical period in time is certainly not going to be there. The viability of a whole range of providers in Tasmania, and probably around Australia, is going to be called into question, particularly issues to do with a whole range of things, like the sex award issues that are happening now. The impact on service providers is absolutely monumental at a time when there are so many critical issues happening in the sector. In a way, the NDIS could not have happened at a worse time from the prospect that there are so many other things happening. It obviously has to happen. Service providers need to now get their act into gear and come up with viability issues. We can talk about mergers, alliances and whatever needs to happen, but the lack of choice that is potentially out there for people with disabilities is a bit of an issue too.

Ms HALL: I would like to make the point—and I have probably made this point a few times—that the NDIS is about people with disabilities, people who have been pushed aside, and people who have missed out on services, support and opportunities. I do not think that there is ever a bad time for the NDIS. It is imperative that the NDIS goes forward. It is long overdue and we cannot—

CHAIR: We take your point, John. We know where you are going. It is okay. I would like to ask a general question, if anyone wants to relate to it. Clearly, there are many partners in this to make it successful, and you as a group are a partner. If you are in a position to do so, could you say a couple of things. Firstly, what preparation work are you doing now as an organisation in planning et cetera for the complete rollout? Without additional support, just knowledge, how do you see the sector in Tasmania in full rollout coping or looking? Would anyone wish to make a comment in that area?

Mr Campbell : I would like to pick up Jill's comment as well, following on from John's which led to it. That is absolutely right. I would encourage the committee to continue to provide advice that we need to keep this thing going. We need to learn lessons from whatever we will call them—the trial sites. Let's learn the lessons. I would encourage you not to provide any advice to back off. Yes, there are issues in the system, but they are being dealt with and they are being learned from. As we go forward, we will carry those lessons forward with us. The big issue that impacts sustainability, and it is a Tasmanian issue, is the contracting environment for existing providers. John talked about the advance funding, and that is certainly a component of the sustainability of each of the organisations. One of the peculiar issues here is that we are not able to build any sort of funding reserves. We are doing a lot of the work, and we can talk about some of the preparation work that we are doing. We are doing a lot of work around the way we roster staff and moving to flexible industrial awards, and we are doing a lot of work around our branding, our marketing and rebuilding our structures. We are doing all of that work and the heavy lifting so that in 2½ years we are able to make the transition to a market based environment and will be ready for it.

The issue in Tasmania is that, once we have done the heavy lifting and we are able to build surpluses in sufficient to be able to sustain us for the shift in cash flow, we have to give them back. We have to give back the savings under the funding. That constraints you because, if you make a loss, then you wear your loss; if you make a profit, which is to build reserves for the future, you have to give it back. So you are never able to get there. One of the things for us is a real need for change in the contracting environment with the state government. That is a particular issue.

CHAIR: Just to clarify: regarding the arrangement with the state government during this phase, I take it that you are referring to your in-kind work and things like that?

Mr Campbell : No.

CHAIR: No, not necessarily? We can go there separately if you wish. I did not mean to open that can of worms just yet, but you can at some stage. Just explain to me a little more about how you have been encouraged to bank.

Mr Campbell : This is the historic situation. It has nothing to do with the change to the NDIS. There is a piece in each of our funding agreements that says, 'If you make any surplus in excess of $10,000, that surplus needs to be repaid to the state government.' Historically, that has been logically around: if you are not spending the money, clearly you are not doing the service provision and therefore the money comes back.

In reality what we are doing now is getting better productivity. We are doing things a whole lot smarter and a whole lot better. We are aware that for our organisation, for example, the shift in cash flow and the additional working capital that we need, which will be moved from advanced funding—where you get some interest on the money and you have the money up front—to arrears funding—where you have to carry that working capital and carry the cash flow—is about $750,000. So we have got three and a bit years to build sufficient reserve to be able to withstand that shift to arrears funding. As you are building that under the contracting environment, the funding then has to go back to the funder, which means you can never build it, you can never survive.

This is okay in that, ultimately, it probably drives some rationalisation in the sector around not-for-profits merging. If that is policy, well, sobeit. But I suspect what it actually does is drive the not-for-profit sector out of the space and bring in for-profits who have access to capital, who have profits from other parts of the organisation. What that does is shift the sector significantly and move us away from organisations that are providing the service for the right reasons and that are looking to continue to provide the best possible service towards profit-driven organisations. There is a balance. We need a competitive environment. We need a blend of for-profits and not-for-profits. We need some large-, some small- and some mid-sized organisations, but the quality has to stay there and also the ability to look after people who are now able to choose their providers. You need that solid marketplace. If you are not able to transition as a not-for-profit then you drive all of the existing expertise, all of the existing quality and a lot of that heart out of the sector and replace it with just for-profits, which I just do not think is the right outcome. I do not think that was the intended outcome of the scheme.

CHAIR: Thank you, Glenn. Points well made.

Mr Eastley : We see that this is basically an opportunity in the real sense to look at products and services that we can deliver from our existing organisational base and also to market those to the broader community. We are probably in a better position than most because we have relied on government funding to only 23 per cent of our operations, but we do see some real risks in terms of the fundraising capability. We started to make changes in terms of where we have done the traditional fundraising side of things, but we do expect that there will be a drop. The fundamental thing for us is to recognise that this is a new start and that we must start from the fundamental premise that this is for the clients. What are the services that we want to be able to provide and who might be attracted to us as an organisation as a quality provider?

For the board to get around that, I basically went to them and said that we have got two choices: either we close the shop or we get on with it. They signed off on the latter, and it was reiterated at the weekend: we want to make that fundamental change. For us to do that, we will have to substantially retrain two-thirds of our staff because they have never worked in a commercial environment. Our clients have never had to pay for the services they have received. So we are going to have a cultural change, with us saying, 'Yes, you've got a care plan and we'll help you through that process, but you're going to have to pay for the specialist advice that you receive from our staff.'

For organisations like ours, it is going to be a significant investment in education and in retooling the organisation for the future. We are prepared to do that. If we were to say that we were still going to be a real specialist provider as MS, I do not think we would survive. So we need to look quite critically at what other products and services we can deliver. I take up the question that COSMOS raised: what are the really essential products and services that we all must get good at going to be so that NDIS is really successful and we achieve what has been set out?

CHAIR: Dale, do you feel that you are getting access to sufficient information at board level now to start facilitating those answers or those questions, and do you have any suggestions about what you may need as far as that access in the future?

Mr Eastley : We got down the NDS specialist information provider to educate the board again this weekend, because you have to do it more than once. That is not being rude—we are all like that. The second thing is being able to get access to the development funds. I have had a look at it and it is very restrictive in terms of how you might be able to get into that space. I think a re-look at those definitions might be really useful. I would be happy to be involved in that process.

The other part of it is that we need to see that we have got a real responsibility to get on with it as a business and say, 'What are we actually going to do?' and recognise this fundamental change. In our case, we are fortunate: we do have some reserves and we can afford to invest. One of the key things that I have talked to the board about is that we do not have up-to-date, state-of-the-art IT systems that allow us to do a billing cycle on a seven-day basis. We basically will not be able to expand because the working capital will be drawn out of the business. That is one of the things that a lot of organisations are going to struggle with—understanding that that is the key new essential environment that they must have.

CHAIR: I think one of the valid points that we should all take on in the committee and talk to the NDI about is their billing cycle. We all know there are issues with the portal, but beyond that, what is going to be their standard operating procedure as far as seven days, 14 days, 28 days? It will have a massive impact whatever they determine. We will take that up tomorrow as well.

Mr Eastley : The key thing that will drive that has to be the business process from us as an organisation. So if I cannot get my specialist nurses to do the job-costing that is going to be required and I allow them to not do it and it sits there for a month, we will not fix anything. With people who have been attracted to the industry not because of what they would see as being bean counters but who are there for the care reasons, the big thing is going to be for me to be able to get them to say: 'You are going to have to be like an accountant's office or a solicitor's office and I need you to account for your time and I have to allocate between direct and indirect costs.' That is going to be a significant issue, because, with the working capital requirements, you do not need to be blind Freddy to know that if you leave it out there for 30 or 60 days there will not be any cash left in the business.

CHAIR: I am glad you raised it; it came up on Monday with a family where the organisation could not substantiate where they had spent the money. That is not to say they had not spent it, but they were just not in the habit of doing so. It is a very big cultural change. So it is good of you to highlight it.

Mr Eastley : Can I make one final comment. I think that is why we need to be part of trying, in this transition period, to help the clients—not to fill it in but to make sure that they understand when they make those fundamental decisions that they manage the plan or we do not. That is their choice, clearly, from my perspective. But we need to make sure that they not only get the support that they require but that they understand what the implications are if they do not do this properly.

Ms RISHWORTH: Have you been sharing any information about IT systems with organisations? Has there been some work done on looking at ways that you can get an IT system that can bill on an hourly or daily rate?

Mr Eastley : Within MS?

Ms RISHWORTH: Within MS or with organisations sharing information so that every organisation is not reinventing the wheel.

Mr Eastley : There are two responses to that. Yes, MS as an Australia-wide body work on a cooperative basis. But I think we also need to recognise that the business drivers for each of us are going to be different and we need to recognise our level of capital capability and the IT capability within the organisations and their preparedness to jump. I am saying to my organisation: we need to move to cloud based technology, not continue to use the standard relational databases, which are totally inefficient.

CHAIR: Thanks very much. Ms Sullivan, do you want to comment on this question?

Ms Sullivan : Yes. I find that question interesting. Would you ask Westpac Bank to do the same thing with the Commonwealth Bank? We are competitors. We do all know each other because we see each other all the time at these things, but the chance of us being able to do that, as we are small, is not going to happen in time.

Ms RISHWORTH: There has been some sharing. The Practical Design Fund has been something where best practice has been established and there has been some sharing of information. I take your point that you are competitors, but the fund has been used to share information and to share design ideas and innovation at the same time.

Ms Sullivan : I think that is right and I think that is what we need. I am not saying we do not work together, because we work together all the time, especially Life Without Barriers and Able Australia, but when we are talking about our business practices, and IT is, it is just a little bit different.

Ms Mackey : I can give two examples. As a larger organisation we feel a level of responsibility not just for the clients that we currently support and to maintain our business so we can continue to support them, but also because we think it is really important to have a vibrant, well-functioning, not-for-profit sector in the disability space. We have taken that responsibility quite seriously in the decision making in the board and the executive over a period of time now.

We developed quite a robust costing tool. Our costing tool was shared with PricewaterhouseCoopers to support the work that has been done both in the lead-up to the scheme being launched, but also since then in subsequent discussions with them. We use our clients. We probably meet with them about once every six to eight weeks and we share the data against our costing tool so it can inform how the costing work is going in a very practical way. We have shared that costing tool with probably half a dozen other providers and there is an enormous amount of IP and commercial information contained within that.

The other thing that is really clear to us is that as a sector we need to start thinking about shared service arrangements. We cannot continue to think that we can all afford to invest in the IT that is required. We know that even as a really large provider we are moving quite quickly in terms of some of the quite sophisticated technology that is needed to allow clients to opt in and manage themselves, but it is very costly. So we are working with other larger providers, one in particular that is across four states, to try and develop that technology and then make it available as a shared services platform.

What is interesting to me is that there has been a much more open conversation in some states versus in others around how providers can work together. I would say that in Tasmania there is a bit of a competitive feel and it is less so in New South Wales. If you had asked me beforehand, before it all started, I probably would have said the opposite would have happened. That is our observation. We continue to have good relationships with a range of our competitors and we continue to have people come knocking on our door asking: 'How can we work together? How can we get some support during this process?' We will continue to open our door and figure out how to do that.

We are also conscious that that changing competitive environment is influencing the behaviours of some. I think that is a really careful balance that organisations need to take. We have seen some large providers that I would say nearly take advantage of others and see it as a game of swallowing up as many small providers as possible. We have a slightly different view: we see that you can work together in alliances and partnerships and not necessarily take away what makes up the particular organisations that are already there. It is quite a mature conversation that the sector needs to have. There is not support for that mature conversation at the moment because everyone is focused on the how-to, rather than on what is the future we imagine as a sector. There are obvious reasons for that. But in terms of the questions being asked before about what support the sector needs, I think the sector needs some space to have some of these quite complex and mature conversations.

CHAIR: Thanks, Tracy, that was a wonderful contribution. I am going to make an observation, which some people will not like, about the not-for-profit sector. Someone made the point over here about for-profit driven, for a profit margin. That is not to say, and I am not sure you are not saying, that that means they do not have great empathy et cetera. I have seen good, bad and ugly across the whole lot. However, when you are in the not-for-profit sector and you talk about competition, generally it is because you are competing for a limited amount of funding in a tender round. But are we not all here for the end-user, who is the person with a disability, and their family? Some of the discussions are counterproductive to what we should all be trying to achieve.

I once went to an incredibly large seminar run by Mission Australia and Macquarie Bank, where a bloke said our sector is not growing at the same rate as the rest of the country. At the time, we had low unemployment. I said, 'Isn't that a good thing? In a perfect world, wouldn't we all be out of business?' I know that is counterintuitive to a lot of people but this is about changing cultures, this is about empowering the individual and this is about the not-for-profit sector not being about them but being about the individual. That cultural change is something I would encourage you all to continue evolving with. I will just leave that as a comment.

Mr Doedens : STAR Tasmania is similar to Optia; I can talk about what we are doing. As Glen mentioned, we are moving from a block-funded scheme, where we are basically kept poor in terms of making ends meet. The funding is just sufficient, and if there is any excess it goes back anyway. We are moving from that. We have hardly any support staff who do anything other than support clients.

I should start by saying that the NDIS is fantastic. I think extending the opportunity to more people is what it is all about, and we are really excited about that. But the challenge for us is transitioning, and part of that transitioning is, as Glen mentioned also, developing marketing and getting your name out there, having systems that record services you are providing so that you can bill regularly for each client rather than get paid a block fund up-front. Staff are having a challenge now with recording information, spending more time doing administrative type tasks than support work. They will have to get used to that. Staff also have to get used to the fact that we actually have to stay alive as an organisation. When we take on work their desire is to support the client or participant and help them, regardless, but if we do that we will go broke and not be able to support any clients.

The challenge is around getting that commercial head around things, understanding that we have a cost we have to cover when supporting a client. Sometimes you do not cover it, sometimes you do make a loss, but as long as you can cover it with something else, that is the main thing. One of the big challenges with NDIS is the rates that they have established based on the block-funded amounts that were given. The block-funded amounts given were just enough, but the good thing about block funding is that it covers all the beds you have and all the houses you support, regardless of whether somebody actually vacates it or you have a vacancy for three months, and you are paid up-front. So we are getting interest on the money we are given, we are guaranteed money for the beds we provide and we obviously try to fill them, but they are not always full. Under NDIS, they will not be all full, there will be more vacancies and you will get paid in arrears. So the rates have to be looked at and they have to take into account those two things. If they do not, most of our service provision will go broke. We are supporting around 20 NDIA clients at the moment, and I can tell you that we are losing money on the whole lot. It is just not covering it.

Another issue somebody mentioned was the back and forth you have with the planner. A lot of it is around that. It is around clients and their families not understanding in many cases what support they actually need. The planners have to spend a bit more time talking to people who are currently providing services to those people to understand what their actual needs are. That is the other aspect.

Going back to the case management—and I want to cover as many things as I can in one go—I also agree there is a conflict. If you have a case manager recommending your own services, you are going to have a conflict. If you set a rule that they cannot provide services for the people they case manage that would actually solve that.

CHAIR: Just on the financial one: here we are taking evidence, so we are not giving answers, but you offered a potential answer. I think it is the broader question we are looking at. Viability issues are of a concern and the direct funding model on a case-by-case basis as it stands at the moment is bringing into question viability and that question needs to be looked at. Would you be happy with that sort of a scenario?

Mr Doedens : That is correct, yes.

CHAIR: Because there would be more than one potential outcome. We take on board your other comments.

Mr English : I want to touch on two points. Firstly, I want to reiterate the point Glen made earlier. Access to capital is an enormous issue for the sector. Most organisations do not have access to significant capital to make these transitions. Without access to capital they are not going to successfully make those transitions. Some organisations, as Dale said, that are perhaps philanthropically funded have been able to accumulate because they are not limited by those funding constraints. They have been able to access capital.

Quite often holding capital of your own is to your detriment as well. We have quite a significant amount of capital, but we invest it to increase our operational funding. Yet there have been instances where it has been called into question: 'You have got a significant amount of capital. Why don't you fund that yourself?' But if we fund it from our capital we will actually lose operational income because we will not get that interest anymore. I think it is certainly an imperative of the NDIA—and the committee can help influence—to find the opportunities for organisations to get access to some amount of capital.

Let me turn more specifically to our sector, which is the blindness sector. I speak here as both Chairman of the Australian Blindness Forum and as a CEO of Guide Dogs. One of the things discussed at the forum mentioned earlier with the advisory committee—and I think it was Linda from TasTAFE who brought up the issue—was the fact that clients are asking for the things that they know to ask for. So there is an enormous body of work being undertaken by service providers before, after or during the planning process to educate them, and they are completely unfunded for that. We are spending hours and hours prior, after or during to educate our clients. There is also a significant amount of education required in terms of the relationship. For example, a client will come to us and say, 'I have got funding for seven hours of a particular service.' We will say yes and they will say, 'I want to make appointments for the next seven weeks between one and two o'clock.' We then say: 'Hang on a minute. Because you are within the 10- or 12-kilometre limit we have 20 minutes of travel so that reduces it to 40 minutes. We have to travel to your location and then come back. Then we have administrative responsibilities. We have to write reports and do our internal planning, so there is funding for that.' Clients actually need to be educated. I think the NDIS should be more proactive, whether through the planners or the local area coordinators, to make sure that participants and clients have a really good understanding of what their funding is going to cover. You may get 10 hours of funding but you may get only seven hours, 7½ hours, eight hours or whatever it may be of direct service provision out of that because there are constraints in relation to it.

I would also echo Dale's comments about it being a fantastic opportunity. Certainly we believe there are significant opportunities within this. The relationship with NDIS is going to be imperative. Certainly from our perspective we have had a very positive relationship with the NDIS and we have seen growth in that relationship. One of the things that we pushed very hard for in terms of the policy development was the inclusion of specialist assessments. We recognise that the planners cannot know everything there is to know about every disability and what can be achieved in relation to a specific disability. So dealing with the organisations and accessing specialist information from organisations is imperative. But, again, it has to be funded.

CHAIR: Aren't you saying here today that that has been happening—that they have been coming out and talking to you?

Mr English : Certainly, we are talking about the fact that they are talking now.

CHAIR: Is it something that has morphed? It is improving and you think that, generally speaking, people are aware that they are seeking specialist assistance sometimes—or specialist advice.

Mr English : Specialist advice is different from specialist assessment.

CHAIR: Sorry, yes.

Mr English : Specialist assessment is an item line under NDIS. Certainly here in Tasmania specialist assessment in our sector has been using more and more. My colleagues interstate are reporting that has been very difficult—

CHAIR: Sorry, I am not talking about assessment. I am saying that they are now coming out, not paying you for your time but trying to understand better what your services provide and how that may relate to a particular participant.

Mr English : I think they are engaging at that level, yes. But the specialist assessment is the key one.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Can I break this down on a couple of fronts. You have raised some issues of great importance, I think. One of the things we heard at Geelong was that those who had better personal advocacy skills, or who took an advocate with them, often got a better outcome with respect to their planning. I imagine that would go both to what they achieve and their understanding of what they had achieved in terms of their package. I have less of a problem with not-for-profit organisations like blind dogs, but a bigger problem—

Mr English : If the dogs are blind we are in a lot of trouble!

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Guide dogs. I am sorry; it is late in the day. I have just come from the electoral reform committee.

CHAIR: Don't worry, Hansard will look after that!

Senator O'SULLIVAN: If you are a profit based service provider I would have difficulty with your being engaged in the development of the package and being able to persuade people of particular needs or services. It is a bit like never having gone to the dentist where you did not come away with a root canal work.

It is a serious issue in the private sector. If someone is to benefit from the advice, they are going to give as much advice as they can get away with. It is as simple as that; that is how life goes around.

Mr English : If I can respond to that, Mal made a really interesting point before—I think you were outside—that in a perfect world we would all be redundant. Our organisation does not provide ongoing personal support. We do not provide ongoing accommodation. We provide an episodic service. People come to us, they receive exactly what they ask for, and then they leave. Then they revisit. Certainly, specialist service providers lobbied very hard to get specialist assessment included in the process so that there was an understanding of that process.

My experience here in Tasmania is that it is being utilised very well. Actually, in complete contrast to the point you are making, the outcomes for people where specialist assessment has been used has been significantly cheaper than other outcomes. I can give a very good example—not through NDIS but through MAIB prior to the introduction. MAIB used a generic assessment process and they placed a person with a full-time carer. That person would be very adequately served by a $50 long cane and a $2,000 orientation and mobility program. Instead, they have a full-time carer. Every time we have provided the O and M service that would allow this person to be independently mobile, the personal carer, who is funded on an ongoing basis for seven hours a day, five days a week, actively undermines that process. That is a significantly higher cost—

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I think we are saying the same thing. You are talking about peak representative bodies being involved in giving advice. I am talking about going through the Yellow Pages and finding a Pty Ltd who wants to buy into this market space and saying, 'I've got big ears; what do I need?' They are going to fit me out with a kit from A to Z. I have no trouble with them coming to your organisation to provide the appropriate skilled, expert advice. I am more concerned about—

Mr English : If we are honest, it comes back to the point that Glenn made earlier about access to capital. There are going to be for-profits that will move in, and they will cherry-pick. They will take the services that are the cheapest to provide and yield the highest returns, because they have a requirement to build a profit for their shareholders. There are organisations in this space that do not have access to capital, that do not have access to the resources, that cannot run at a loss for 12 months or two years, but these for-profits can actually run a loss leader, price us out of the market, and yet long term the benefits for participants will be significantly less. This is why we are looking at a process where we have got to make sure that organisations have that access.

Mr Beswick : I understand that there could be a perceived conflict of interest. I think it is incumbent to also recognise that some of our service providers in Tasmania and many other states are the only people involved in a lot of these people's lives. They are the only people who have advocated for them, and they are the only ones who actually understand what is involved with that. It is about making sure that that person's support needs are met—not to upsell or upscale so that there is additional service. That just does not make sense and it is not consistent with the vision and values of any of the not-for-profit organisations across the state.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: My remarks were not meant to be a general disparaging statement. We have had evidence of people who said that they previously had providers who would provide them with some sort of care at $80 an hour, and overnight it has gone to $187 an hour.

CHAIR: Let me bring this little bit of a discussion to a head. I think that there is this natural conflict or potential where there has to be, from the planners perspective—as you all know, this is such a broad area you cannot be a specialist in each area. In Geelong, for argument's sake, the evidence from NDIA was, 'We try to match a participant with someone who has a skill set or as close as we can.' It is still a very broad field. When you come to a smaller market, such as Tasmania, you still have that broad spectrum of disabilities but maybe not as many planners with as broad a knowledge. Therefore people are having to deal with a broader caseload.

We need to find the balance and we need to exercise our minds as a committee to provide advice as to how you ensure that the intimate knowledge that is required for a particular disability is brought on board in a way that does not conflict the people bringing it on board and does not end up with a shopping list. But at the same time we do not want to end up with a situation where they have so little knowledge that what they put out there is a waste of time—too much or too little. Is that basically it in a nutshell? We know the problem; now all we have got to do is come up with the answer. Glenn?

Mr Campbell : I am not sure where to take it from there, Mal, but in answer to Barry's statement about the perception that those who have strong advocacy come away with better packages: I think there is a real danger in this, and there is a real risk, and it is a divide between people with a physical disability who have skills to be able to negotiate a package and understand and navigate the system against those with an intellectual disability. And, as Drew mentioned, in many cases they do not have good support structures. They just do not have people around them, whether it be family members or others, who are able to advocate and negotiate on their behalf. Up to now the advocacy organisations have not been funded for this bit of work, so I think there is real risk and there really are big differences coming through in the packages that are being negotiated.

In terms of the ability to influence the package, I agree absolutely. The fundamental of this is to give choice to the individual and we fully support that. I think a lot of what we are talking about is clients who have been given care for a long period of time, who then enter into a new system and come out far worse off than when they went into the negotiation. This has come a long way in Tasmania, by the way. Full credit to the agency who have worked through this process and have come full circle from what I think was a very adversarial position at the start. I am not talking at a local level; I am talking at a national level. There is this distrust of providers and this assumption that there is self-interest in the sector and all of that sort of thing, to a position that says, 'This is a sector that actually understands something about how to care for the individuals.'

What we are really talking about is people who are coming into the system out of the existing system. Just have a look at what it has taken to care for them in the past. Have a look at the level of support they have needed and what their medical plans have been. For a number of years, most of us have been developing personal plans around the growth of individuals. Whilst it is perceived as a new process, we have been doing it for quite some time. It is understanding that and understanding where those people are at the moment and feeding that into the process so that, when you are setting a new plan, you understand it.

Providers do not necessarily need to be involved in the process. It is just a question of giving us the records. We are happy to do that at the starting point. That takes a lot of the spinning of wheels in that process out of the entire system. To a large extent, we are carrying the effort of going around and around to get the individual to a point at which they can be cared for. We are not funded for it, admittedly. It is also the high-level people in each of the organisations. It is not support workers or coordinators who are doing that work; it is the management team, and it is distracting them while we need to be transitioning as an organisation. That is the point of it.

CHAIR: Thanks, Glenn. Jill wanted to make a final point on this. We are getting close to the end of this session.

Ms HALL: I understand that this is probably a really difficult time for you all. It is a time of change and it is a time of uncertainty. At the same time, I acknowledge the fact that you are all very committed professionals who have been working in this area for a very long period of time and you have been struggling hard. You have always taken into account the best interests of your clients and now participants of the NDIS. Given that you come from that background and that you know Tasmania much better than any of us do, and given the fact that it has been pointed out that some people are missing out on what they actually need, what do you think needs to happen to ensure that everybody who is assessed has a plan drawn up for them, not just those who have strong advocates? How do you ensure they get the type of plan that they need and that will help deliver the goal of the NDIS of changing their lives, basically?

Mr English : There is a model at least going part way to this. There is an existing model with the Department of Veterans' Affairs that uses a trusted intermediary model. They allow people to come in for an automatic assessment that is pre-funded up to a limit. People can come in and have those conversations before their plan is developed. It goes to Barry's question. You could go to any organisation that deals with your specific disability. You are pre-funded to go there and you do not have to get your plan first. The organisations, those trusted intermediaries, can say, 'This is the suite services that could assist you.' It is not incumbent upon a person to come back to that organisation to get those services once they get their plan, but there is pre-authorised funding up to a level so that a person can go to an organisation, or perhaps they could be preapproved to go to one or two organisations, and get a good idea of the suite of services that are available to them. This works exceptionally well already with DVA. It is not something that is exploited, because DVA does not allow you to move beyond that assessment without further approvals. It gives the organisations the wherewithal to be funded for the advice and the detail. Normally it is someone—as was pointed out by Glenn—at a reasonably high level who has to give this advice. It means that the organisations are funded to provide the advice, but the person gets the best possible advice prior to going to the planning process and making a request for a plan.

CHAIR: Thanks, Dan. We will leave it there because I think it has been well canvassed. We are very well aware of those problems and concerns. It has been well articulated today. I know there are a couple of people who have not had a chance to speak who would like to make a comment.

Mr Klugg : The commercial reality of where we are going is a fact. I think it has been touched on enough. If Able is not ready we will go bust. We believe we are ready. The fact is that the participants have not been mentioned quite enough today, I believe. Jill, I am with you: it has to happen. That is the reality. It is coming. From Tasmania's perspective, we have heavily researched. An intake service, I believe, has now got to the point of being very successful and very user-friendly for the participants in the gateway model, which I think is unique to Tasmania. I trust you have had the opportunity to research that on your visit and I implore you to do that even further, because I think it is a user-friendly service for the participants.

My fear for the Tasmanian division is that there is 964 people that we are currently servicing and there has been problems. I think that so far to date it has been successful but that is a very small portion of the market here. My request is you do not roll it out fully until you are ready. It has got to be something that is a positive experience. The people we support deserve that. I do not want it rushed. It has been said that it is a plane without an engine. Let's not do it again. Let's make sure that it is an experience that these people deserve by researching, by getting ready and putting in place in Tasmania specifically on our behalf the resources to ensure that the experience is smooth. That is all I ask.

CHAIR: Thank you, John. I take your comment. Are there any last comments before we go into a closed session shortly.

Mr Harvey : Scott Harvey from COSMOS. I would like to go back to a point I made earlier. I think, Mal, you brought up the question about whether were getting enough information. No, we are not. I think the difficulty we are having as an organisation is working out what the market is and where we can go. I think the details of what types of packages have been given, what the specifics are of what people have been funded to do, is important for us to look forward as far as deciding where as an organisation we are going to position ourselves.

CHAIR: So that is something really practical. You are saying, 'Take names and addresses away,' basically. 'Here is a style of things in particular categories.' Okay, that is good advice. Do people think that is worthwhile? I appreciate it. We can pass that one on tomorrow. Finally, up the back.

Ms Glover : I am from TasTAFE. I would like to pick up on Jill's question on how we can better inform the participants what services are available, what services can support them in their life and how that can happen. I think the cohort here in Tasmania encompasses that change in time for people as they leave the formal school system up to year 12, where education, in some cases transport, access to therapy services—a lot of those services that people have received—have been organised and managed through the education system. When you leave that system, what replaces it? I think that has been a critical issue for many years. Despite many varied attempts and transition programs and projects over the years, I do not think we have it right in how we support young people make those transitions from formal education up to year 12 into accessing generic community services as well as the disability-specific services. I think there is some work to be done there in how we do that.

Perhaps there are some simple solutions of almost like some check sheets. This may exist, but I have not seen or heard about them: Who are the people that might be good to ask to your planning meeting? This is to the consumer or to the participant, suggesting those people: 'Who are the people that you have a close involvement with in your life?' Often it will be a teacher. We need to ensure that young people leaving the system feel empowered to ask for their teacher to go if they have a key relationship with that person, because they will know the types of supports, they will know the types of family issues that have occurred over the years. We lose that knowledge when the person leaves the school system and gets consumed within the community sector. I think that is where there is a real focus for this cohort of people.

CHAIR: Thank you, Linda. I thank you all for your contributions this afternoon. It is a journey and it is a journey that is going to have many bumps along the road. As you said, rightly, this is just one cohort and each cohort brings its own challenges. Of course, if you are a parent whose child, at any age, comes into a disability as a result of an accident or whatever else or disease you are lost. I think one of the big challenges that you are all probably experiencing is that you know your own sector and your own capabilities. If you are a person with a disability, or their carer, your options have been so limited in most cases for so long that you do not know what is on the Christmas list. It is way beyond your understanding and your capacity to grasp that, 'I could have that', 'That's possible.' They are not things that there are only simple answers to, because even providing the list in front of them—'Well, that is not available to me.' I think we are grasping that and we are all looking for answers on how to address it. Your input today has been invaluable. Dan, your task now is to talk to Barry before you leave regarding the evidence you gave to us earlier. I thank you all for your participation today.

We will be closing the session and in five minutes reconvening with the in camera session for those who have indicated that they would like to speak to the committee.

Committee adjourned at 16:00