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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 151


Mrs ELLIOT (Richmond) (18:05): I rise to support the motion put forward by the member for Lindsay and to strongly support the importance of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It was in fact the Labor Party who, in government, devised the NDIS. It was designed and funded to better meet the long-term needs of the hundreds of thousands of Australians with a disability. The aim was to ensure that these people, their families and their carers would have the support they need and deserve. We now have the NDIS being fully implemented and rolled out right across the nation. It means that nearly a quarter of a million of Australians under the age of 65, including thousands of children, should be benefiting from access to housing, health services, care, support, early intervention services and advocacy.

Whilst, for many, the rollout is meeting their needs and working effectively, there is still substantial work required to urgently address delays and inadequacies in the NDIS operations and rollout. These are issues the government must address, including things such as providers being able to access important transition funding. I do want to acknowledge all those people who deliver significant services to people with a disability, their families and their carers in my electorate who are providing that care and support in a timely, effective and efficient way. But I'm constantly being contacted by people who are desperate to make a smooth transition into this scheme.

The questions and issues are varied and numerous, and often include matters like inadequate funding and resourcing. Some particular concerns relate to appropriate housing arrangements and care. Indeed, many people with disabilities are facing homelessness or displacement because service providers are not able to deliver the care that is required and the housing required. I have seen instances of providers selling a building that was being used for specialised accommodation, leaving clients without the option of other available housing arrangements.

There are also issues about the provision of governance, oversight and accountability in regard to providers; who determines the effectiveness of providers in delivering what they've actually been contracted for; and who can advocate on behalf of clients to those providers. Many others have discovered that services they used to receive have tripled in price. The pricing structure must be addressed so that everyone can access the services they need, including group activities, which are also unfortunately under threat in the current model. There are discrepancies in the approval of services which see clients with similar or equivalent needs being approved very different hours of assistance. Further, it's unclear what parameters are used to define the terms 'reasonable' and 'necessary' in relation to a client's needs, because there are such variations.

There have also been a number of concerns raised by constituents in relation to the ongoing funding for children with level 1 and level 2 autism spectrum disorder. The uncertainty for these young people and their families has at times been quite frightening and unsettling, and the government needs to be very clear about its intentions and what it will be providing for these people.

One of the most significant issues is the timeliness of plans being drawn up, as well as, often, the lengthy delays in the delivery of the plan itself. Most recently, some of those who had their plans finalised then experienced problems with plan activation codes, with some receiving up to four separate codes in order to actually activate their plan.

There are also concerns for those waiting for reviews of their plans, with some being told the waiting time is up to one year. That is just way too long. Many people say they are quite hesitant about coming forward and asking for a review, for fear of being penalised. These people need security and assurances. They cannot wait up to a year to get the support and assistance they need and deserve, simply because the government is unwilling or unable to fix these problems. The Turnbull government must start listening and must address these many widespread concerns about the rollout of the NDIS.

I wrote to the minister urgently last Friday to raise my concerns about the very sudden collapse of a local NDIS service provider. FSG, which stands for Freedom, Social Justice and Growth, went into voluntary administration just last week.

Although FSG is based on the Gold Coast, just over the border in Queensland, they do provide extensive services throughout the Northern Rivers. I am seeking reassurances that all those affected will be offered immediate solutions to transition to other providers, because no-one should be falling through the cracks. We need the NDIA on the North Coast soon, on the ground, to ensure continuity of services to all those affected. They should be there today, right now, providing assistance. So I call on the Turnbull government to provide guarantees to affected participants and to provide extra resources on the ground to support participants and workers, face to face—not remotely, but actually on the ground, providing that support.

So, in conclusion, the Turnbull government needs to focus on fixing the problems with the NDIS. I am urging the government on behalf of all the people in my electorate, and indeed right across Australia, who have these problems, to provide adequate funding and adequate resources for the NDIS, because we keep hearing stories about people who can't access those services in a timely way. The fact is the NDIS must be successful to be able to effectively provide the support, care and dignity that people in our communities need and deserve.