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Tuesday, 2 April 2019
Page: 14424


Mr ANDREWS (Menzies) (12:42): On behalf of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, I present the committee's Progress report on the inquiry into general issues around the implementation and performance of the NDIS.

Report made a parliamentary paper in accordance with standing order 39(e).

Mr ANDREWS: by leave—Since the committee's inception, the growth of the NDIS has been significant—from approximately 30,000 participants in mid-2016 to more than 250,000 participants today.

This progress report considers progress made in addressing issues identified during previous inquiries undertaken by the committee as well as key issues raised in evidence by participants, families, carers and service providers.

The committee reviewed progress made in relation to the provision of services under the NDIS for people with psychosocial disabilities since the release of its report in August 2017. The committee is concerned by the lack of progress in ensuring that people with a psychosocial disability can access appropriate support services under the NDIS or outside the scheme. In essence, the challenges associated with the transition to the NDIS for eligible participants and continuity of support for those outside the scheme remain significant. The committee heard that issues around inconsistencies in eligibility and planning outcomes, as well as issues with the planning process and adequacy of plans, were continuing to jeopardise people's access to appropriate, reasonable and necessary supports. The uncertainty and lack of clarity around how continuity of support arrangements for those outside the scheme will be delivered in the near future requires urgent attention from all governments. The committee welcomes the recent government announcement to extend funding to support transition of people in Commonwealth-funded programs to the NDIS. However, longer-term arrangements for existing program clients not eligible for the NDIS should be put in place before closure of existing programs.

In relation to progress made in the provision of services under the NDIS Early Childhood Early Intervention approach, the committee heard that improvements have occurred since the inquiry. However, some key issues remain and include delays in provision of services, significant challenges in addressing the needs of children with autism spectrum disorder and the lack of a clear national strategy around the ECEI approach under the NDIS. Indeed, the committee is gravely concerned by the recent reports of long delays in accessing early intervention support services under the ECEI pathway. The committee also heard on many occasions that best practices deliver early childhood intervention services in natural settings. However, it appears that under the current NDIS pricing structure it has become unviable for service providers to do so. The committee is of the view that early childhood service delivery models under the NDIS should not be determined on the basis of cost drivers but on maximising outcomes for children so that they can reach their full potential.

In relation to progress made since the transitional arrangements inquiry, the committee is concerned by the lack of progress in addressing interfaith issues between the NDIS and mainstream services, the worsening of areas within markets and the absence of clear provider of last resort arrangements. The committee acknowledges that the interface issue between the NDIS and mainstream services is complex. However, there is growing evidence that NDIS participants are being denied services and care because of funding disputes between the NDIA and other government services. In extreme cases, this is resulting in people being unable to leave hospitals for several months. The situation is untenable and requires immediate action, regardless of the state of progress of discussions of state and territory governments and ad hoc arrangements to delineate the roles and responsibilities of the NDIA and mainstream services. The committee is of the view that there should be an immediate introduction of a formal mechanism to ensure that a person-first approach is taken in the delivery of services in the event of funding disputes.

In relation to the provision of hearing services, the committee acknowledges the significant work the NDIA has recently undertaken to develop referral and funding approaches that will appropriately support children with hearing loss, their families and their carers. The committee found the establishment of the referral pathway through Australian Hearing for newly diagnosed children aged nought to six years encouraging. However, the committee is concerned that this referral pathway has an uncertain future and is, in essence, an interim measure as the in-kind arrangements with Australian Hearing are only secured until 30 June 2020.

Other issues discussed in the report include the NDIA's communication with participants and service providers. The committee acknowledges the recent efforts made by the NDIA to increase its engagement with the disability sector. However, based on the evidence received by the committee, the engagement appears to be at times tokenistic. The committee is of the view that the NDIA should more systematically utilise the expertise of the sector to inform the development and review of its operations and guidelines. This would significantly assist the NDIA in developing initiatives to strengthen the effectiveness of the scheme.

The committee received a wealth of information and evidence through the inquiry and thanks all who participated. As a result, the committee has made 18 recommendations which aim to ensure that improved and appropriate arrangements can be put in place to provide necessary and reasonable supports for all NDIS participants and fully realise the objectives of the scheme. This is the ninth and final report in this parliament of the standing committee. I thank all those members of the committee who have worked assiduously throughout the parliament. I'd like to particularly thank the deputy chair, Senator Alex Gallacher, and I'd also like to acknowledge the work for this committee not just in this parliament but in previous parliaments of the retiring member for Jagajaga, Ms Jenny Macklin, who has brought a wealth of experience and thought to the process. Finally, I thank the members of the secretariat for all their wonderful efforts during the course of these inquiries in this parliament.