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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 10139

Ms HALL (ShortlandOpposition Whip) (17:48): As a member of the committee, I would like to commend the report to the House and, in doing so, say that the NDIS is landmark legislation. The program that has been rolled out as a result of the legislation and as a result of the scheme is a program that has the ability to make enormous changes in the lives of Australians that are living with disabilities. It is long overdue, and it arose out of the Productivity Commission report. I would like to pay particular credit to Jenny Macklin for the work that she did in establishing the National Disability Insurance Scheme and bringing this program, this plan, this life-changing legislation to fruition.

This report raises issues around the implementation. It is the first report of the committee that actually looks at how the scheme has been rolled out in different jurisdictions.

It looks at how the NDIA is operating in the four trial sites, which are Barwon, Newcastle, Adelaide and Tasmania. Each of those sites has a different client group. Barwon is looking at the rollout according to programs; Tasmania is in the 15 to 24 age group; Adelaide is according to the zero-to-five age group; and in New South Wales, in the Hunter, it is based on local government areas. The NDIS was rolled out first in Newcastle local government area, and the programs that have been offered to people are life-changing. In New South Wales, the biggest problem that I have encountered is the fact that the state government's enabling legislation led to the privatisation of services within that state and the closing of a residential facility within the Hunter. It really had nothing to do with the actual NDIS, but it has muddied the waters a little.

Putting that aside, the commitment of the staff in the Hunter has been phenomenal. There has been a development of a culture, an improvement in the culture. The organisation actually had to establish a culture of its own. People working for the agency throughout Australia came from varied backgrounds. They had to transition to seeing themselves as staff of the NDIS, providing programs to people along the lines of the guidelines for the NDIS. There were issues that were raised at each of the sites and there were recommendations made—and I will touch on those recommendations in one moment. But the different client groups tended to lead to different issues in different areas. I think that this rollout, being done in the way that has been done, really gives us the ability to look at the kinds of challenges that will arise in those different age groups.

The zero-to-five age group are young children who have had early identification of a disability and then work with programs that are going to be with them for their life. Tasmania has a totally different model to delivering services to that in other states. Baptcare has been operating there as the gatekeeper for disability services for some time and the model worked and fitted in very well there. In New South Wales, we had the state government providing services and the federal government providing services. ADHC service provision is being rolled over gradually to the NDIA and the NDIS.

One of the first issues that has been identified is the need for this program to continue to be rolled out and to be delivered on time. Any blow-out in the implementation would cause extreme hardship for people and would be detrimental to the scheme. I fully support the original time frames that are in place for the rollout of the NDIS, and I do support the recommendations here. Issues such as NDIS plans that have not been activated and gaps in services that were brought up and covered by this first report are being revisited, and will be reported on in 2015.

The committee understands that there is a need to help the participants and a need for the NDIA to develop the skills in their staff that will lead to a seamless implementation of the scheme. Issues such as differences between the types of plans that were offered and the variability of planners has been addressed, recognised and emphasised as far as the training of planners is concerned. The committee also noted the important role of advocacy services in ensuring that quality plans are supported by participants. There really is a need for advocacy and for the participants to truly understand what the plans are about and the services that are available, as well as their responsibilities and the responsibilities of the providers.

Two issues that will be encountered as we move forward are around housing and the workforce. There is going to be a need for a greater workforce. There is going to be a shortfall in the number of workers in the disability sector, particularly in the professional roles, and that is detailed in recommendation 16. I worked in a disability area—it is on my LinkedIn page—and organisations have contacted me offering me work. I actually think that anyone that had me as a case manager or working with them would be having somebody whose skills are well and truly outdated. However, it shows that there is that shortage and that organisations that are providing the services are looking for people to work.

There are also issues around Indigenous communities. I do not think Indigenous committees have been fully embraced and covered. More work needs to be done there. Overall, the committee found that there is a commitment from everybody involved—from the body overseeing the NDIS implementation, the committee and the council to the workers in the organisation. There is bipartisan support. We want to see the NDIS succeed. We want to see the NDIS rolled out on time. We want to see the benefit that it can deliver to people living with disabilities.

Debate adjourned.