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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 6320

Ms STANLEY (Werriwa) (18:15): I thank the member for Lindsay for proposing this motion about the NDIS. The National Disability Insurance Scheme is the biggest reform in this space and something which is really making a difference to the lives of Australians living with a disability. It's incumbent on us as lawmakers to make the scheme as user-friendly and cost-effective as possible.

I genuinely acknowledge the staff of the NDIA and Assistant Minister Prentice for help with issues that my office raises every day. We field calls from concerned caregivers, participants and providers, and their assistance allows us to find solutions. However, after over two years of NDIS packages in my part of south-west Sydney, we need to look at ways of improving the interaction and outcomes for people who are supported by the NDIS. Both providers and participants are raising issues about the bureaucratic nature of the plans. Those waiting for reviews of their plans are currently waiting up to six months or more without feedback or information about what is happening or the process being undertaken. Information would help them deal with the stress of waiting and not knowing what will happen next.

One of my constituents, Duncan, emailed last week with feedback about the NDIS. Duncan is an advocate for his son and has contacted my electorate office on many occasions for advice and support. Last year's package was too low. Although this has been remedied with an increase in his son's package this year, he is still finding navigation of the process difficult, especially around the way funding is allocated to subcategories without taking on the feedback of the recipient or their carer.

He recently contacted me again to provide feedback about experiences with two service providers. For the first service provider, the family used the NDIS website to obtain the details. After visiting them, it became obvious they had no experience with or insight into mentally disabled people like his son. When it became apparent they were not the right fit for Duncan's son, the service agreement was discontinued. However, the provider had already quarantined a large portion of his son's funds and it took months of negotiation to have it released. The next service provider had an hour meeting with Duncan and provided a report but used 11 hours of the sessions in the service agreement to write and research this report rather than seeing his son. As a consequence, all funds are now exhausted and nothing has helped his son. More importantly, this wasn't discussed with Duncan when the agreement was made. He wrote:

I doubt that I am alone in these types of incidents. I have a university degree and over 30 years in the education sector. I find it very difficult to understand the procedures rules and classifications of the NDIS. I have read many pages of information, rung many times, gone into the office and asked questions and still make mistakes with the NDIS. I can only try not to repeat them.

Duncan is certainly not alone in these types of incidents. I'm aware of another recipient who's been provided services, even though the service provider was well aware that the child had not been approved, and now has a $15,000 debt. Duncan has asked me to give the following suggestions to the minister responsible to improve the NDIS:

employ more qualified staff;

provide useful and accessible plain English information;

remove categories;

revisit service agreements—both business and clients should be protected.

These are not only concerns from recipients and their caregivers about the operation of the NDIS. I've also had representations from many of the service providers in my electorate, especially Macarthur Disability Services, who are finding the system difficult to navigate plus it does not support advocacy or ways to help people, particularly those with mental illness, access their plans. They've raised concerns about realistic funding and transport costs and also about other issues too numerous for me to mention here.

The NDIS is a great reform and is certainly a bipartisan reform for our country, but now is the time to listen to the feedback and improve on the foundations that have been made. We have to ensure that we provide choice and support to those who are most vulnerable in our society—when and how they need it.