Standing up for Canberra

Canberrans Still Disappointed by the NDIS

My community newsletter, The Bulletin, has been hitting letterboxes in Canberra across the last two weeks. On the front page is a story about the NDIS forum that I hosted in March with the shadow minister for disability and carers. That forum was held in response to my office being inundated with distressed parents, families and friends who are dealing with the NDIS and the NDIA, particularly over the summer break.

Now, since the forum, I've heard from more families who are frustrated with the current system. Some of them are at their wit's end and just looking for someone, anyone, to help them navigate the NDIS.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman has handed down a damning report describing the NDIA's review processes as 'unwieldy', 'unapproachable' and lacking 'fairness and transparency'. The ombudsman is not wrong. The ombudsman's findings were based on reports from the 400 complaints it received. These reports were that the NDIA did not prioritise urgent cases where people could at risk of harm or homelessness, NDIA staff and contractors discouraged people from seeking review and the NDIA did not respond to requests for reviews or respond to inquiries.

These are the same experiences that Canberrans have contacted me about. These are the same experiences I have shared with the Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services. What was the government's response? Well, the Minister for Social Services responded to the ombudsman's report, saying:

This was something that was identified some months ago and special teams have been put in place to address this issue.

These issues were apparently identified some months ago. Why then has it taken an investigation by the ombudsman for the minister and the department to do something about the number of outstanding reviews? What exactly are these special teams doing, and what are they achieving? Let's hope these special teams have more effect than the stern letter that the minister issued in his previous cyber security role to improve the cyber resilience of government agencies.

As if NDIS participants and their families aren't doing it tough enough already, just imagine the disappointment, the anger and the frustration caused by the article in The Australian over the weekend detailing the NDIA's plans to restrict access to funding support for people with autism. The NDIA had released updated guidelines for assessing prequalifying conditions for access to the NDIS. The public backlash made the NDIA take down the guidelines, declaring them to be incorrect; but the damage is done. The NDIA has since updated the guidelines were genuine. It is absolutely appalling. (Time expired)