Federal Parliament - NDIS

23 November 2021

Dr ALYI'd like to use my time in this grievance debate today to put on record some of the issues that Cowan constituents have with the NDIS. Of all the issues that my office deals with, the NDIS is one of the top 3, along with immigration. The issues that arise keep my office incredibly busy.

I want to start by paying heed to the member for Maribyrnong, who is also the shadow minister for the NDIS, for his strident advocacy for people with disabilities and for holding the government to account in ensuring that the NDIS delivers for people with disabilities in the way in which it was intended. On that topic, I just want to start by reminding this chamber exactly what the NDIS is supposed to do and why. I'm going to do that by quoting from the NDIS website. This is what the NDIS website says in terms of the NDIS participant service guarantee regarding plan approvals and reviews:

The NDIA must make decisions about access, plan approvals, plan reviews and nominee changes within these timeframes. This gives participants, families and carers greater certainty about how long processes will take.

Families of children with disabilities, participants in the NDIA, absolutely deserve to have that level of certainty about the processes. They deserve to be kept informed about the processes and they deserve to have their plans dealt with in a timely fashion.

The second quote that I want to use is about the continuity of support guarantee. The website, ndis.gov.au, says:

Governments have committed to ensuring people with disability who are currently receiving services are not disadvantaged in the transition to the NDIS.

That's a core principle—that people who were receiving services prior to being on the NDIS are not disadvantaged in their transition to the NDIS. So the processing should be done in a timely manner, there should be no disadvantage in the transition, and of course each participant should have access to timely and appropriate support without interruption. They are three key pillars of the NDIS, as articulated on the NDIS website.

I'm sorry to say that I could go on and on about the number of cases that are presented to my office that demonstrate the failing of the NDIS on these pillars—on timely access, on not being disadvantaged—and the impact that that has on NDIS participants and on their families. I'll start with the case of a 14-year-old boy in Tapping, in the Cowan community. This boy has complex challenges posed by autism. He has coeliac disease and he requires significant support, including some significant supports for complex needs around his behaviours. His family are at breaking point. Every family member has developed some serious mental health conditions due to the stress associated with their care responsibilities. Prior to the NDIS, they had a large amount of support. They had a significant amount of support through support workers. They had respite in the form of specialist camps for children with autism. They were able to access those specialist camps, that respite, four times a year. But the NDIS plan for this 14-year-old boy fell well short of the funding levels to maintain those supports, and they had next to no funds for a support worker, no funding for those camps and limited funding for therapy. His NDIS review did not consider the complex needs of the family and provided the same outcome, leaving the family only with the possibility of appeal through the AAT process. Once the case was at the AAT, despite the plan's funding being exhausted, leaving the family with no supports for the boy, and a deteriorating situation as a result, the minister repeatedly refused to intervene or to make an interim plan for this family. When the AAT requested an interim plan the NDIA continued to delay giving him the interim plan. In the end they gave him the same plan that he was previously on, the same plan that his family had been appealing, that they had taken all the way to the AAT to appeal. The delays and the refusal of the minister to intervene, despite evidence of the need of this young man and his family, is nothing short of cruel.

Another case is a woman in Cowan who is wheelchair-bound and requires full assistance with all personal care and mobility. Her support coordinator submitted a change-of-circumstance request in May this year. In June this year she wrote to my office, as the funding had been exhausted. She was at very high risk of pressure sores, neglect, homelessness and hospitalisation because she had no funding to pay for her supports. She needed to move out of her residence and was subject to abuse and neglect in her living arrangements. After my office contacted the NDIS for a plan review meeting, the planner finally made contact with the specialist support coordinator to make an appointment. That was months after a meeting was first sought. It was only this month that the SSC, the specialist support coordinator, contacted our office, because the situation had become so dire, and still no plan has been approved. This woman with a disability, who is wheelchair-bound, who requires personal care and has mobility issues, is currently in an abusive and neglectful situation, with no support funding.

They're just two cases that demonstrate that there is no dignity for people with disabilities under this government's dysfunctional NDIS. There is no continuity of care. There is no certainty. Those pillars of the NDIS that I mentioned in my opening—they're failing on all of those accounts. There is no adherence to service standards or principles of standards for the NDIS.

I fully believe that the measure of society is how it treats its most vulnerable. We pride ourselves, as a developed nation, that we do not leave people behind. We do not leave people with disabilities behind. We want them to live a full life and have a quality of life. Sadly, the NDIS that was meant to ensure that people with disabilities would not be left behind is doing just that—it's leaving them behind. It is leaving them in vulnerable situations. It is not meeting the basic human principles it was set up for: to in ensure that people with disabilities have the support services they need and that they get those support services in a timely fashion and in ways that do not compound the already dire circumstances in which they live. We can and we should do better.