I really wish that I was writing a positive story, but sadly the NDIS seems to be a growing mess. The NDIS has many happy participants from the trial period, but there are numerous issues.
- NDIA and state/territory governments made a mess of their initial estimates of numbers. Before the NDIS trials even started, community groups warned that NDIA and Government predicted number of NDIS participants in South Australia and the ACT were serious underestimates. The NDIA chose to ignore the warnings. It turns out that the community groups were right. The NDIA predictions were wrong ... to the detriment of many people with disability, but there is no consequence for those who made the mistakes.
- the NDIA massively underestimated the number of autistic participants ... it turned out that "autism and related disorders" is the biggest distinct disability type for NDIS participants (see Autism prevalence in Australia 2015). Again the NDIA ignored advice from community groups. And again, the community groups (using the Government's own data) were right.
- the NDIA's ICT system/portal is shambolic ... see
the NDIA is not reviewing some participants plans in a timely manner. The NDIA does not have a consistent approach to when they can't do an annual review for a participant: some people cannot access services and other's plans are extended. Participants risk service cut off and massive uncertainty.
Governments and the NDIA said that the Commonwealth would fund participants over and above the NDIA's predicted number of participants. This was untrue: the NDIA halted NDIS intake in South Australia and ACT when the predicted numbers were reached. This causes massive distress for people with disability. The politicians say the NDIS is "uncapped" but reports indicate they aren't restarting the NDIS until they negotiate a new agreement. So clearly the politicians and some bureaucrats are wrong: the NDIS is capped and won't resume until a new cap is agreed. Politicians and bureaucrats readily use Australia's most vulnerable in their political posturing. See
the NDIA's Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) Approach is not designed to meet the needs of autistic children (see letter/email to David Bowen, NDIA CEO, on NDIS Early Intervention). While the ECEI was first introduced in February 2016, even basic information about how it would work for autistic children, the biggest client group, was not provided until September 2016.
Given the cost of autism to our community, effective early intervention for autistic children has potential to save huge amounts of money.
the Government is not listening to stakeholders, so is meeting opposition to proposed replacements for the NDIA Board — see NDIS Board Recruiter must be replaced and NDIS boss Bruce Bonyhady first to go in agency clean-out
NDIA officials keep saying the the NDIS is "on time and on budget". This is clearly false, since the NDIS is well behind schedule in South Australia and the ACT ... if not elsewhere. With more participants than expected (and the final numbers as yet unknown), the NDIA would need to explain how it remains "on budget". It seems the NDIA has an "innovative" approach to accounting.
Politicians and bureaucrats don't acknowledge their mistakes above. Only the nation's most vulnerable suffer the consequences. And since the full roll-out started, more stories of unhappy participants are emerging. I expect more problems, some that are quite serious, will emerge as the roll-our progresses.
The speed that the NDIA had to develop the NDIA was challenging. Unfortunately, the NDIA and the Ministers show little or no interest in the views of ASD-related stakeholders.
The NDIS needs to improve. The ASD community is still interested in helping to improve the NDIS for autistic people.
Bob Buckley, 19/10/2016