More than 1200 families have had their National Disability Insurance Scheme packages expire without a further plan in place — many without warning — as the agency responsible scrambles to confront a litany of planning problems at a critical time in its history.
The figure was provided by the National Disability Insurance Agency when questioned. However, the agency, which runs the $22 billion NDIS, suggested every family whose plan had expired had been uncontactable, despite evidence to the contrary.
In South Australia, about 3300 plans have come up for scheduled review and 685 of these have expired. “For all these participants, multiple attempts to contact have been made, including via providers,” a spokeswoman for the agency said in its initial response.
However, the agency story is at odds with affected families who have spoken with The Australian. “NDIS have my mobile and my email and have been told a number of times that email is the best way to contact me,” one mother said. “I have had no emails and no calls.”
The woman’s son, who has autism, had his plan expire on May 8.
“Currently we are owed $1600. Even though we are without a plan ... we are continuing with therapies and support in the hopes our plan will be backdated to the 8th and we can claim for the services received while in plan ‘limbo’,” she said.
The batch of expired plans is a hangover from last year when a huge computer system meltdown led to families and providers being unable to claim support through the agency’s website, which was developed in-house by the Department of Human Services.
Support plans were extended at the time to help families deal with the crisis but they are now up for review and the agency has had to bring in staff from other regions to catch up with the backlog, particularly in South Australia.
When questioned about the figures, the agency backtracked and said a “large cohort” of families could not be contacted, later revising this to a quarter of families.
“The NDIA has not been able to contact about a quarter of participants with an expired plan in South Australia,” the spokeswoman said. “The remaining participants have either been contacted by the NDIA and have a plan review booked, are in the process of withdrawing, are now inactive or are waiting on evidential reports to use at their plan review.”
Another mother, who asked not to be identified, said she was given a time for a phone interview two days before her daughter’s plan expired.
“They said in order to have a new plan, I needed to submit reports from therapists and they would then invite me for a review meeting,” she said.
“I never heard from them again. I submitted reports via email twice and asked for a reply and never heard back.
“I went into the office myself four days before the plan expired with paper copies and only then did they scramble around for 40 minutes reading them.”
Almost 80,000 people have support plans but this figure must increase to 460,000 by 2020, and the agency has begun cutting corners in planning and cracking down on costs when participants come up for review.
The Australian understands some families, worried about losing support, have avoided contact with the agency in the hope existing funding would be rolled over.
Speaking generally on the NDIS last week, Social Services Minister Christian Porter said the agency was not facing difficulties.
“The agency is well resourced, the estimates about what was the appropriate level of resourcing were very accurate and that is not a problem that I am facing.”