LAUREN NOVAK POLITICAL REPORTER THE ADVERTISER
MORE than 1800 children will not be able to join the national disability insurance scheme this financial year as promised, because the administrative body is struggling to process applications fast enough.
In a letter obtained by The Advertiser, the head of the National Disability Insurance Agency warns it is “unlikely” children over the age of nine will be able to join the scheme before mid-next year because of delays in processing applications.
An agreement struck between state and federal governments was meant to ensure all eligible children aged up to 14 could access the scheme over the coming 12 months.
Responding to the NDIA’s warning, state Disabilities Minister Tony Piccolo criticised the Commonwealth over its “failure to adequately resource” the agency to meet demand, likening it to “a backhanded way of rationing” scarce federal funds.
Up to 5085 children were meant to be covered by a trial of the insurance scheme running in South Australia.
The State Government now estimates delays in processing could mean as many as 1800 children will face delays accessing new disability funding.
NDIA chief executive David Brown wrote to the State Government on July 14, conceding the agency had not been able to process all applications lodged in 2013-14 for children aged up to five years of age to join the trial of the scheme.
This has delayed the processing of applications for the 2014-15 phase of the trial, for children aged six to 14.
As of late last month there were 507 eligible children in the younger age group still waiting to have funding approved.
Finalising their applications is now expected to take until mid-August.
A further 1326 younger children are waiting to have their eligibility assessed and this could take until November.
Mr Bowen’s letter said this meant “the agency does not have the capacity to commence preparing plans for the next class of children ... (aged) under eight until the current cohort is completely dealt with”.
“On these projections it is unlikely that the agency will be able to transition any children over the age of nine into the scheme during the trial period (2014-15),” the letter states.
Responding in a letter to Federal Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield, Mr Piccolo said the suggestion children would miss out was “unacceptable and contravenes the agreement reached between our governments”.
“Clearly, the NDIA cannot respond to any increase in trial population numbers if it is not resourced to do so,” Mr Piccolo wrote.
Earlier this month, The Advertiser reported concerns that thousands of children with disabilities could miss out because the Federal Government was backtracking on its promise to fund disability packages for any children over and above the agreed 5085.
Mr Piccolo said that during talks held in June the Commonwealth indicated that it may renege on paying for all eligible children over the agreed cap.
Senator Fifield rejected Mr Piccolo’s claims at the time that the Commonwealth planned to limit its contribution.