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Disability sector advocate welcomes NDIS review for the 4.4 million Aussies living with a disability

Disability sector reform advocate River Night has welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement of a review into the NDIS saying a review cannot come too soon for the half a million Australians accessing the system and the more than 4 million Australians living with a disability.

“Change cannot come fast enough. The reality is, for many people in and around the system, this is not just about improvement, it is about crisis management. Every day, people’s lives are at risk due to the endemic issues within the NDIS,” Mr Night said.

Federal Minister for NDIS, Mr Bill Shorten this week announced an independent reform into the NDIS with a report due by October 2023, aimed at improving sustainability of the scheme and access to services for people living with a disability.

Mr Night said in his role as the co-founder of Australia’s largest national events for the disability sector he had heard countless stories of people being left to wither within the system.

“While a review is vital - and very welcome, we as a sector know right now what is broken, what is wrong and what must be fixed. We are eager to help shape a system that can be potentially life-changing and life-saving,” Mr Night said.

“What we would really love to see is for the Government to prioritise the matters that cause grief, trauma and instability, through the current scheme’s design.

“The lack of checks and balances; delays in response time; and the difficulty reported by participants in contacting NDIS delegates, means the risk of abuse and neglect in the system is at crisis point.

“There needs to be a return to strong, face-to-face case management. COVID essentially put a stop to face to face contact, and the ramifications of this are now being felt across the country.

Participants, their families and carers are struggling to access consistent information, and unfortunately the most vulnerable in our community have been relegated to “faceless applicants” constantly having to prove who they say they are, and what they need.

“Proper case understanding and knowledge must be returned to the process. When a person has an irreversible, lifelong spinal injury it is cruel that this person has to prove year in year what they need. That’s before we even begin to consider the waste of vital NDIS and Medicare funds on unnecessary and repeated reporting," Mr Night said.

Mr Night said it was heartening to see the groundswell of support for creating lasting and sustainable change through the review.

“We in the sector are ready and willing to make change, now. We are looking forward to the opportunity to help improve the lives of people living with a disability by working with the Federal Government on the changes needed to the NDIS,” Mr Night said.

Founding Director of prominent Queensland Disability Service Provider Holistic Horizons, Mr Drew Cason also welcomed the review.

"Delegates appear to ignore reports prepared that cost thousands and make decisions not based on evidence. They need to fund the same assessment each review to evidence permanent, life long disability is inappropriate and wasteful. This creates lengthy appeals, escalations, time pressures and it jeopardises services," Mr Cason said.

"Poor ratio decisions put the obligation, financial pressures and budgets onto service providers to carry the cost of care, while NDIS understand and respond to reasonable and necessary supports. When a person requires 2 staff to support them to shower, why does NDIS approve them to be funded at a 1:3 ratio so that the person doesn't get the support.

"Life changes happen in real time. Service providers and people living with disability, need to respond in real time, yet the NDIS takes weeks to respond to critical issues that may require approval, changes in funding or plan changes. This puts service providers in the moral obligation, to care for people and fund services themselves and risk NDIS coming back to them months later and refusing to pay for a critical service stating 'we deem it not reasonable or necessary.',"

Mr Cason said, Support Coordinator reliance has been created due to the inherent complexity of the scheme and a lack of support from NDIS delegates. The workforce shortages means there is a need for more great ones to help those that need support navigating NDIS.

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