Less red tape, clearer language and better training are just some of the key points to come out of a forum to discuss ways to improve the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), held in Kurri last week.
Held on Thursday at Kurri TAFE, the Make It Work Forum - organised by NDIS advocacy group Every Australian Counts - saw about 50 attendees ranging from people living with a disability and families to people working in the disability sector.
Speakers at the forum included Mai-Wel CEO Pennie Kearney, president of Community Disability Alliance Hunter Dave Belcher and Sally Coddington, the mother of an NDIS participant.
Every Australian Counts spokesperson Kristen Deane said that the forum was an opportunity for people with direct involvement with the scheme to voice their opinions on where it was failing and working well.
“The forum in the Hunter was one of a series that we are holding all around the country, bringing together people with a disability, families and people that work in the sector to talk about what’s going well with the NDIS and perhaps more importantly, what’s not going well,” Ms Deane said.
While Ms Deane said that the general consensus at the Kurri forum and indeed at forums held around the country was that while the NDIS had done remarkable things for people living with a disability, there were still some kinks to be ironed out in the system.
“People are finding NDIS too hard to navigate,” she said. “It’s too complex, it’s too bureaucratic, people are waiting too long at every stage of the process and, as a result, some people are missing out on the things that they need.
“Our view, and one that was reflected at the forum, was that there is still overwhelming support for the NDIS and, when it works well it really does change people’s lives – there are just too many people missing out and it’s not working well enough for everyone.”
Ms Deane added that the forums should be a useful resource for policy makers as real-world, practical solutions were also being offered.
“We believe people with disabilities, their families and people who work in the sector not only know what the problems are on the ground, they are also the best people to come up with solutions – they know what’s going to work,” she said.
“We’ve yet to come up with a problem that we couldn’t find a solution for. While some of the problems facing the scheme are tricky, there is a solution for everything so our message to politicians is these are our priorities and we want them to go back, roll up their sleeves and get the NDIS working the way we all want it to.”
Panelist Sally Coddington whose daughter Nicky was an NDIS participant said that the solutions-based approach of the forum was particularly welcome.
“It was a fantastic process that they walked us through because they talked about all of the challenges that we’ve had with the NDIS from varying perspectives, but also thinking of ways to fix those challenges,” she said.
Ms Coddington, who is also a principal consultant for Disability Services Consulting, said she was concerned about the level of negotiation required in NDIS planning meetings.
“From my perspective the biggest area of concern is around the adversarial nature of the planning process,” she said.
“When a participant and their family go into a planning meeting, there’s this feeling of having to negotiate with the agency. We know for certain that the agency has KPIs for their planners and those KPIs aren’t necessarily aligned with what’s best for participants.”
Ms Coddington added that while there were some ares of improvement to be looked at, she was heartened by how the agency was willing to look at ways to improve the system such as creating more diverse participant pathways to cater for the myriad circumstances that require NDIS support.
“The agency is, I believe trying really hard to make adjustments to improve how things work,” Ms Coddington said.