Disability scheme needs urgent improvement

The National Disability Insurance Scheme needs to be urgently improved, a bipartisan parliamentary committee has found.

The committee has put forward 14 recommendations to the government, mostly focused on how to make planning processes better in the NDIS and the agency that oversees it.

“The committee considers that urgent action must be taken to improve the operation of the NDIS, and in particular the planning process to maximise choice and control for people with disability,” chair Kevin Andrews told parliament on Tuesday.

Children with complex support needs should be a priority, he said.

The system is overly complex and bureaucratic, the former minister said, before noting the NDIS was trying to use more simple language.

“However, evidence received during the inquiry suggests that communication issues persist and are creating challenges for people trying to navigate an already complex scheme,” he said.

Labor’s NDIS spokesman Bill Shorten said one of the recommendations was as simple as a family getting a draft plan instead of just a final version, so that adjustments can be made.

“This report refocuses the scheme on looking after participants,” he said.

“It is common sense steps in the right direction to ensure the citizens of this country are in charge and not an organisation.”

NDIS participants should be able to review parts of their plan or vary it, the committee says.

Other recommendations include ensuring plans are reviewed within 45 days if a participant requests it, with the same time frame for internal reviews on decisions.

The committee also wants all staff involved in the scheme to have more training so they’re familiar with different kinds of disability, allied health expertise, understand diverse cultural needs and have skills in domestic violence awareness.

NDIS participants should be able to meet face-to-face with an official who is able to approve their plan before it’s finalised, the committee says.

The recommendations are part of the committee’s interim report, with a final version slated for next year after more hearings are held across the country.

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