Kelly in the Media

Disability scheme leaves clients in slow lane

The full rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme has suffered another setback, with delays in South Australia leaving almost 800 people in limbo and 4000 frustrated by bureaucratic complications.

South Australian Disabilities Minister Katrine Hildyard yesterday said she had raised concerns with the National Disability Insurance Agency and won a series of commitments for improvements, including developing a new “face-to-face” process for people transitioning to the scheme.

“The move back to face-to-face planning is vital because the NDIA’s first concern must be quality, and getting plans right for every individual,” Ms Hildyard said.

The NDIA also agreed to work “urgently” to stop gaps emerging for complex clients and people in country South Australia, she said.

The NDIS rollout to eligible adults began in South Australia in July following a trial period of several years marked by embarrassing problems including an IT meltdown that led to payment delays and staff not receiving training.

A full national rollout is not expected until after 2020.

Dignity Party MP Kelly Vincent said the latest NDIS quarterly report showed that South Australia was nearly 800 people short of its target for expected participants.

“There also are more than 4000 people either still waiting for a plan, plan review or with other complications. We wanted the NDIS to make waiting lists a thing of the past,” she said.

“Plan appeals, confusion about payments systems and the My Place portal, and service system bookings are creating problems for NDIS participants and resulting in inability to access supports. This does not fit with the NDIS philosophy of choice and control.”

Ms Vincent called on the state government to “exert more pressure” on the commonwealth “as thousands continue to be approved for NDIS access, but go without services”.

“The complaints to my office about sub-par planning processes, delays in planning and approvals and extensive waits for equipment and home modifications continue … and many small-business service providers are owed tens of thousands of dollars because of plan review appeals, problems with service bookings, and ongoing challenges with the My Place portal.”

Adelaide mother of two Chantelle Care-Wickham said she was extremely frustrated after requesting an iPad and speech app in March for her five-year-old daughter, Felicity, who suffers severe speech and language delays.

“Five months after making the request, our speech pathologist was sent a letter stating the NDIS had changed its forms and we had to reapply,” Ms Care-Wickham said.

“I’ve called up and they promised to return my calls but never do. The iPad is more about safety – she can’t even tell me if something inappropriate has happened to her during the day. This is to close that gap and make her safe and help her to be able to learn at school.”

She said her daughter had a budget of $9000 but less than 60 days to use it because of the “impossible” delays in trying to access services and basic equipment.

An NDIA spokesman last night said that as of June, more than 90,000 people had an approved NDIS plan nationally, including 12,116 in South Australia.

Social Services Minister Christian Porter said the rollout in South Australia was at 95 per cent of estimates within the bilateral agreement, which was a “fair and solid performance”.