Kelly in the Media

Kelly Vincent – 5AA Interview on the New NDIS Website Problems

Andrew Reimer: Kelly Vincent, you’ve been making news over the last week or so because you’re not too happy about what’s happening with the NDIS?

Kelly Vincent: Absolutely, unfortunately it’s not all good news. The basic story here is that just before the 1st of July the scheme translated to a new website called My Place the website is where people log on to make claims against their funding packages similar to Medicare, I guess, in that we make claims against a certain pool of funding therefore people can be paid for the services that they’re providing. For some seven weeks now that new website hasn’t been fully functional, the data hasn’t migrated over to the new website properly and so many, many people are not able to access their support packages for disability supports that they are eligible for. And that is starting to have the impact of service providers having to make the choice to walk away from providing services because obviously it’s not fair to ask service providers, many of whom are individual traders or small businesses, to go two months without being able to pay them or their staff, so it is having a big impact on people with disabilities, families and service providers alike. What’s interesting is that the Ministers responsible, so Christian Porter as the Minister for Disability and the Assistance Minister Jane Prentice, have been reasonably quiet this whole time and lo and behold on Friday night at 8pm they put out a statement to say, “we’re going to sort a review into what has happened here with the technology”. Dignity for Disability have a couple of concerns with that; one is that to make an announcement at 8pm on a Friday night when many people aren’t tuned into the news sends a concerning message that they’re maybe trying to fly under the radar and get away with this. The other thing is that really we don’t need a review, we know what the problem is.

Andrew Reimer: Just go and fix it.

Kelly Vincent: Absolutely, we’ve known what the problem is for eight weeks and that’s that the portal doesn’t work and every resource possible needs to be put into fixing it rather than reviewing it.

Andrew Reimer: So there’s so many implications when it comes to this issue. The fact that people aren’t getting paid, the payments aren’t being processed and in some cases there’s also been overpayments, but when it comes to the people who are the providers losing business, not being able to pay staff, is there going to be some sort of compensation as a result of this, is that something you’re going to be calling for as well?

Kelly Vincent: Absolutely we have called for that and that is our question to both the State and Federal Government is how will these service providers be compensated because many of them are at significant financial risk and to be fair to the National Disability Insurance Agency, they have made emergency payments available, so some service providers have been able to get emergency payments to make sure that they’re able to carry on providing services in the meantime, but the unfortunate thing with that is that as I understand it service providers have to continually apply for an emergency payment, so in one respect it is helpful but in another respect it’s adding another layer of bureaucracy that service providers are having to deal with in this what is already a very struggling time. The other layer is families and individual people with disabilities who may be paying for the services out of their own pockets if they have the means to do that, which obviously not many people do, but some do, but obviously for most that’s not going to be sustainable in the long term, so will those families be compensated as well? On the issue of money, it’s an important question to ask also is how much will this review cost, who’s going to be carrying out this review, who’s going to get paid to carry out this review and what will that cost us and will that in turn take away from providing services and paying for services on the ground?

Andrew Reimer: The National Disability Insurance Agency, they have advised that there was a statement released saying that the main issues have been rectified and outstanding payment requests are being prioritised.

Kelly Vincent: I don’t deny that the Agency is working very hard to rectify the issues. They have gradually been improving, but last I spoke to service providers via an email I think on Thursday or Friday, there did seem to still be a number of issues, service providers were telling me that they’re still not able to see the correct information about their clients that they’re working with, which includes what kind of services they should be providing and also whether the client actually has any money in their plan to pay for those services. Those issues could well have been rectified further over the weekend, I certainly hope that that is the case, but last I heard some issues have been rectified but it certainly wasn’t the case from what service providers had told me that everything was fully functional.

Caller Andrew: Thank you for raising this very important issue. I care for a little boy who is profoundly deaf and autistic and I’m also having extreme difficulty trying to get payments for the service provided. You mentioned about service providers now getting compensation and you also alluded to the fact that perhaps the clients themselves and the families may be able to go for compensation. My other concern is that if you have a plan for a child or anybody that goes from one financial year to the next, and if you cannot actually implement that plan and that they can set up their funding for it, then what does that mean about the following year when you come to do a plan review and if the money that’s allocated to you is not being used, then you use it or lose it, basically, don’t you. I have some real concerns about the fact that I cannot access money to pay the service providers for this young lad and also the fact that I’ve now put it in the hands of a plan management team because I was attempting to do it myself, self-managed service, and it just became just too difficult. There’s a cost involved in implementing that through that process and it’s disadvantaging him in terms of the money that’s been allocated to him because if they made it a lot easier for parents to actually navigate through this portal, and through the NDIA funding, then he would certainly have some extra funds to play with, but thank you Kelly for raising it because my battle is continuing and I’m on the internet on a daily basis trying to find out where we’re up to because today I had this young lad involved in an access program, they had to wait for four weeks to be paid and then I had to pull the pin on it and in which case I’ll have to pay myself and I’m happy to do that but then trying to get reimbursed is another nightmare because we have been told by our plan managers, do not pay upfront, leave it to us. The battle continues.

Andrew Reimer: Kelly, if you hadn’t have brought this up how much longer would it have gone on before it was found out and addressed?

Kelly Vincent: Well this is my concern, which is that to the best of my knowledge it wasn’t until last Friday that Ministers Jane Prentice and Christian Porter were even aware of the issue, and I understand that they were quite livid once they did find out, but my question is, how does a Minister who is ultimately responsible for this $22 billion taxpayer funded scheme not aware even when the issue has been in the media for several weeks. We’re certainly happy to raise it from Dignity for Disability’s perspective, but I think the question has to be asked, is why does the Federal Minister with whom the buck ultimately stops with this scheme, having to come to us to learn about what’s really happening out there on the ground, that’s pretty concerning. The caller Andrew alluded to this really well is that it is important that we do stay behind supporting the National Disability Insurance Scheme, it is making a difference to the lives of many people particularly young people here in this state, which is a trial site for children and young people. It has made some big differences to their lives and their independence, they’ll be less dependent on services down the track, so it is a really important investment and important that we get it right. That’s exactly why it’s important that we fix these bureaucratic issues, so the scheme can get on with what it was meant to do which is improving the lives of people and in particular young people with disabilities.

Andrew Reimer: Well the relevant Minister needs to keep his eye on the ball then.

Kelly Vincent: Absolutely. We’ll be doing everything we can to make sure that that does happen.

Andrew Reimer: Good to talk to you, thanks very much.