Parliament – National Disability Insurance Scheme

Monday, 21 May 2018

I rise today to talk about the mismanagement by this government of the delivery of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Last week, we saw the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s scathing report on the NDIS plan review system. Sadly, it is no surprise to me. Families are coming to my office every day, desperate for help. It is clear that we are reaching crisis point. People with disabilities and their families simply are not receiving the services and support they sorely need and—might I say—were promised. It is absolutely vital for this government to get on with the job of properly delivering the NDIS and fixing the broken plan review system.

It has been alarming to hear stories from people living in my electorate who are experiencing firsthand the poor delivery by this government of the NDIS. Michelle from Aldinga Beach has experienced frustration with long wait times and difficulty with the review process. She says her son’s prosthetic legs and the ‘stubbies’ he needs to cushion his limbs when not wearing his prosthetics have been significantly underfunded in his plan. The family have asked for a review and have been waiting now for upwards of seven months with no end in sight. While the family wait for the outcome of the review, they have resorted to duct-taping their son’s stubbies to try to stretch their use, as they are rapidly wearing out. This is absolutely unacceptable.

Mary from Morphett Vale is a single, low-income earner with a disabled son. She made a decision to cancel her private health because the supports for her son’s first plan with the NDIS were working well. She did not take this decision lightly. Mary did not anticipate the lengthy wait times for a new plan. There have now been gaps in her son’s funding, and Mary has been left to scramble, trying to cover the therapies her son so desperately needs. Mary says she feels frustrated and financially stretched beyond her limits. To acknowledge the delays, she was provided with interim funding to tide her family over. This funding has now been depleted, and her son is again without support, without a plan.

How is it possible, when we are talking about continuity of support and continuity of early intervention, that we have these families begging the government for some support? Mary has been told that her plan is in process. She has not been given a time frame for when her son’s funding will start up again. This is causing her great distress and, without these supports, she has real concerns for his ability to maintain any progress that he’s made. As I said, this is absolutely unacceptable.

Now I’ll talk about Bonnie from Sheidow Park, who is also facing the anxiety caused by the lengthy wait times. This is especially distressing for the family, as Bonnie’s younger daughter has a limited life span and is in palliative care. Bonnie says it took her daughter’s social worker intervening for a planning date to be set. Bonnie said:

My Daughter has a limited life span. She has no access to treatment and is being ignored by the agency that is supposed to help us but in reality is just causing a huge amount of anxiety.

She says even basic administrative errors have been made. She has been told that some of these can’t be fixed, including family members’ names being misspelled in her daughter’s plan. This clearly indicates a lack of resourcing of the NDIS by this government, and it is at the expense of Bonnie and her family.

The NDIS needs to support and value people with a disability as individuals, and this is what it was set up to do. But this government has been missing in action. Where has this government been when it comes to actually properly resourcing the NDIS? We’ve seen some very disturbing news in more recent days, where the government’s plan is to cut off support to children with autism. That is its plan—not addressing these significant associated problems that are hurting families in my electorate.

The NDIS under Labor was designed to alleviate the anxiety of family members. It was meant to be a lifetime of support to stop ageing parents worrying about what will happen to their children when they are no longer there. All I can say from families in my electorate is that it’s causing more anxiety, not less—anxiety on a daily basis about what will happen to their children next week rather than in a few years time. It is time the government dealt with these issues immediately. 

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