By 2019–2020, it is expected that 47 000 of the 460 000 total NDIS
Participants with approved Plans will be children aged between 0–6. The NDIA
estimates that a further 59 000 children aged between 0–6 may identify as
having a developmental delay or disability but are not expected to need
individualised funded supports.
The ECEI Approach is designed to individually determine and
facilitate the most appropriate support pathway for each child aged 0–6 years
with a disability or developmental delay (regardless of diagnosis), and their
The Approach is intended to uphold the eligibility criteria of
the NDIS, while helping to ensure that less severe cases are supported outside
of the Scheme.
The committee recognises that the ECEI Approach is in its
infancy, however, it is concerned that the current access arrangements are
potentially advantaging families who can afford to source expensive assessments
and reports to expedite their child's access to the Scheme.
Improvements to the ECEI
The committee acknowledges the efforts being made by the NDIA
to continually improve the operation and access to the ECEI pathway. However,
the committee understands concerns regarding the ECEI eligibility criteria, and
is of the view that unclear eligibility criteria increase risk of
misinterpretation and conflicted understanding. The repeated confusion over
whether one, or more than one area of developmental delay determines access to
the ECEI pathway illustrates that more work is required to clearly annunciate
which children will be eligible for support. Publication of clearer guidance
around all aspects of entry to the pathway would assist all stakeholders.
The NDIA have recently made significant improvements to the
Participant pathway, however the committee remains troubled by reports that
Planners have poor understanding of the needs of the children they are
developing Plans for. Planners should, at the least, have awareness of
recommended intervention guidelines and therapies for the major disability
cohorts, and demonstrate sensitivity in their communications with families.
The committee is concerned by reports that the PEDI-CAT tool is
unsuited to assessing the functional capacity of children with a developmental
delay, including those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), yet it is being
used by the NDIA and its Partners to inform access and funding decisions and
track children's developmental progress. The potential inaccuracy of the
PEDI-CAT in determining a child's functional needs leads to broader concerns
about whether the number of children with developmental delay accessing the
NDIS and the level of their delay is correct.
ECEI participant assessments and diagnosis
The committee is concerned that some families have had to fully
or partially fund assessment and diagnosis reports to ensure their child could
access ECEI services and have adequately funded plans. As discussed in chapter
2, there should be no need for families to provide these costly assessment and
diagnosis reports at the time of lodging the access request for ECEI services
with the NDIA or during the planning process.
The committee is concerned with the numerous reports of
significantly underfunded plans for ECEI participants. The committee noted that
the funding shortfalls and inconsistencies in plans appear to particularly
affect children with ASD and those with hearing impairments.
Underfunded plans for children with
The report also explores evidence in relation to recurring
funding shortfalls in plans for children with ASD. It appears that the level of
funding granted in many plans does not meet participants' needs and does not
align with recommended evidence-based practice guidelines. This is resulting in
those children not accessing the right level of support and therapies to
achieve optimal outcomes.
Alarmingly, the committee heard that NDIS funding levels are often
lower than previous national funding models such as Helping Children With
Autism. It is concerning that some participants and their families are
potentially worse off than under previous funding models.
With almost 40 per cent of NDIS participants age 0–6 years
having ASD as their primary disability, it is of paramount importance that the
NDIA urgently addresses the issues of scope and level of funding in plans for
children with ASD.
The committee believes that approval of funding for assistive
technology should be systematically and consistently based on the participant's
individual needs to achieve optimal outcomes. The funding decision should not
be based on minimising costs. As a result, the committee is concerned that some
submitters suggested that participants were given inappropriate assisted
technology equipment to reduce costs.
Supports for families and carers
The committee believes access to supports for families and
carers should be integral to the ECEI Approach. The committee agrees that, to
date, the role of siblings of children with disability has been overlooked
within the framework of the NDIS and its ECEI Approach. The committee believes
that the NDIA should consider the development of sibling specific supports and
how these could be integrated into the ECEI Approach. Development of tailored
programs should be considered and delivered through the ILC.
Delays in accessing plans
The committee is concerned with widespread reports of delays in
accessing and receiving services for ECEI participants with a plan. This can
significantly impact on the success of therapies and the ability of
participants to achieve optimal outcomes.
Where delays can be attributed to staffing pressures in the
Agency the committee is of the view that the staffing cap currently in place
should be removed to facilitate further resources being provided to address
in rural and remote locations
The committee understands there can be significant additional
costs to deliver services in rural and remote areas, including costs associated
with travel. The committee noted that the new NDIA Price Guide introduced on 1
July 2017, incorporates a series of changes, including an increased price
loading to apply for the delivery of supports to participants in remote and
very remote parts of Australia. However, it appears that the issue of travel
costs remain a significant cause of concern for services providers
The committee acknowledges that the NDIA has made efforts to
publish a range of ECEI-related material on its website. However, it agrees
with submitters' that the quality of information currently available for
families and carers could be improved. The NDIA should ensure that information
on the NDIS website is logically presented. All information should be clearly
dated, indicate if it has been superceded, and identify related historical
information. Information relevant to the ECEI Approach should consolidate
information from multiple sources, and remove redundant and contradictory
The committee is of the view that ECEI Partners do not
currently have the capacity or funding to conduct essential outreach and
support services for vulnerable cohorts. The committee agrees with the
Productivity Commission that adequately resourcing Information, Linkages and
Capacity Building (ILC) is critical to ensure people with disability are
connected with appropriate services.
Access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families
The committee is troubled by reports that there are Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander families unable to use allocated funding because
they are unsure how to access services. The committee considers that resources
should be developed in co-design with people with disability, Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander populations, and CALD communities to assist them to
understand the Scheme, and how to use their funds to access services.
The work undertaken by the NDIA in developing an Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander Engagement strategy is a positive step. However, it is
imperative that the NDIA develop a specific strategy to ensure that culturally
appropriate early intervention services are delivered for this community by
The committee received a wealth of information and evidence
throughout the inquiry and thanks all those who participated. As a result, the committee
has made 20 recommendations, which aim to strengthen the effectiveness of the Scheme
to ensure that children can be appropriately supported to reach their full
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