This report of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) relates to the committee's ongoing inquiry into general issues related to the implementation and performance of the NDIS (General Issues inquiry). This inquiry provides an opportunity for the public to present important evidence to the committee about the NDIS and how it could be improved. In particular, this inquiry is a chance for people with disability to share their experiences with the scheme.
This is the committee's first report of the 46th Parliament for the General Issues inquiry. The report reviews issues raised during the inquiry and provides an update on the committee's recent activities. The committee makes 10 recommendations to improve the NDIS for participants, providers and other key stakeholders.
Chapter 2 of the report examines the National Disability Insurance Agency's (NDIA) proposal to introduce independent assessments as part of NDIS access and planning processes. According to the NDIA, the introduction of independent assessments will enhance equity and consistency in access and planning decisions.
The policy intent of independent assessments is to be commended, as is the decision to offer assessments free of charge. However, a substantial number of submitters advanced that independent assessments may result in stress and trauma for people with disability; may not be an accurate means of measuring functional capacity; and may not reflect adequate consultation with the disability and allied health sectors.
Independent assessments have not yet been implemented, and the committee does not make any recommendations about these assessments in this report. However, the committee appreciates that the introduction of independent assessments represents a major change to the NDIS, and is cognisant that there are significant concerns about this matter. The committee therefore proposes to conduct a dedicated inquiry into independent assessments. This will include seeking further evidence about this matter through submissions and public hearings.
The COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID‑19 pandemic has had an extraordinary and disruptive effect on Australian society. This effect was particularly acute for people with disability, their families and friends. COVID‑19 has also presented serious difficulties for NDIS providers, disability support workers, and others in the disability sector. Of course, the effects of the pandemic are still ongoing and will be with us for some time.
Chapter 3 examines evidence about the stress and anxiety felt by people with disability during the initial phase of the pandemic, difficulties accessing personal protective equipment, and challenges for NDIS providers continuing to offer disability supports. It also considers the government's planning and preparation for a pandemic, as well as how the NDIA and the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission (the Commission) responded to COVID‑19.
The committee makes two recommendations on this matter. The first aims to ensure that we learn lessons from the COVID‑19 pandemic and are better prepared to support people with disability in future emergencies. The second proposes that the NDIA and the Commission maintain, beyond the COVID‑19 pandemic, beneficial changes that were implemented in response to the pandemic.
Other key issues
The remainder of this report gives voice to a number of other key issues related to the NDIS raised by participants, providers and other stakeholders. These include financial matters relating to the implementation and performance of the NDIS, and issues affecting particular cohorts of people with disability.
The committee makes eight recommendations intended to improve the operation of the NDIS in light of the issues raised, focused on the following matters:
Systemic engagement with people with psychosocial disability.
Ensuring cultural competency and investing in capacity-building for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Supporting people with disability experiencing homelessness.
Improving the way in which the NDIA communicates with participants.
Managing the circumstances associated with a participant's death.
Some of the issues reviewed in this report have been more thoroughly examined by the committee in its other inquiries, or have been considered in inquiries conducted by other bodies. Consequently, in a number of instances the committee proposes to maintain a watching brief and encourages the Government to give close consideration to the matters raised in this report.
Not all submissions to this inquiry are directly quoted in this report. However, the committee has given close consideration to all submissions and witness testimony. The committee thanks everyone who contributed to this inquiry by making submissions, expressing views through correspondence or providing testimony at public hearings. In particular, the committee thanks the NDIS participants who shared their experiences. The testimony of people with lived experience is crucial to identifying issues with the NDIS, and to improving the operation of the scheme.