Executive summary

Planning is fundamental to the operation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The plan sets out the goals of the NDIS participant and the funded supports that will assist the participant to realise those goals. In effect, the plan determines how the participant will experience the NDIS. Given the significance of the planning process, it is crucial that planning is effective, robust, and meets the needs of all NDIS participants.
It is therefore concerning that the committee has heard there are a number of significant issues with the operation and implementation of the NDIS—particularly in relation to process. It is troubling that many of these issues are not new, and have been raised in previous inquiries.
In light of these matters, the committee considers that urgent action must be taken to improve the operation of the NDIS, and in particular the planning process, to maximise choice and control for people with disability and ensure that NDIS participants are fully supported to achieve their goals.
Evidence presented to the committee throughout the inquiry indicates that more time is required to fully consider issues associated with the planning process. Further time is also required to consider the impact of recent government initiatives to improve the NDIS—several of which are in their trial stages. Consequently, the committee has decided to present this interim report, which contains 14 recommendations to improve the operation of the planning process and the NDIS more generally. Many of these are proposed as a means of addressing issues with the planning process in the immediate term, while initiatives to improve the planning process are implemented. The committee has also highlighted other areas that it will consider more closely in the coming months.
The committee emphasises that the issues raised in this report are not intended as a criticism of individuals involved in the planning process, who are often doing good work under very trying circumstances. Rather, the committee's focus has been on the planning process as a whole, and the recommendations are targeted at bringing about systemic improvements to help the NDIS realise its full potential.

Draft plans and joint planning

The committee heard that the planning process does not involve NDIS participants in a meaningful way. In particular, submitters were concerned that participants do not have the opportunity to review and alter their plan before it is approved, and often do not meet with, or speak to, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) officer with authority to approve their plan.
The committee considers that face-to-face meetings between participants and NDIA delegates should be an essential part of the planning process. Participants should be given all opportunities possible to communicate their goals and required supports, and to challenge planning proposals that do not meet their needs. This is crucial to realising the principles of choice and control that underpin the scheme.
The committee notes that the NDIA recently trialled a 'joint planning' approach, where participants meet face-to-face with their Local Area Coordinator and the delegate with authority to approve their plan. The committee is pleased that the government proposes to roll out joint planning on a national basis from April 2020.
However, it is not clear that joint planning will be an adequate substitute for the provision of fully costed draft plans to participants. In this regard, the committee heard that the current approach to joint planning does not allow participants to review fully costed draft plans before they are approved. As such, the joint planning process may not, on its own, be sufficient to ensure that participants and representatives are adequately prepared for planning meetings and feel able to advocate for the supports and funding they need.
Consequently, the committee considers that—in addition to the introduction of joint planning—participants should be provided with fully costed draft plans ahead of planning meetings. This proposal was strongly supported by the majority of submitters to the inquiry, and has been previously recommended by the committee.
The review process and means to streamline it
At present, a full plan review is required for all changes to a participant's plan—even where those changes are minor or routine. The committee heard that this requirement is causing distress for participants, and may be limiting their ability to effectively advocate for reasonable and necessary supports. The committee also heard evidence that delays in review processes may be causing undue burden for participants, limiting their ability to access supports, and undermining the effective administration of the NDIS.
The committee strongly supports allowing participants to request reviews of only part of a plan and a requirement that reviews be completed within a specified timeframe. The committee also supports publishing (de-identified) settlement outcomes associated with review processes, as a means of increasing transparency and accountability for stakeholders.
Standardised language
Submitters indicated that the information disseminated by the NDIA is overly complex and bureaucratic, and that the NDIA often fails to use consistent language. The committee acknowledges that the NDIA is working to simplify the language it uses when communicating with stakeholders. However, evidence received during the inquiry suggests that communication issues persist and are creating challenges for people seeking to navigate an already complex scheme.


The committee heard that additional training is necessary to ensure that all persons involved in the planning process understand the diverse experiences of NDIS participants—particularly those with complex support needs, and to ensure that service delivery is consistent, effective and culturally appropriate.
Plan gaps
The committee heard that 'gaps' in plans may be limiting participants' ability to access necessary supports, limiting choice and control, and undermining the effective administration of the NDIS. The committee acknowledges that the NDIA has implemented enhancements to its internal processes which go some way to ensuring continuity of supports. However, evidence suggests that more is needed to ensure that participants are not left without funding for reasonable and necessary supports, and to ensure funding in participant plans remains appropriate.
First plan approvals
The committee heard that delays in approving first plans may be creating barriers to supports. The committee notes that the government announced an initiative to resolve delays in approving first plans for the early childhood cohort, and supports the implementation of a similar initiative for all NDIS participants.
Children with acquired disability and complex care needs
The committee heard that children with acquired disability and children with complex support needs are often underserved by the NDIS, and that approval delays may be limiting access to supports. The committee considers that a mechanism is needed to prioritise these cohorts in appropriate circumstances, to ensure that they are able to access supports as quickly as possible.
The committee heard that the current NDIS funding model may not be giving participants adequate access to transport services. The committee notes that work is in progress to increase funding for transport services, and to allow participants to use funding more flexibly. However, these measures may not be sufficient to ensure the NDIS meets the transport needs of participants in the short term.
The committee thanks all who participated in the inquiry by lodging submissions, giving testimony or expressing their views through correspondence. In particular, the committee acknowledges those NDIS participants who attended the committee's public hearings to share their experiences. The testimony of people with lived experience is crucial to identifying issues and making improvements to the NDIS.
The committee will give further consideration to the issues associated with the planning process in the coming months and will hold additional public hearings. The committee proposes to present a final report to the Parliament in 2020.

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