NDIS Reform Campaign
 

Campaign to Reform
NDIS:
Fulfilling the Promise to Revolutionise
Disability Service

 

Our Package of 15 Reforms for NDIS

The following are 15 measures for reform of NDIS that have arisen from the deliberations of people with disabilities, families and friends, support organisations, researchers and policy makers over the past two years.

Together this package of reforms can prevent NDIS from becoming a bigger, more expensive version of the old provider-centred disability industry.

Send us your comments on these 15 measures.

CLICK HERE to become involved.

Your comments

Use the online form below to send in your comments on each of these reforms (Click on the words Comment here: to go the relevant part of the online form to enter your comment.)

In the following, 'NDIA' refers to the National Disability Insurance Authority, the body established by the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 to run the NDIS. 'Participant' refers to a person in receipt of support from NDIS, including both funded and unfunded supports. 'Family' refers to a familial group which acts as the primary unit of care for an NDIS Participant.

Reform 1      Participants' Plans
Reform 2      Participant-Controlled Information and Management Tool
Reform 3      Circles of Support and Networks of Peers

Reform 4      Registered Providers of Supports
Reform 5      Register of Profiteering Providers Charging More Than $45 per hour
Reform 6      Monitoring and Protection of Self-Direction
Reform 7      NDIS Board and Advisory Council
Reform 8      Election of 50% of NDIS Board by Participants
Reform 9      Control of Superannuation Costs
Reform 10    Control of NDIS Mission Creep
Reform 11    Participant-Driven Employment Assistance
Reform 12    Small /Micro-Business Development Grant
Reform 13    Family Support Entitlement
Reform 14    Peak Body Voucher for every NDIS Participant and Family
Reform 15    Dropping the 'Insurance Scheme' Pretence
 

REFORM 1 

Participants' Plans

This reform aims to remove ambiguity in NDIS about the process of development of participants' support plans. It makes clear that a personís support plan is the prerogative of a person with disabilities and their family/ supporters, and that the NDIA is responsible only for determining the total amount of public funds that may be made available.

Background:

The NDIS Act 2013 fails to recognise that in the preparation of a personís support plan, the initiative and design of the plan resides with the participant, and not with the NDIA. The legislation specifically places responsibility for commencement and design of the plan with the CEO of NDIS. This is inappropriate.

The legislation also states that a support plan must by approved only by the CEO of NDIS. It is proposed here that a support plan must be approved by both the participant and NDIA, and that
the only decision for which NDIA has sole responsibility is determination of the total amount of public funds that may be made available.

To date, only 47% of NDIS participants have their plans approved by NDIS within 90 days. This lengthy delay is unnecessarily caused by NDIS seeking to approve items in plans that properly are the prerogative of the participant and their family and supporters.

The reform also makes clear that where a participant, of any age, is in the primary care of their family, whether they are living with their family or not, then the participant and the family should jointly share in the design of the plan, and NDIS should not exclude the family from this process.

The reform also requires NDIS to supply to each participant and their family a copy of the NDIS Price Guide specifying the current dollar value of every item of expenditure in a participant's support plan.

Reform:

The NDIS Act 2013 should be amended as follows:

(a) the initiative and design of a support plan resides with the participant and not with the CEO of NDIS;
(b) a support plan must be approved by both the participant and NDIS, and not solely by the CEO of NDIS;
(c) where a participant is living with their family and is in the primary care of their family, the participant and the family unit should jointly share in the design of a support plan, and the family unit should not be excluded from this process;
(d) NDIS must supply to each participant and their family a copy of the NDIS Price Guide specifying the current dollar value of every item of expenditure in a participant's plan; and
(e)
the only matter in relation to plans where NDIA has sole responsibility is in determinaton of the total amount of public funds that may be made available.

Comment here:
 

REFORM 2

Participant-Controlled Information and Management Tool

This reform aims to ensure that a participant in NDIS is entitled to a participant-controlled information and management tool which records in electronic form every meeting, decision and transaction between people with disabilities and NDIS and other service providers and practitioners. The tool would also function as a technology platform for the management of an individual budget and support plan for those who wish to use it

Background:

Every innovative health and disability reform internationally now includes an entitlement to a person-controlled information and management tool.

NDIS should have made the development of a participant-controlled tool a priority from its inception. Instead, it has spent more than $1bn on IT systems for service providers and ignored an electronic tool for use by participants that is controlled by participants.

Reform:

1. Every participant in NDIS
is entitled to a person-controlled information and management tool. Every NDIS meeting, decision and transaction should be recorded in this tool.

2. All service providers and practitioners supplying services to NDIS participants would be required to enter information on the service supplied into the person-controlled information system. This would be a condition for receipt of NDIS money. It would serve as a consolidated person-centred information system which would comprise all components of an individualís support and care history.

3. The electronic record would also function as a technology platform for the management of an individual budget and support plan for those who wish to use it.

4. Participants may elect to use an NDIS supplied information and management tool, or may choose another tool of their preference. Various systems are now available on the market. Participants who choose the latter would be entitled to an initial payment of $1,500 for acquisition of a suitable tool and training in its use. Thereafter, an annual payment of $500 would be made for maintenance and training, payable to the participant or their agent.

Comment here:
 

REFORM 3

Circles of Support and Networks of Peers


This reform aims to establish Circles of Support around each participant in NDIS, and Networks of Peers in local communities. It will redirect NDIS resources for Local Area Coordination away from external service providers to participants' Circles and Networks in the form of a direct payment.

Background:

The NDIA announced in 2015 that it would establish Local Area Coordination (LAC) services in Local Government Areas (LGAs) across Australia. The purpose of LAC services is to advise people eligible for NDIS support of available local services, and to assist them in obtaining these services.

In 2016, the NDIA issued its first contracts for LAC services. These contracts allocated $10.4m to a service provider in North East Melbourne (covering 5 LGAs) to support 6,670 participants, and $4.5m to a provider in the Central Highlands of Victoria (6 LGAs) to support 2,950 participants. This is equivalent to approx.$1,560 for each NDIS participant per year.

This money should have been payable to NDI participants to establish and resource their own Circles and Networks, not paid to external service providers. It is now well-established that relational supports (peer-to-peer, familial, and communal) are more effective and enduring than external and impersonal supports, and are to be preferred wherever possible. NDIS has undervalued relational supports to date.

Reform:

1. A Local Area Circles and Networks Payment of $1,560 should be payable by NDIS to each participant and their family/supporters to take part in a Circle of Support and a Network of Peers. $560 of this payment would go the Circle of Support, and $1,000 to the Network of Peers. The payments are conditional upon participation in a Circle of Support.

2.
A Circle of Support will typically comprise 6-8 people comprising immediate family, extended family, friends, neighbours, shopkeepers, volunteer drivers, local sport and recreation guides, faith and community groups. The Circle undertakes to meet monthly as a base commitment in supporting the person at the centre of their Circle.

The Circle will usually act as the primary unit of support for the person in establishing support plans and pursuing personal and social goals.

3. Each Circle will appoint its preferred financial agent to hold and manage the NDIS Payment of $560 and use this money as the Circle sees fit.

4. A Network of Peers of participants in NDIS will be established in each LGA or sub-LGA district across Australia. Participants and their families and supporters would be invited to enrol in (join) these local networks. 

Each network will be a participant-governed group of at least 10 people with the aim of assisting participants to develop mutual supports amongst peers, create local support options, access local services, and assist their Circles of Support.

Networks have a important role in enabling participants to develop independent living arrangements with local supports.

5. The Network of Peers will appoint its preferred financial agent to hold and manage the NDIS payment of $1,000. It may engage a Facilitator or Coordinator with the pooled resources as it sees fit.

6. Each Network of Peers will appoint a Convenor and devise its own governance, leadership and communication arrangements as it sees fit. Convenors will be networked for sharing of strategic information and experiences.

Comment here:
 

REFORM 4

Registered Providers of Supports

This reform aims to remove extensive conflicts of interest on the part of NDIS registered providers of supports who simultaneously manage funding and the provision of supports.

Background:

The NDIS Act 2013 permits registered providers of supports to manage the funding for supports under plans and/or the provision of supports.

People with disabilities and their families have long experienced the adverse consequences arising from a fund manager exercising unwanted control over how a personís funds are used. When a fund manager is also a provider of supports, people with disabilities are pressured (directly and indirectly) to purchase the supports provided by their fund manager. Subtle pressure is often applied by fund managers to discourage people with disabilities from shopping around and purchasing external supports.

Prior to preparation of the NDIS Act 2013, many people with disabilities and families made representations seeking the proscription of this conflict of interest. Providers of services, however, did not want this conflict of interest removed, or even identified. Since service providers had far greater influence than people with disabilities and families in drawing up the NDIS legislation, the Act ignored the wishes of users of services and families on this matter.

Reform:

The NDIS Act 2013 should be amended as follows:

A registered provider under the NDIS may undertake either but not both of the following:

(a) managing the funding for supports under plans;
(b) the provision of supports.

Comment here:
 

REFORM 5

Register of Profiteering Providers Charging More Than $45 per Hour

This reform aims to establish a Public Register of Profiteering Providers charging more than $45 per hour for support workers (weekday rates). This is a cost control measure to prevent profiteering on the part of providers and to ensure financial sustainability of NDIS.

Background:

There has been a major expansion in the number of businesses wanting to supply services to people with disabilities under the NDIS. Many new providers have entered the disability sector, attracted by the possibility of financially lucrative returns. Many traditional providers with high overheads and bloated management structures are facing unprecedented competitive pressures. Both new and traditional providers will look to steady increases in charge-out rates for support workers as the area in which they can most readily lift their margins.

This proposal aims to prevent profiteering amongst providers of supports by publicising those that charge more than $45 per hour for support workers. It doesn't seek to impose a cap on charge-rates, rather it seeks to harness market pressures to curtail increases. Easy access to comparative data on charge-out rates is vital to ensuring market pressures contain costs.


Reform:

1. A Public Register of Profiteering Providers should be established within NDIS to publicise those providers charging more than $45 per hour for support workers (weekday rates).

2. Until this Register is established within NDIS, an interim Public Register of Profiteering Providers should be established by an alliance of disability and carer groups to supply this information to NDIS Participants and their families.

Comment here:


REFORM 6

Monitoring and Protection of Self-Direction

This reform aims to create a new role for independent monitors and protectors of self-directed arrangements within NDIS.

Background:

The NDIS Act 2013 makes inadequate provision for an independent monitoring role and protection of self-directed arrangements from inappropriate exercise of power on the part of providers or the NDIA.

It should make provision for the recognition of and support for a new role akin to that of Community Visitors who act as independent monitors and protectors of self-directed arrangements. These Self-Direction Visitors would be independent of both NDIS and providers of services, with a brief to uphold and protect the exercise of self-direction, as a safeguard against abuse, financial impropriety, and inappropriate pressure from agents and services.

Reform:

Legislative provision should be made for independent monitors and protectors of self-directed arrangements in the form of Self-Direction Visitors who would be independent of both NDIS and providers of supports. It is suggested that these Self-direction Visitors be attached to the Office of the Ombudsman or Auditor-General (or comparable body) in each state and territory.

Comment here:


REFORM 7

NDIS Board and Advisory Council

This reform aims to remove extensive conflicts of interest on the part of members of the NDIS Board and Advisory Councils.

Background:

The NDIS Act 2013 allows NDIS Board members and Advisory Council members to hold paid positions in the disability sector as consultants and managers of providers of services. This permits major conflicts of interest. An NDIS Board member or Advisory Council member should not be permitted to simultaneously conduct a consulting business on disability-related matters, or hold a remunerated position managing a disability service.

For decades, people with disabilities and families have protested about the incestuous nature of the disability services industry and its exercise of monopoly power over  public policy and service delivery. Governments have usually taken advice solely from providers of services, and responded with provider-centred systems.

This culture should not be permitted to continue in the new person-centred era of disability supports.

Reform:

The NDIS Act 2013 should be amended as follows:

The eligibility requirement for membership of the NDIS Board and the Advisory Council should exclude:
(a) individuals conducting a commercial consultancy business in disability matters;
(b) individuals holding a remunerated management position in disability matters
.

Comment here:
 

Election of 50% of NDIS Board by Participants

This reform would require 50% of the NDIS Board to be appointed by government, and 50% to be elected by NDIS participants.

Background:

Most disability service organisations in Australia were formed by parents of people with disabilities, or by people with disabilities themselves. Over a thirty year period from the 1980s, these organisations were captured by their managements, and families in particular were removed from governing boards in favour of 'external people with expertise'. During this period of external corporate model governance, the disability service system came to be widely acknowledged as being 'dysfunctional'.

The NDIS Act 2013 provides for appointment of members of the NDIS Board by the Commonwealth Government. The Act requires that experience of disability and disability supports should be one of several attributes to be taken into account by the Commonwealth in making its appointments. The inaugural NDIS Board comprised a combination of financial and management experts and 'usual suspects' from the disability industry, many of whom conduct consulting businesses on disability-related matters, or hold remunerated positions managing disability services.

In 2015, the then Minister responsible for NDIS, Senator Fifield, stated a preference for retiring NDIS Board members to be replaced with new appointees from the corporate sector. Since then, the Turnbull Government has appointed Board members with corporate sector backgrounds in the expectation (which has proven to be extraordinarily naive) that corporate sector appointees are appropriate personnel to oversee a scheme established to assist the self-direction and community inclusion of people with disabilities.

It is appropriate for part of the NDIS Board to comprise Commonwealth appointees. It is also important that the disability industry's 'usual suspects' are discouraged from viewing the NDIS Board as a sinecure.

But it is also important that the governance model established to drive a new disability culture of supported self-determination should reflect this new culture of self-determination as much as is practically possible, and not reproduce the old culture of paternalism. An election of 50% of the NDIS Board by participants would assist the formation of a governing culture that is attuned to the purpose of NDIS.

Reform:

The NDIS Act 2013 should be amended so that:

(a) 50% of the NDIS Board shall be appointed by the Commonwealth Government; and
(b) 50% of the NDIS Board shall be elected by NDIS participants through an election process conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission.


Comment here:


REFORM 9

Control of Superannuation Costs

This reform introduces an immediate adjustment downwards in management and administration costs by re-establishing for NDIS managers and staff the standard rate of superannuation for Australian workers of 9.5% instead of the special Canberra rate of 15.4%.

Background:

There are two classes of superannuation for Australian workers - a special rate of 15.4% for Commonwealth politicians, public servants and agency employees, and the standard rate of 9.5% for the majority of the workforce. 

Commonwealth politicians, public servants and agency employees pay themselves the special rate of 15.4% because they can. Removing this excess from NDIS management and staff will contribute substantially to containment of management and administration costs, and restore the principle of fairness to the internal remuneration culture of NDIS.

Reform:

The special Canberra rate of 15.4% superannuation for NDIS managers and staff should be replaced by adoption of the standard rate of superannuation for Australian workers of 9.5%.

Comment here:


REFORM 10

Control of NDIS Mission Creep

This reform aims to curb the problem of 'mission creep' in NDIS by excluding the entry of NDIS into investment in new technology, construction and acquisition of housing stock, and provision of supports in primary and secondary schooling.

It proposes the development by the Commonwealth of
a separate Supported Housing and Independent Living Authority to fast track the development of innovative housing and accommodation options for people with complex conditions in areas including mental illness, chronic illness, alcohol and drug addiction, homelessness and aged frailty, as well as disability. 

Background:

There is a natural tendency in all large organisations to extend their mission into additional fields or activity. This is known as 'mission creep'. Because disabilities can impair functioning in many different fields, such as education, employment, housing acquisition and transport, it is tempting to assume that all of these issues can be addressed by NDIS. However, the focus of NDIS is on the provision of personal and social supports in daily living, and it should retain this focus.

Extension of this mission to encompass areas such as investment in new technology that may assist people with disabilities, or construction or acquisition of housing stock, will make NDIS financially unsustainable. Important, but supplementary, activities such as these should be pursued outside of NDIS.

There is a longstanding crisis in availability of appropriate and affordable supportive accommodation and long-term independent living options for people with disabilities and other conditions requiring support. The scale of the need in this area is vast. A separate Commonwealth initiative focused specifically on housing and supported accommodation is required.

Reform:

1. The NDIS Act 2013 should be amended so as to exclude the entry of NDIS into areas that lie outside its mission, including investment in new technology, construction and acquisition of housing stock, and provision of supports in primary and secondary schooling.

2. The Commonwealth should establish a Supported Housing and Independent Living Authority to fast track the development of innovative housing and accommodation options for people with complex conditions in areas including mental illness, chronic illness, alcohol and drug addiction, homelessness and aged frailty, as well as disability. 

Comment here:
 

REFORM 11 

Participant-Driven Employment Assistance

Background:

Both major political parties in Australia were persuaded to introduce NDIS, in large part, because they thought it would assist people with disabilities to gain paid employment and move out of the welfare system. This was extremely naive on their part. The focus of NDIS is on personal and social supports in daily living. Additional assistance for acquisition of gainful employment will require additional interventions outside NDIS by the Commonwealth Government and other institutions. Because NDIS will be assessed, in part, on the extent to which people with disabilities take up gainful employment, the following two reforms (11 and 12) are proposed to accompany NDIS as part of this package of reforms.

The Commonwealth began in 2015/2016 a Disability Employment Services Youth Mental Health Trial for young people aged between 18 and 24 years who are living with a mental illness. This is an individualised support package which individuals may use to purchase their preferred employment and training supports to overcome vocational and non-vocational barriers to employment.


A package of $5,000 was allocated, which could be used to purchase goods and services including the services of a jobseeking coach, counselling, an agent to advise a potential employer on impacts of disability and employability, training, transport, work experience, and clothing and equipment.

This approach is called the 'participant-driven employment assistance' model. It should become the default format for disability employment assistance, and replace the dysfunctional provider-centred Disability Employment Network. It should draw on Circles of Support and Local Area Networks (Proposal 3) as support structures for its implementation.

Proposal:

The Commonwealth should introduce a Participant-Driven Employment Assistance Package to all people with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 65 who wish to take it up to help break barriers to employment, replacing the Disability Employment Network. It should draw on Circles of Support and Local Area Networks (Proposal 3) as support structures for its implementation.

Comment here:
 

REFORM 12 

Small / Micro-Business Development Grant 

This reform aims to create an entitlement for a Small / Micro-Business Development Grant to assist participants in setting themselves up in small or micro-business activity.

Background:

Many people with disabilities can and should be employed in the paid workforce, but the main obstacle to this is a shortage in suitable positions. This is primarily a failing of the business community in not responding entrepreneurially to the untapped resource of people with disabilities, rather than a failing of people with disabilities themselves. An increase in employment for people with disabilities will not be achieved quickly.

For many people with disabilities, small or micro-business activity, building on strengths in a setting of mutual support, is a more feasible option.

Reform:

The Small / Micro-Business Development Grant would be $5,000 per year for a maximum of 5 years, payable by the Commonwealth to the nominated agent of the participant, using NDIS-approved payment systems.

The Grant would be conditional upon the participant having prepared a suitable business proposal in association with other participants and/or families or supporters.

Comment here:

REFORM 13 

Family Support Entitlement

This reform would require NDIS to provide an annual Support Entitlement to every family caring for an NDIS participant at home.

Background:

Family carers of people with disabilities want to be supported in their caring role, so that they may combine a normal work and family life with caring for their loved ones. Family carers generally do not want to be stripped of their caring role, and replaced by workers without a personal relationship with their family members.

NDIS should not assume that family carers should offload their family members with disabilities onto a formal care provider so they can resume a 'normal life' in the paid workforce.
 
Reform:

NDIS should provide an annual Support Entitlement to every family caring for an NDIS participant at home. This payment would be assigned directly to family or the their nominated agent, in the form of a service entitlement for the purchase of in-home care for their family member or for the purchase of supports that enhance the family's capacity to sustain their caring role.

The Support Entitlement would be for an amount equivalent to the purchase cost of six weeks of NDIS supports for their family member. This amount may be used for respite, therapy, counselling or for any other purpose chosen by the family that enhances the family's capacity to sustain their caring role.

Comment here:
 

REFORM 14 

Peak Body Voucher for Every NDIS Participant And Family

This reform would require NDIS to provide for every participant and to their family an annual peak body voucher of $100 to assign to the representative peak body of their choice.

Background:

While individualised funding of personal supports has become accepted in disability, the funding of representative bodies for people with disabilities and family carers has remained firmly in the old paradigm of block-funding for 'peak bodies' selected by governments rather than by people with disabilities and their families.

This funding arrangement would replace existing funding arrangements for peak bodies for people with disabilities and family carers. By pooling the $100 voucher from each and every enrolled 'member', a demand-driven funding arrangement can be established for services of representation. It is not the role of governments to determine which representation bodies should be funded to represent people with disabilities and their families.

Reform:

1. NDIS should provide for every NDIS participant an annual voucher of $100 to assign to the representative body of their choice.

2. NDIS should provide for every family which acts as the primary unit of care of an NDIS participant an annual voucher of $100 to assign to the representative body of their choice.

Comment here:


REFORM 15 

Dropping the Pretence to 'Insurance'

This reform would align the name of the NDIS with the reality that it is not an 'insurance' scheme. The ongoing obligation of NDIS management and politicians to pretend that the scheme is an 'insurance' scheme in order to maintain continuity with an earlier iteration of the scheme should be put to rest.

Background:

The NDIS was first proposed as a social insurance scheme based on existing models of contributory insurance such as transport accident insurance and compensation schemes. The Victorian Transport Accident Commission (TAC} is such a model. It is based on contributions from motorists who self-fund the scheme; in turn, the TAC has a financial incentive to take initiatives which reduce the incidence of motor accidents and the financial payouts in medical expenses and compensation which result from these accidents.

When self-funding of NDIS through contributions was excluded by Australian governments, NDIS ceased to be an insurance scheme. It became a pay-as-you-go scheme, funded out of general revenue of Commonwealth and state governments.

The name National Disability Insurance Scheme has been perpetuated beyond its implementation as a pay-as-you-go scheme from July 2013. The tortured efforts of politicians and NDIS management to justify its labelling as an 'insurance' scheme should now be put to rest.

Reform:

The NDIS Act 2013 should be amended so as to change the name of the scheme to National Disability Investment Scheme.

Comment here:

 

 

Comments on the Reforms

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I wish to participate in Reforming NDIS.

Category (you may tick more than one)
: 

 NDIS participant
 Person with disabilities   Family / Carer
 Support worker           Support coordinator
 Service manager                          Researcher
 Community organisation staff       Government officer


Reform 1
Participants' Plans



Reform 2
Participant-Controlled Information and Management Tool



Reform 3
Circles of Support and Networks of Peers


Reform 4
Registered Providers of Supports



Reform 5
Register of Profiteering Providers



Reform 6
Monitoring and Protection of Self-Direction



Reform 7
NDIS Board and Advisory Council



Reform 8
Election of 50% of NDIS Board by Participants



Reform 9
Control of Superannuation Costs


Reform 10
Control of NDIS Mission Creep



Reform 11
Participant-Driven Employment Assistance



Reform 12
Small / Micro-Business Development Grant




Reform 13
Family Support Entitlement



Reform 14
Peak Body Voucher for Every NDIS Participant and Family



Reform 15
Dropping the 'Insurance Scheme' Pretence