People with disabilities are facing delays of up to nine months when they attempt to have their bungled National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plans fixed, an investigation has found.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s report into the NDIS’s plan review system has revealed up to 8,000 people are stuck waiting for an outcome.
People seek reviews for many reasons, including when their plan includes wrong or inadequate equipment and support, for example if they receive funding for fewer hours of care than needed.
The Ombudsman described the review processes as “unwieldy”, “unapproachable”, and lacking “fairness and transparency”.
“[Delays] pose a particular risk to those who may be at risk of losing services or experiencing deterioration in their capacity if their plan is not adjusted quickly,” the report said.
The Ombudsman said it received 400 complaints about the National Disability Insurance Agency’s (NDIA) review processes over the 18 months to January.
“In one case, a participant did not know why her plan was changed because the NDIA had not told her it had accepted (and given effect to) her request for a plan review,” the report said.
Reports to the watchdog included:
- The agency not prioritising urgent cases where, for example, people could be at risk of harm or homelessness
- NDIA staff and contractors discouraging people from seeking a review
- The NDIA not acknowledging requests for review or responding to enquiries
More than 140,000 Australians are now covered by the NDIS — a number expected to reach 475,000 by early next decade.
The NDIA has accepted the Ombudsman’s 20 recommendations.
“[The agency] has started determining the most practical way to implement responses,” a spokesman said in a statement.
“The NDIA has established a dedicated team to manage outstanding reviews.
“The NDIS is a world-first reform, the size and scale of which means the scheme will not be without challenges.”
Federal Labor’s social services spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said it was “an absolutely damning report”.
“These problems need to be fixed, and fixed right now,” Ms Macklin said.
“Get peoples’ plans right the first time so we just don’t need all these reviews done, and people waiting for much-needed support.”