NDIS decision delays have deadly consequences, says Queensland Advocacy Incorporated (QAI).
Following today’s report that more than 1200 Australians – including 65 children – have died while waiting for NDIS packages, leading disability advocacy organisation Queensland Advocacy Incorporated (QAI) says urgent reforms are needed to introduce greater accountability for the government agency managing the scheme.
“Too many people living with disabilities are waiting far too long for support they need to live the ordinary life they’re entitled to,” says QAI director Michelle O’Flynn.
Part of the problem, O’Flynn explains, is that while the legislation governing the NDIS imposes strict timelines on people who need support (to respond to NDIS requests for more information, for instance), in most cases the National Disability Insurance Agency is not subject to the same timeline requirements.
O’Flynn says further that the NDIA will often reject applicants’ claims at first instance, only to reverse its decision on internal review or appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal six or even twelve months later.
“As a result, we often see clients who, in our view, are needlessly put through additional and unwarranted stress – and when someone is already trying to manage with very little support, that additional stress may be the last straw,” says O’Flynn.
While it’s impossible to attribute some of these deaths directly to their experience of waiting for NDIS support packages, O’Flynn says that what it does highlight is just how important adequate, resourced and appropriate supports are for people living with disabilities, many of whom experience lower life expectancies compared with other people.
“The NDIS does have the ability to immediately improve a person’s quality of life,” says O’Flynn, “by implementing and sticking to timeframes, by communicating properly with people about how their applications are going, by being as consistent as possible about their funding decisions, by respecting decisions of the Federal Court and generally by removing as much uncertainty about the process as possible.
“At QAI we’ve seen that the NDIA is capable of doing the right thing, and its facilitation of funding and quality personalised supports have certainly improved the lives of thousands of people, but it shouldn’t be attained after a protracted and delayed fight to the finish. On far too many occasions the NDIS has, in our view, needlessly delayed or obstructed the process. And delays in this area can have dire and tragic consequences.”
QAI welcomes the reviews (by parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS, and by David Tune) currently on foot, and is hopeful that they eventually result in better accountability being built into the governing legislation.
“But the NDIS doesn’t need to wait for the reviews to report,” O’Flynn says. “It could commit to timelines today.”