“We need to be able to plan in advance and know what’s going to happen!”
– Fiona*, NDIS participant.
With only two working days’ notice, people with disability are having their supports ripped out from under them under sudden changes to the NDIS.
During COVID, the Australian Government made changes to the NDIS that allowed participants to access support coordination through Core rather than Capacity Building funding.
In plainer terms, this meant that people who suddenly needed extra help coordinating essential support during shortages and unexpected restrictions could have access to it without completely restructuring their NDIS plans.
This week, the Government announced that this change will be reversed on Sunday, giving NDIS participants two working days to find alternative arrangements.
While this seem might seem like a reasonable move as conditions move to COVID normal (though, who knows if we’ll need more lockdowns), this is going to be a massive blow to NDIS participants whose entire plans have now been adapted to the new rules.
“I have just signed up for support coordination through my Core funding,” says Linda*, an NDIS participant. “I needed help applying for supported independent living. We had meetings scheduled, but now I am lost. My support coordinator was talking to developers, but now we will be delayed by months. I have no assistance now getting the accommodation I need, so I will have to stay in an unsuitable environment for a lot longer. My friend, who I was planning to live with, is also an NDIS participant, so they will be impacted too.”
Linda is just one of many who will be affected.
“It’s both callous and potentially harmful,” says Sebastian Zagarella, CEO of People with Disability Australia (PWDA). “It’s a sudden interruption to a lot of peoples’ essential supports and two days is not enough time for most people to put alternative measures in place.”
The lack of accessible documentation to go with the announcement such as Auslan interpretations or Easy Read documents for people with intellectual disability is also a problem.
“People with cognitive or intellectual disability benefit greatly from support coordination” says Zagarella. “It assists with navigating a very complex system. There will be people who struggle to navigate the sudden changes to their plans, and some may inadvertently accrue debts with their providers if they don’t immediately cancel the support they already have organised.”
The change could also trigger a large number of plan reviews as people scramble to regain access to their supports. NDIS reviews are stressful for participants at the best of times, and now there is a potential for wait times to be extended due to the influx.
“I never had support coordination before, but my disability has got a lot worse over the past twelve months,” says Fiona*, an NDIS participant who says the worsening of her condition was partially due to the extreme stress caused by the lockdowns.
“I am super lucky that I already had a plan review coming up in two weeks, so this unexpected change won’t be a problem for me, but if my plan review had happened to be two months down the track instead of two weeks, things could have been a lot more difficult.
“Things shouldn’t depend on just being lucky like that – we need to be able to plan in advance and know what’s going to happen!”
Advocacy organisations like PWDA, already under-resourced, will also be under the pump helping people to get their supports back. Many already have waiting lists of participants seeking help.
But the question remains, in a system that is supposed to be offering choice and control to people with disability, why is the Government now rolling back a change that gave NDIS participants exactly that?
*Names changed for privacy.
For more information contact:
Giancarlo de Vera
Senior Policy Officer, People with Disability Australia
0426 221 087