NDIS Review: Survey Summary Report

From March to May 2023, People with Disability (PWDA) undertook a survey of people with disability in Australia to better understand people’s experiences with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Summary report of a survey PWDA conducted on the NDIS for the Independent Review of the NDIS

The NDIS has been life changing for me. It needs to be protected. I wish I didn’t need the NDIS but I do because I have a significant disability. I am sick of people judging me and the NDIS being a political football.

PWDA survey respondent

From March to May 2023, People with Disability (PWDA) undertook a survey of people with disability in Australia to better understand people’s experiences with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). As part of this work, PWDA contracted Inclusion Australia to develop and conduct an Easy Read version of the survey.

The surveys were developed in response to the independent review of the NDIS (the NDIS Review) announced by Minister for the NDIS, The Hon Bill Shorten MP on 18 October 2022, and provides the basis for PWDA’s submissions and contributions to the Review. This report provides a summary and discussion of the survey responses.

  • 441 valid responses were received from both the Easy Read and non-Easy Read surveys
  • 372 of the valid responses were from people with disability who were a NDIS participant, and
  • 69 responses were from people with a disability who were not currently a NDIS participant.

Further demographic data collected from respondents shows a diverse cross-section of the Australian disability community participated in the survey.

The survey results identified a range of challenges faced by NDIS applicants and participants.

Access, planning and using NDIS plans

Of respondents that were NDIS participants (n=372):

  • 69% indicated they experienced some level of difficulty accessing the NDIS
  • 62% of respondents who had been to a NDIS planning meeting indicated they had difficulty with their meeting/s. Over one third (34.71%) of people who described their experience, rated their experience of NDIS planning meetings as very difficult
  • 82% of respondents stated they experienced some barriers to getting the best out of their NDIS plan
  • 37% of respondents who were NDIS participants, indicated that they access additional disability supports or services which are not NDIS funded; and
  • almost 10% of respondents who were NDIS participants, indicated they do not have but would like to access additional supports or services not currently NDIS funded.

NDIS service quality and safety

Of respondents who were NDIS participants (n=372):

  • 40% indicated they had felt unsafe while receiving a NDIS service
  • 65% responded they have felt concerned about the quality of a NDIS service they received; and
  • some respondents indicated they did not take any action on their safety concerns or service quality concerns because they could not find information on what to do, could not decide what to do, or because they would feel more unsafe if they complained.

The experiences of those not on the NDIS 

Of respondents who indicated they were not on the NDIS (total n=69):

  • 45% of those responding to the question regarding barriers to access indicated they were not on the NDIS because getting supporting documentation for the access request was too hard; and
  • 26 respondents indicated they did not currently receive any supports (including from the NDIS) but that they would like to.


Pleasingly, some respondents noted their NDIS plans were running smoothly after initial issues. Others stated they had no real difficulty in accessing the Scheme. While this is certainly good news, responses from others indicate the ease with which one can access and navigate the system may depend on the way that information is presented and made accessible, and/or the existing supports a person may have.

The thematic analysis of free text responses to qualitative questions in the survey showed many respondents were appreciative of the assistance received through the NDIS. Respondents noted they would not be able to engage in many services and activities without the funding because of cost and lack of supports.

They appreciated the flexibility in exercising choice and control. Importantly, many remarked the NDIS allowed them to live with increased dignity, through promoting independence and improved community access.

However, respondents did identify specific barriers for them to getting the best from the NDIS, and areas for improvement were identified from the survey. In particular, the NDIS was consistently seen as complicated and stressful to navigate, and this was something reflected in both the pre-set (quantitative) and free text (qualitative) responses.

Additionally, getting approved for funds was seen to take too long, leading to distress for some. The process to gather supporting documentation was also seen as a key barrier, in relation to time and cost.

Respondents indicated information provided was at times confusing and contradictory. Many respondents indicated they believed National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) staff, service providers, and support workers did not have adequate levels of understanding of disability to meet their needs properly, particularly those with complex disability.

Some respondents described a culture of ‘ableism’ that they felt was pervasive.

While flexibility in the Scheme was seen as a good thing, some respondents felt there was not enough flexibility and choice and control, which left their needs unmet.

With a good response rate, and a good representation from diverse members of the community, the voices in this report provide a deeper understanding of the experience of people with disability both as non-participants and participants in the NDIS.

Read our full submission here: PDF | Word