By Kristin Nuske
Kristin Nuske has worked for BCA since February this year, providing support and advice to Victorians who are challenged by aspects of dealing with the NDIS or My Aged Care. More recently, she has begun providing support to members nationwide.
This support includes, but is not limited to, accessing information regarding the Scheme or My Aged Care, and whether someone could consider accessing, or may be eligible for either. Here, she discusses some of the challenges faced by members she has been assisting with NDIS planning and participation. A future article will explore issues relating to My Aged Care in similar detail.
* * * * *
In March this year, I attended a panel discussion at the State Library as part of the Bold Series presented by Latrobe University. The panel broadly examined the NDIS since its roll out began in the Geelong trial site in 2013.
The conversation brought to my attention some of the roadblocks which are preventing the scheme from delivering on its promises. A lady in the audience raised a point, based on her experience as a Support Coordinator. She stated that in the time that she had worked at the organisation she represented, they had received more than 80 plans. It wasn’t clear whether a Local Area Coordinator or an NDIS planner facilitated them, but every one of those plans required a review.
In my role at BCA, I have seen a similar trend. Many of the members who I have had contact with share their experiences, most of which have warranted complaints. These complaints range from difficulties accessing information, to disappointment with their allocated Planner in their first meeting.
Accessing information seems to be a challenge for many of us. When I called the NDIA and asked for information to be provided in large print, I was told that the request was emailed to the print department while I waited on the telephone. Four months later, the information has still not arrived.
If you have made a request to either the NDIS or My Aged Care for information in an alternative format, and it has been responded to positively and swiftly, or you have not been treated as you expect and/or not provided with accessible information, please let us know of your experience.
The NDIS has, for many reasons, not approved items or reasonable and necessary supports once a plan has been prepared. Once complaints which relate to not funding supports have been made final through a “review of a reviewable decision” process, they may be brought to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, (AAT).
Sara Dingold from Disability Services Consulting recently wrote that as of March this year, some 757 cases have been referred to the AAT. This assures further delays for participants trying to activate their planned supports. An investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman into the nature and number of reviews by the NDIA found that as of February, it was dealing with about 8,100 reviews and receiving about 620 new review requests per week.
Assistive technology and equipment are funding areas that have impacted many people who are blind or vision impaired. Assistive technology specialists or occupational therapists are generally relied upon to help select the most appropriate pieces of equipment, and provide quotes and a report outlining why these items are reasonable and necessary according to the NDIS Act.
One of our members, Liz, after quotes for her items had been submitted, was shocked by a comment from her occupational therapist. “I was told to expect not to hear for three to four months whether the items were to be approved,” she said.
In fact, one of the items, a pair of prescription sunglasses, was not approved because the NDIS claimed that this was an everyday item. How is this so, when Liz experiences extreme glare and visual disruption resulting from her vision impairment?
Liz contacted BCA to see if we could provide some support to her, as she felt aspects of her experience since she has become an NDIS participant needed some attention. “Although it can be daunting to speak up,” she said, “it is worth doing in order to create a better system.” At this point, the issues Liz raised in a complaint, care of her MP, have not yet been responded to or resolved by a delegate from the NDIA.
Another person contacted me recently who is now in his second year as a participant. His gripe is that he continues to wait after almost a year to have items approved. After 18 months this gentleman has only accessed transport from his plan. This is largely due to the reporting by the Assistive Technology Specialist not satisfying the NDIA’s reporting and supportive evidence requirements.
One last issue, and general complaint, relates to the language and context used in important documents such as a person’s individual plan. The assumption is that one can understand the ideas presented, and what dollars relate to the various supports one requires. This is indeed not the case for Liz. “The language that was presented in my plan I believe is a barrier to being able to move forward with implementing my supports,” she said.
Despite all the problems I’ve described, the overall impression I drew from the panel I attended in March was that the NDIS is a good policy, and we need to remain optimistic. On the surface there is a will and a want to see the NDIS deliver the supports that individuals may need to live the best life that they can.
NDIA CEO Rob De Luca has acknowledged some of the inconsistencies in the delivery of the scheme. “We realise that improvements are still needed to make sure that the participant experience is consistently positive,” he wrote in a recent report.
In an effort to address problems like those described here, De Luca has committed to consulting with a number of service providers, and met in September with BCA’s CEO, Emma Bennison. This meeting represents an encouraging step in the right direction.
We agree there is no smooth sailing, but many bumps in the road. It is only the courage and persistence of many voices that will create a system that can be benchmarked across the world.
Don’t forget that as well as assistance for Victorians, Kristin can now offer telephone assistance with accessing the NDIS or My Aged Care to people who are blind or vision impaired nationally. For further information or to discuss the sorts of assistance that can be provided, please call BCA on 1800 033 660, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.