Lawyers have today called for an overhaul of the NDIS planning process and greater transparency on appeals following a scathing joint parliamentary committee report that makes clear urgent change is needed to improve the NDIS planning process for participants.
Maurice Blackburn Principal Tom Ballantyne, who made a submission and gave evidence before the inquiry, said all of the NDIS Planning Interim Report’s recommendations must be acted on to ensure that NDIS plans genuinely met the needs of participants.
“This report has identified what we have long said: for many participants the process to finalise an NDIS plan is done very poorly and there is little scrutiny of the outcomes when people appeal these plans, which makes it difficult to hold the NDIA to account,” Mr Ballantyne said.
“We strongly support the recommendations made in this report, including that participants should have access to draft plans before these are finalised.
“It is ludicrous that participants currently do not get to review a draft of their plan – in our experience countless plans provided by the NDIA are patently inadequate for the needs of participants, and it is obvious that greater transparency from the NDIA at the beginning of the process would make a big difference in ensuring more participants get a plan that is right for them from the get-go.
Mr Ballantyne said that there was also a need for greater transparency and public scrutiny on appeals that are settled, including those settled outside the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), a point the joint committee report had also noted.
“We assist participants to run a number of appeals for inadequate plans and what we find almost every time is that the NDIA will settle these at the eleventh hour, something we believe is done to avoid the AAT’s scrutiny of the planning process,” Mr Ballantyne said.
“Whilst we understand the importance of preserving the confidentiality of individuals in such matters, there are clearly lessons to be learned by the NDIA from such appeals to better improve the planning process, namely in ensuring people get the right plans from the start without having to appeal.
“At present if a bad plan is developed by the NDIA there is no consequences for the agency, despite there being huge consequences for participants.
“There is a way to get the balance right in protecting people’s privacy but also in ensuring greater transparency to hold the NDIA to account, and we are pleased this report has also acknowledged this issue and has agreed that greater transparency to improve outcomes is needed.
However in welcoming the recommendations, Mr Ballantyne said that there was some room for improvement, specifically in relation to recommendations regarding the education and training of planners.
“Whilst we welcome that the report recognises that under the current system planners are making decisions based on insufficient evidence on the plans they are drawing up, we believe that this should have gone further, including insisting that planners not only have access to expert advice but actually draw on that advice,” he said.
Maurice Blackburn is now calling on the Federal Government and the NDIA to adopt the recommendations of the report and to act on these with urgency.