In February this year, a diverse group of NDIS trial site participants appeared before a randomly selected citizens’ jury and gave testimony about their experiences. Advocates witnesses with a broader reach, focus groups of people with an intellectual disability and a national social media forum also fed into the deliberations of the jury.
People with Disability Australia (PWDA) coordinated the innovative user-led assessment of the NDIS. The model drew on some processes of a courtroom jury, targeting participants on the ground and encouraging them to provide a frank and honest assessment of their experiences of the NDIS.
The jury was tasked with assessing the extent to which the National Disability Insurance Agency is on-track to achieve the objectives of the NDIS, as outlined by the Productivity Commission, and to identify areas for improvement. The jury heard direct responses from participants and has produced a written scorecard. A summary of the verdict is below.
Craig Wallace, President of People with Disability Australia (PWDA) said: “We welcome this scorecard, which comes directly from those receiving disability services under the NDIS and a group of those paying for it. This is in effect a report for the ‘shareholders’ of the NDIS, Australian taxpayers,”
“PWDA share the jury’s view that the NDIS is starting to enable quality of life outcomes for people with disability that would otherwise be unobtainable,”
“We think they pinpoint issues requiring attention including: the need for ongoing development of the skills and roles of planners and Local Area Coordinators; the need for participant capacity building and a need to accelerate information, linkages and capacity building supports,”
“Importantly, a number of recommendations point to the need for ongoing independent advocacy for people with disability going into the planning process,”
“There continues to be skewed power relationships between providers and NDIS participants and these are brought into sharp focus by the alarming barriers faced by the advocate witness in gaining access to NDIS participants in the largest disability institution to transfer to the NDIS to date,” said Mr Wallace.
PWDA agrees with the jury’s recommendation to seek robust and routine feedback about the NDIS’s performance from participants into the future and we hope this jury process is continued.
“We have an opportunity for ongoing transparency and to continue to track the extent that the NDIS is actually achieving the vision that the Australian people have supported,” said Mr Wallace.
Craig Wallace, PWDA President - 0413 135 731
Sara Irvine - 0402 982 002 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The ‘Verdict’: A summary of outcomes of the NDIS Citizens’ Jury
- The citizens’ jury was unanimous in affirming the intent, ethos and rationale for the NDIS.
- The independent process has found the NDIS is already recording successes and enabling quality of life outcomes for some people with disability that would otherwise be unattainable.
- The results identify some areas for improvement during the planning process, including:
- Planners need to be well resourced and have the right skills;
- There is a need to ensure collaboration between planners and Local Area Coordinators (LAC);
- The LAC role is vital to locate the supports people need;
- There is also an opportunity to develop the skills and capacity amongst participants as well as a need to accelerate information, linkages and capacity building (ILC) supports.
- A number of the recommendations confirm the benefits of independent advocacy and advice to support people throughout the planning process.
- The jury identified some risks to mitigate during rollout of the NDIS, including:
- The risk of jurisdictions withdrawing from services too early;
- Reductions in support being received outside of the trial sites;
- Avoiding the risk of uneven transition of power from some current service providers to the NDIS participants, based on the change from the block-funding model to the NDIS participant funding controlled model.
Report reply from People with Disability Australia (PWDA)
The citizens’ jury process has revealed valuable information in a timely manner, which is important for the success of the NDIS and PWDA commends the NDIA on its proactive engagement with the process.
The independent process has found the NDIS is already enabling quality of life outcomes for some people with disability that would otherwise be unattainable. PWDA agrees with this.
The jury’s results highlight some issues with the planning process. Planners need to be well resourced and have the right skills. There is also a need to ensure a close synergy and collaboration between planners and Local Area Coordinators (LAC). The LAC role is important to locate the supports people need. There is also a lack of skills and capacity building amongst participants as well as a need to accelerate information, linkages and capacity building (ILC) supports. This matches the feedback PWDA receives through our systemic advocacy work.
A number of the recommendations of the jury all point toward the need for independent advocacy to support people going into the planning process. If people do not receive advocacy support the plans are more likely to founder or be underutilised. The NDIA and the Commonwealth needs to be clearer about advocacy and the NDIS. Advocacy is a key to realising the full potential of the NDIS.
PWDA agrees with the jury about the importance of seeking robust and routine feedback about its performance from participants to ensure it is on the right track. There needs to be more mechanisms within the trial sites for feedback from knowledgeable people and organisations in the rollout directly to the NDIA.
We agree with the jury about the risk of jurisdictions withdrawing from services too early. Noting those issues highlighted by the jury we would also highlight concerns about reductions in support being received outside of the trial site as well as the decision by other agencies in the Commonwealth to depart from services too early, such as through the defunding of disability information services.
We share the jury’s concerns about the uneven transition of power from some current service providers to the NDIS participants, based on the change from the block funding model to the NDIS participant funding controlled model.
For instance, PWDA is concerned that the advocate witness for the Hunter trial site was prevented from gaining access to NDIS participants at Stockton, which is the largest disability institution to transition to the NDIS in a trial site to date. NDIS participants in institutions are the kinds of people the NDIS is intended to help but they are also vulnerable to exploitation in closed settings.
We call on the Stockton Centre to allow independent disability advocates to offer support to participants and we believe this should be a mandatory condition of the NDIA when working with all institutions and other places where people are very vulnerable in the move to individualised funding
We thank the jury for their comprehensive report and work and we acknowledge the way in which the Board and staff of the NDIA have embraced a bold and challenging independent evaluation process that facilitates direct and unfiltered feedback from consumers.
There are many issues and recommendations raised by the report and we will be working through these progressively for some time.
PWDA agrees that the jury’s recommendation for robust and routine feedback about the NDIS’s performance from participants would be valuable.
PWDA recommends continued assessment, in the form of an ongoing program of citizen and participant lead evaluation, so that the wider community is provided constructive information about the progress and successes of this landmark scheme. We look forward to the next iterations of the process being able to pick up the Northern Territory as well as the coming rollouts in Western Sydney.
The report will be officially handed over to the National Disability Insurance Agency at the NDIA office in Geelong on Tuesday 19 May 2015. This will include a Q&A session with questions being submitted to PWDA by the Australian public upon review of the Scorecard between today and Monday.