Sam Translates: Improving NDIS Processes

Earlier this week, NDIS CEO David Bowen released a statement about the NDIA's approach to improving processes. In this amusing article, Support Coordinator, Sam Paior translates the statement into layman's terms.

By Sam Paior

Updated 19 Apr 20247 Jun 2017

Earlier this week, NDIS CEO David Bowen released a statement about the NDIA's approach to improving processes. It's a great step to see the NDIA openly acknowledging the challenges that many participants, families and providers have faced, and outlining the steps they plan to take to change this.

In this amusing article, Support Coordinator, Sam Paior from The Growing Space translates the statement into layman's terms.




CEO BOWEN: The Board and Executive Management team of the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) wish to provide information to the Scheme’s existing and potential participants, their families, carers and providers regarding major work that is underway to deliver a significantly upgraded quality of participant and provider experience in a way that remains consistent with maintaining the Scheme’s financial sustainability.

SAM TRANSLATES: We big bosses want you all to know there’s lots of work going on to make the NDIS better without it going under.

CEO BOWEN: An improved participant and provider experience will be grounded in the NDIS’s aspiration to facilitate improved economic and social outcomes for participants. As was always the original intent of the NDIS, better outcomes for participants, based on the Scheme’s insurance approach are intended to produce a long term economic and social dividend for Australia. That was the vision on which the NDIS was founded. That is what the disability community supports. That is what we, our staff and community partners are committed to delivering.

SAM TRANSLATES: Everybody in the NDIS wants the scheme to help people with disability live better lives. We want people to have more work/money and more fun. It’s what we all want and what we we’re going to do.

CEO BOWEN: Participants in the initial Trials, which started in 2013, are already reaping the benefits of their involvement with the NDIS. A survey of 23,400 NDIS participants, families and carers demonstrates these results. Participants who have been longer in the Scheme are becoming more independent; they are able to exercise greater choice and control; they are experiencing stronger social, educational and employment outcomes; children’s development has improved; and students are more able to attend mainstream classes.

SAM TRANSLATES: In the trial sites, people with disability are living better lives – doing more stuff, getting more work and being part of their communities.

CEO BOWEN: Notwithstanding these positive results, it is now well recognised that before the commencement of transition to full scheme in July 2016, the quality of the NDIA’s internal preparation warranted significant improvement. The NDIA’s processes and systems have not resulted in a participant and provider experience during Transition that is of the consistently high standards that the NDIA expects. While the need to improve processes is not entirely unexpected given the ground breaking nature of the reform, the NDIA recognises the important need to learn from these early experiences and improve and adapt its processes as quickly as possible. The Board, management and staff of the NDIA are unequivocally committed to delivering a much better experience for participants and providers based on an outcomes driven approach.

SAM TRANSLATES: Even though we know the NDIS is doing good s#*t for lots of people, we know we could do a whole lot better. Our systems suck. We are consistently inconsistent and people dealing with us are pretty frustrated. We always knew there would be sucky moments coz the scheme is such a big ass new thing, but we are suckier than we’d hoped. All of us bigwigs and staff at the NDIS though, have our hearts and souls in this gig, and we really want it to work better and we want to do better so that people with disability have better lives.

CEO BOWEN: To that end, since early April 2017, the NDIA has been working individually and in workshops with more than 200 participants, providers, peak disability bodies and other stakeholders from all States and Territories to identify what needs to improve and how that might occur. Productivity Commission submissions outlining improvement opportunities have also been recognised, as has feedback from the Independent Advisory Council and views expressed at the Joint Standing Committee.

SAM TRANSLATES: For the last few months, when it really became obvious how sucky we were and we needed to DO SOMETHING STAT, we met with a bunch of peeps – those with disability, providers, fancy groups who try to speak for all of us, and people holding planks of wood from all over the country. They gave us all kinds of awesome ideas that we knew already, but was good to hear it direct from people coz they’d all be pretty shi#*y if we hadn’t listened to them directly. We ate lots of Tim Tams. Or those cheapy imitations.

CEO BOWEN: From that process, 400 specific improvement ideas and 200 solution concepts have been generated. Detailed work is currently underway to incorporate participants’ and providers’ insights to ensure the NDIA delivers a high quality, outcomes focussed participant and provider experience that is simple, clear and accessible, at the same time as ensuring the Scheme’s financial sustainability. While a new integrated end to end approach has yet to be finally tested with participants and providers, the proposal is likely to include a greater outcomes focus throughout a participant’s life; more active involvement with communities; more face to face (rather than telephone) communications; fewer participant transfers; an easier to navigate portal; a more responsive call centre experience; and significantly improved interactions with providers and disability organisations. Having learned from the past, the final proposal will be tested with participants and providers before it goes live.

SAM TRANSLATES: We heard a S#*TLOAD of ideas, and put 6 freaking hundred of them together, and we’re trying to work them into how we do stuff. We’re still not quite sure how the heck that’s gonna work, but we’re gonna bust our balls trying. We do know that we’re gonna can those f#*ked up phone planning meetings and do them face to face whenever possible, our call centre is going to better and we’re even going to try and get better at communicating with providers, too. AND, WE LEARNED FROM THE GPD (Great Portal Disaster of 2016) and we won’t do any big dumbass changes without testing them first this time because we learned our lesson. Don’t let anyone tell you the public service can’t learn from its mistakes. We have learned. By golly we have learned.

CEO BOWEN: The NDIA is acting expeditiously to implement this revised and more integrated end to end approach for participants and providers. Many standalone improvements that are consistent with the proposed longer term approach will be put in place as soon as possible while we continue to bring new participants into the Scheme.


CEO BOWEN: The NDIA is committed to getting the proposed approach right. As a result, full implementation, which will be dealt with as a matter of priority, may take somewhat longer because of the need to retrain staff; implement systems changes; and significantly improve communications.

SAM TRANSLATES: SLOW SLOW SLOW. We can’t f#*k this up again, and we have to retrain all the hamsters, and that takes time.

CEO BOWEN: The NDIA also wishes to assure participants, that despite misleading press reports, there is no policy directive to cut the amount of supports in plan packages. At all times the level of supports provided in a participant’s plan will be based on what is determined reasonable and necessary under the NDIS Act.

SAM TRANSLATES: #FAKENEWS and #GETSTUFFEDRICKMORTON&DAILYTELEGRAPH We aren’t cutting plans. (except we are if you were spoiled before)

CEO BOWEN: During the interim period, until the full proposal can be implemented, the NDIA will work hard to actively engage with stakeholders and to provide information on progress. In turn, we ask for your ongoing goodwill and patience.

SAM TRANSLATES: While we fix this mess, we aren’t gonna run or hide, and we are gonna tell you dudes what’s going down. Pretty please be nice and don’t yell at us so much.

Yours sincerely
David Bowen
Chief Executive Officer
National Disability Insurance Agency
05 June 2017

SAM TRANSLATES is a VERY TONGUE IN CHEEK interpretation of the guts of this letter from David Bowen (and includes waaay too much foul language which will get me into trouble with Mum and Grandma is frowning from above), who is really a pretty good guy, who really wants the NDIS to work, and work well. This is not in ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM an official anything of anything and must not be taken too seriously, or Sam might get in deep doo doo.

Sam Paior runs a fabulous independent Support Coordination business in SA, The Growing Space. Their Facebook page includes a stacks of great NDIS info like this, designed to help families demystify this disability maze. If you're looking for a blog that manages to give you a cathartic release for NDIS stress and at the same time make you feel optimistic about its future, Sam's blog is the place to be.


Sam Paior

Explore DSC

Subscribe to the newsletter you’ll actually want to read

Learn from the humans obsessed with Australia’s NDIS. 50,000 readers strong.

Explore DSC Learning