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The Joint Standing Committee Recommendations and the Future of the NDIS

The government has just released its response to three sets of recommendations from the parliamentary Joint Standing Committee. Sara explores what these responses indicate is in store for the NDIS.

By Sara Gingold

Updated 15 Apr 20249 Mar 2020

The government has released its response to the parliamentary Joint Standing Committee’s (JSC) recommendations on the NDIS. There are three reports:

  1. Planning
  2. Market Readiness
  3. General Progress

The Planning Inquiry only released their Interim Report late last year, so the government’s response is quite timely. But the Market Readiness Inquiry finished up in September 2018 and the last General Progress Inquiry ended in March 2019. So what’s been happening in that time period is really anyone’s guess. 

The JSC consists of 5 Australian Senators and 5 Members of Parliament. They regularly hold inquiries into specific aspects and the general performance of the Scheme. There are currently 4 active inquiries (you can find them here). 

The government has responded to each of the recommendations by saying whether they are  “supported”, “supported in principle”, “partially supported”, “noted” (because who doesn’t love a bit of bureaucratic passive aggression?) or, in one lone case, “not supported.”  

Between the 3 reports, there are a staggering 61 recommendations, so we naturally can’t cover them all. We’ve picked out the most interesting, important and/or entertaining recommendations from each report. But we have also attached links to the reports (which are not publically available on the Minister’s website at the time of writing) so that you can look through the recommendations that are most relevant to your practice. 


PLANNING INQUIRY

Because the Planning Inquiry was so recent, the government’s responses give us an interesting insight into the Minister’s and the NDIA’s priorities for the upcoming months. But there aren’t any huge surprises here, it is mostly stuff that has been flagged before. Particularly, the government supported recommendations to: 

  • Let Participants make changes to a plan without triggering a plan review (about time!) 
  • Use standardised and simplified terminology. Which is an ironically complex way of saying, speak in plain English
  • Improve training for LACs and NDIA Planners
  • Assign people with complex support needs an NDIA Planner
  • Put measures in place to prioritise children with complex support needs or acquired disability.

The government also marked a recommendation to allow people to use their Core funding flexibly on transport as “supported.” Which is interesting, given that the NDIA did not do exactly that in its recent transport announcement. 

The government also supported a number of recommendations in principle. These are mostly reforms that are currently being trialed, and may be rolled out nationally depending on how they go. They include: 

  • Allowing Participants to meet with the NDIA delegate who approves the plan. The NDIA refers to these as joint planning meetings. They involve the NDIA delegate, LAC planner and Participant meeting to discuss the plan before it is approved. Joint planning will start rolling out in Queensland this month, before being implemented nationally. 
  • Giving Participants access to draft plans before the final plan is approved.  

The JSC also recommended that the NDIA publish the results of Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) settlement cases in de-identified form. This was “noted” by the government.  Honestly, I laughed out loud when I read that. The chances of the NDIA ever agreeing to publish settlement outcomes has got to be close to zero. Settling cases on the eve of hearings to avoid setting a precedent is one of their favourite pastimes. The actual reasons they give for “noting” this recommendation are that it would place a significant strain on resources and pose privacy risks, even in de-identified form. Interestingly, the Agency does not seem to share the same concerns about privacy for cases that do go to a hearing, most of which are not de-identified. They are also worried that people might mistakenly believe that the settlements are precedent setting. Sweet of them to worry about confusing us.

The JSC also recommended that the NDIA give people interim plans based on a typical support package if a plan is not approved within 45 days. This was also “noted.” The NDIA felt that since they need individualised information to create a typical support package, this would not work. We’d have thought most of the information required to trigger a typical support package would be available in the access request. But maybe these “typical” packages are most sophisticated than they seem?

You can read the full government response to the JSC’s recommendations on planning here. 


MARKET READINESS 

The Market Readiness Inquiry was such a long time ago, that many of the recommendations are a bit outdated. Key recommendations that the government supported included: 

  • Improving the NDIS website to make it more accessible and generally less bad. 
  • Working out who is responsible for what with market stewardship. 
  • Implementing tailored pathways for people with complex support needs, children between 0-6, people with psychosocial disability, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, remote and very remote communities, and LGBTIQA+ communities. 
  • Releasing a strategy to grow the disability workforce. This was released in March 2019. There is an inquiry into the NDIS workforce currently open and accepting submission. So it will be interesting to see what they think of the NDIA’s strategy.  

The government also expresses their “support” for a recommendation that urges the NDIA to ensure Support Coordination is properly funded in plans and not limited for a fixed period of time. Yet despite this professed support, there doesn’t seem to be any hard promises on what exactly they are planning to do. It is noted that 38% of Participants currently have Support Coordination in their plans. But the government’s response gives no comment on whether they think this number is too high, too low or the goldilocks spot. The Tune Review also recommended that the NDIA establish clear guidance on when they will fund Support Coordination. So maybe we will see more details in the government’s response to those recommendations? 

The committee also recommended that the NDIA release its policy on provider of last resort arrangements “as a matter of urgency.” This recommendation was also marked as “supported,” despite the fact that there is no publicly available provider of last resort arrangements, and there is no indication that they are in the works. Instead the response just talks about market enablement and the Exceptionally Complex Support Needs Program (an exceptionally poorly named program, if you ask me). 

The one recommendation that the government did not support was handing over responsibility for price controls to the Quality and Safeguards Commission. Which, you know, is probably fair enough. It is a bit outside the Commission’s current mandate. 

You can read the full government response to the JSC’s recommendations on market readiness here. 

GENERAL PROGRESS

These recommendations are from the JSC’s second General Progress Report. Their third general progress inquiry is currently taking submission, if you want to get on that. 

A number of the recommendations addressed the issues surrounding psychosocial disabilities and the NDIS. The government supported recommendations to improve staff training and trial a psychosocial disability stream (which has already begun). The JSC also recommended that the government put in place long term funding arrangements for Partners in Recovery (PIR), Personal Helpers and Mentors (PHaMs) and Support for Day to Day Living in the Community (D2DL) programs. These programs ceased in June 2019. The government’s response notes that there are Continuity of Support (CoS) arrangements in place for people who were previously supported by these programs but are not eligible for the NDIS. What is not discussed, however, is that there will be a growing number of people who were not previously supported by these programs but would be eligible if they still existed today. If these people are not NDIS eligible, they might fall into a support black hole. The government’s line on this is that mental health programs outside of the NDIS are a state and territory government’s responsibility. 

The JSC also had some interesting things to say about the service gaps that are emerging between the NDIS and mainstream services. They urge the government to apply the “person-first mechanism to service delivery” which is somewhat different to the “winning the funding battle with the states first” approach they’ve been using. The government supports this recommendation in principle. However, most of their response is dedicated to discussing what they have done to iron out the division of responsibility between parties, which is not exactly the same thing as ensuring people receive services while the issues are being ironed out. 

The JSC also recommended that the government trial alternatives to the fee-for-service model in thin markets and guarantee the delivery of services in remote areas. However, as with the information in the Quarterly Report, we are not given much of an indication what these alternative models might look like. 

You can read the full government response to the JSC’s general progress recommendations here. 

In the coming months, weeks or years, the government’s response to the Tune Review recommendations will be released. We can also expect the Interim Report from the JSC’s SIL inquiry sometime soon. So don’t go getting recommendation burnout just yet, there is so much more to come!

Authors

Sara Gingold

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