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New Quarterly Report: It's Early Nerd Christmas!

Sara picks the need-to-knows out of the latest Quarterly Report.

By Sara Gingold

Updated 15 Apr 20242 Dec 2020

It’s not easy being an NDIS nerd. Nobody knows what you are talking about at parties, you understand the nuances of the NDIS Act better than most lawyers, and you get more excited about new versions of the Price Guide than any reasonable person should. But in quarterly reports, us NDIS nerds find our safe space. And this quarter was no exception.

So what exactly did quarter 1 of year 8 have to say for itself? Here’s our TL;DR (aka. too long; didn’t read) version: 

 

STATS AT A GLANCE: 

Quarterly reports are jam-packed with so many statistics that they’re enough to overwhelm even the most ardent of data fans. We’ve picked out some of the most interesting stats that you actually need to know. First, let’s take a look at the finances: 

It’s troubling to see plan utilisation so low, at 59%. Last quarter, it was 70%, so this is a dramatic drop. Obviously, this is not good news, but it can probably be at least partly explained by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic downturn. Last quarter, which covered the period from March to June, there had only been about 3 months of decreased activity, whereas by September, large shares of the country had been in and out of lockdown for about 6 months. 

Now let’s take a look at the participants’ profiles: 

 It’s quite striking that 47% of the people in the NDIS are receiving supports for the first time in their lives. A year ago, it was 37%, so that’s quite a turnaround! It’s unclear what this shifting dynamic means for the Scheme. Will participants new to disability supports have different expectations for the NDIS? 

 

AGENCY-MANAGED PLANS ON THE DECLINE

The number of participants opting for Agency-managed plans has been decreasing rapidly. We put together the graphic below to demonstrate:  

Seems like everyone wants to get in on those sweet unregistered providers. However, the proportion of Agency-managed payments is still quite high, at 57%. This is probably due to all those expensive supports that are usually Agency-managed. Looking at you, SIL! 

 

INDEPENDENT ASSESSMENTS

You can tell the NDIA are feeling quite defensive about Independent Assessments (IAs) by the fact that there are no fewer than 7 pages justifying the program at the beginning of the report. This is pretty unprecedented. We have recently covered the controversy around IAs pretty extensively, and the report doesn’t really make any new points. But there is one line that might be of interest:

“The change in the way assessments are undertaken is needed to implement a Scheme that, from a participant’s perspective, is more consistent, fairer, and lower cost, bringing the Scheme closer to its envisaged insurance-based principles that improves outcomes for participants” (emphasis added). 

Meanwhile, the NDIS website is still assuring participants that IAs are not just an excuse to cut plan budgets and revoke participants’ eligibility. Which begs the question of how exactly IAs will ensure the NDIS will be delivered at a lower cost. Seems they need to get their comms in order.

 

PARTICIPANT SERVICE GUARANTEE

This is the NDIA’s first quarter reporting on the Participant Service Guarantee. The Guarantee will set legally binding timeframes for NDIA decision-making and is intended to address some of the ridiculous waiting times we had been seeing. The Guarantee hasn’t actually been passed through Parliament yet, so it is currently more of an internal target for the Agency. So far, they are only reporting on about half of the metrics. 

A target is considered met when decisions are made within the timeframe 95% of the time. Targets they are meeting include: 

  • Access decisions or requests for more information being made within 21 days. 
  • An access decision being made within 14 days of additional information being provided. 
  • Approving plans for ECEI participants within 90 days of an access decision being made. 
  • Deciding whether to undertake a participant-requested plan review within 21 days of the request. 
  • Varying a plan after the receipt of relevant information within 28 days. 
  • Allowing prospective participants 90 days to provide additional access information requested by the NDIA. This target is met 98% of the time, which is pretty confusing as it is not really a deadline they have to meet. It is more a deadline they have extended for participants. So what on earth is happening that 2% of the time? 

They are also pretty close to meeting the target of approving plans within 70 days of an access decision being made – this is currently happening 92% of the time. 

But targets they are owning up to not yet meeting include:

  • Facilitating the planning process within 21 days of an access decision being made. This is currently happening 75% of the time. 
  • Beginning the plan review process at least 56 days before a plan is due to expire. This is happening 65% of the time. 
  • Completing a participant-requested review within 42 days of the review request being accepted. This is happening 74% of the time. 

The turnaround in waiting times has been quite impressive. But as we recently learnt in Senate Estimates, the new targets were not always met in the most appropriate of ways… 

 

PARTICIPANT SERVICE IMPROVEMENT PLAN

Sitting alongside the Participant Service Guarantee and Charter is the Participant Service Improvement Plan. This is basically a list of things the Agency plan to do over the next 2 years to make the NDIS better. They range from the exciting to the shockingly obvious (like having the participant’s correct contact name for all interactions). Some of the most notable planned changes include: 

  • Do-it-yourself online planning tools. If well designed, this could be amazing. 
  • Funding early childhood intervention more flexibly. 
  • An online access request form. 
  • Connecting people not eligible for the NDIS to mainstream supports. This is technically a task that LACs are supposed to be doing already, but it is no secret that it isn’t happening consistently. Apparently, we can expect to see this change rolled out by June 2022. Who knows, maybe by then there will actually be some alternative disability supports they can connect people to?
  • Ensuring all NDIA communications are in plain English. 
  • Ensuring the NDIA Contact Centre has correct and consistent information. Wouldn’t that be nice? Apparently, it has already been achieved, so maybe take it for a test drive? 
  • Optional support to help participants develop “defined, realistic and attainable goals.” 
  • Clearer communication on what reasonable and necessary means, with case studies. But we have to wait over a year before we see these! 
  • Building an NDIS Carers Connect Network for ageing parents.  

In the uncertain year that has been 2020, I would like to thank quarterly reports for being a constant in life. Whatever unbelievably messed up rubbish is thrown at us, we can always have faith that four of these bad boys will be dropped a year. If you love them as much as I do, click here to read the whole thing.

Authors

Sara Gingold

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