FAIL­URE OF NDIS: 1279 DIE WAIT­ING

Help ar­rives too late af­ter de­lays in in­sur­ance scheme

The Courier-Mail - - FRONT PAGE - CLAIRE BICKERS

MORE than 1200 Aus­tralians have died while wait­ing for an NDIS pack­age in just three years – trag­i­cally in­clud­ing 65 chil­dren and an av­er­age of al­most two Queens­lan­ders a week.

Thirty-five of the chil­dren were aged six and younger.

The shock­ing num­ber of deaths oc­curred as fam­i­lies waited four months on av­er­age for Na­tional Dis­abil­ity In­sur­ance Scheme sup­port last year.

New fig­ures show that 270 Queens­lan­ders were among the 1279 peo­ple who died wait­ing for sup­port from July 2016 to Septem­ber 2019.

MORE than 1200 Aus­tralians have died while wait­ing for an NDIS pack­age in just three years – trag­i­cally in­clud­ing 65 chil­dren and an av­er­age of al­most two Queens­lan­ders a week.

Thirty-five of the chil­dren were aged six and younger.

The shock­ing num­ber of deaths oc­curred as fam­i­lies waited four months on av­er­age for Na­tional Dis­abil­ity In­sur­ance Scheme sup­port last year.

New fig­ures show 270 Queens­lan­ders were among the 1279 peo­ple who died wait­ing for sup­port from July 2016 to Septem­ber 2019.

Wait times in Queens­land were shorter than the na­tional av­er­age, but were still an av­er­age of three months or 90 days for chil­dren un­der six, and four months or 122 days for those aged seven and older in 2018-19.

The Courier-Mail put ques­tions to Min­is­ter for the NDIS Stu­art Robert and the Na­tional Dis­abil­ity In­sur­ance Agency on Mon­day about the wait times and num­ber of Aus­tralians who had died wait­ing for sup­port. Mr Robert, the Mem­ber for Fad­den in south-east Queens­land, did not re­spond.

An NDIA spokes­woman said that the well­be­ing of par­tic­i­pants was “of the high­est pri­or­ity to the NDIA” and it was com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing the time­li­ness for ac­cess and plan ap­provals.

She said de­ci­sions around NDIS ac­cess were tak­ing four days on av­er­age as of De­cem­ber 31, while it was tak­ing 77 days for a first plan to be ap­proved.

The Mor­ri­son Gov­ern­ment will set new time-frames for NDIS de­ci­sion-mak­ing in law this year, in­clud­ing a dead­line of 50 days for chil­dren aged six and un­der to have plans ap­proved. It’s part of an elec­tion prom­ise for an NDIS “Par­tic­i­pant Ser­vice Guar­an­tee”, due to be rolled out from July 1.

Peo­ple with Dis­abil­ity Aus­tralia chief ex­ec­u­tive Jeff Smith said that the wait times were “un­ac­cept­able”, but “not sur­pris­ing”.

“For a long time, we’ve had sig­nif­i­cant de­lays in the sys­tem. It’s an is­sue we’ve been rais­ing since the NDIS started,” he said.

The NDIA needed more staff and fur­ther train­ing to tackle the de­lays, which were “across the board” in NDIS plan ap­provals, fi­nal­i­sa­tion and re­views if they weren’t work­ing, Mr Smith said.

More help was also needed to help peo­ple with dis­abil­ity ac­cess the “bu­reau­crat­i­cally com­pli­cated” sys­tem, he said.

La­bor’s NDIS spokesman Bill Shorten said it was “dis­grace­ful” that more than 1200 peo­ple had died be­fore re­ceiv­ing the equip­ment or care they needed.

“There needs to be more staff and more ac­count­abil­ity,” he said, Time-frames for de­ci­sions were cru­cial, he said.

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