NDIS min­is­ter claims no one has died wait­ing for the scheme, de­spite agency re­veal­ing 1,279 deaths

The Guardian Australia - - Front Page - Luke Hen­riques-Gomes

The govern­ment min­is­ter who runs the NDIS has claimed no one has died wait­ing for the scheme, de­spite the agency say­ing more than 1,200 peo­ple have died be­fore they re­ceived a scheme plan and the prime min­is­ter de­scrib­ing those same fig­ures as “un­ac­cept­able”.

In a re­sponse to a ques­tion on no­tice, the Na­tional Dis­abil­ity Insurance Agency told Se­nate es­ti­mates that be­tween 2016 and 2019 1,279 peo­ple died “be­tween sub­mit­ting an ac­cess re­quest and re­ceiv­ing sup­ports un­der the Na­tional Dis­abil­ity Insurance Scheme”.

But quizzed about the fig­ures, which were first pub­lished by News Corp on Wed­nes­day morn­ing, Stu­art Robert told 2GB they were “not even re­motely cor­rect” and that “no one has passed away wait­ing for the NDIS”.

“The re­port­ing to­day that peo­ple have trag­i­cally passed away, the fact that they’ve passed away of course is cor­rect, but no one has passed away wait­ing for the NDIS,” Robert said.

“Those fig­ures are from July 2016 through to mid-2019. From three and half years old to six months old.”

Robert said that those who had died “were peo­ple who were get­ting sup­port from the states and ter­ri­to­ries as they tran­si­tioned to the NDIS”.

The ra­dio sta­tion 2GB sub­se­quently re­ported that Robert had “de­nied re­ports more than a thou­sand peo­ple have died wait­ing for pack­ages” and quoted him say­ing “no one has passed away wait­ing for the NDIS”.

Although those who re­ceived state­funded dis­abil­ity sup­ports con­tin­ued to ben­e­fit from them while the states and ter­ri­to­ries were tran­si­tioned onto the scheme, the in­di­vid­ual-needs-based fund­ing pro­vided un­der the NDIS is praised by the govern­ment and dis­abil­ity groups as tai­lored and gen­er­ally more gen­er­ous.

Guardian Aus­tralia asked Robert’s of­fice how it was true that “no one had passed away wait­ing for the NDIS” when the agency it­self had said that 1,279 peo­ple died af­ter making an ac­cess re­quest and be­fore re­ceiv­ing a plan.

His spokesman said: “The Min­is­ter was re­fer­ring to the fact that the NDIS was de­signed to en­sure peo­ple with dis­abil­ity tran­si­tion­ing to the new Scheme from state or Commonweal­th pro­grams over the last three years con­tin­ued to re­ceive their ex­ist­ing dis­abil­ity-re­lated sup­ports un­til par­tic­i­pants re­ceived an ap­proved NDIS plan.”

Pressed if he had mis­spo­ken, and also whether he stood by the claim that the fig­ures pro­vided by the agency and pub­lished by News Corp were “not re­motely cor­rect”, the spokesman added: “The Min­is­ter does not dis­pute the fig­ures his own agency has pro­vided, he dis­putes how they were framed in to­day’s me­dia.”

Of the 1,279 peo­ple who died wait­ing for an NDIS plan, 369 died in the first nine months of 2019. The full scheme was op­er­a­tional in all states in July 2019, ac­cord­ing to the fig­ures pro­vided to Se­nate es­ti­mates.

The 1,200 who died be­fore they re­ceived an NDIS plan in­cluded 35 chil­dren aged un­der six and 30 chil­dren be­tween the ages of seven and 18.

Asked about the fig­ures at a press con­fer­ence on Wed­nes­day morn­ing, Scott Mor­ri­son did not dis­pute them, but said the govern­ment had adopted mea­sures that were suc­cess­fully re­duc­ing wait­ing times.

But he added: “My an­swer to that is yes, I think that was un­ac­cept­able.

“I should stress that dur­ing that time it was also dur­ing a very sig­nif­i­cant ramp-up of the tran­si­tion of peo­ple from state-based ser­vices to commonweal­th ser­vices.”

The Na­tional Dis­abil­ity Insurance Agency de­clined to com­ment, re­fer­ring in­quiries to the min­is­ter’s of­fice.

Pho­to­graph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Stu­art Robert told 2GB ‘no one has passed away wait­ing for the NDIS’ de­spite the Na­tional Dis­abil­ity Insurance Agency say­ing 1,279 peo­ple had died.

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