Labor has promised an overhaul of the national disability insurance scheme’s appeals process as Bill Shorten launched a stinging attack on the leadership of the agency’s current boss, Martin Hoffman.
Unveiling the opposition’s vision for the $30bn scheme on Tuesday, Shorten said if elected the party would hire another 380 agency staff and crack down on rorting providers and the NDIA’s use of consultants and private law firms.
Shorten, Labor’s NDIS spokesman, said it was too early to say how much could be saved by cutting spending on consultants and the use of private law firms, on whom the agency has forked out $32m in the past eight months, up from $22m in 2020-21.
Shorten was also highly critical of Hoffman, though he insisted “no final decisions” had been made about whether he would stay if Labor was elected.
“You have to question the whole leadership of the NDIS in the last few years,” Shorten said. “That includes former chair Helen Nugent and Martin Hoffman. They presided over the independent assessments roll out which would have been a disaster and breached any remaining trust that people with disability had with the government.
“I haven’t spoken to anyone in the disability sector who has a good word to say about Mr Hoffman. That doesn’t mean I’ve spoken to everyone. It would be premature to make definitive statements about people before the election.”
Hoffman, who was appointed in November 2019, apologised in May over the agency’s and government’s attempts to establish “independent assessments” that advocates believed were aimed at cost-cutting.
그때부터, the agency has faced repeated claims that it is increasingly cutting the packages of NDIS participants through plan reviews, a claim it denies.
Shorten said on Tuesday Labor would establish a new appeals process separate to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal process, which is facing massive delays after the number of appeals increased by 400%. Labor says the number of new appeals reflects increased cuts to NDIS packages, which the government disputes.
Currently, NDIS participants who have had their plan cut or a support denied can ask for an internal review conducted by the NDIA, before taking it to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
The massive increase in appeals has created a backlog at the AAT. 작년, NDIS participants could expect to wait about 23 weeks – or about five months – to have their AAT appeals, a wait which is likely to have increased further in recent months.
Shorten said the process proposed by Labor would mean people could avoid taking their complaint to the AAT after an internal review.
“Bring in experts to conciliate and mediate between the agency and the individual participant and their representatives,”그는 말했다.
He said this would offer a “lower cost form of mediation and conciliation”.
Shorten did not rule out entirely the use of private law firms by the NDIA in AAT cases under Labor, but said it should be a “last resort”.
“The feasting of private law firms on NDIS funds has got to stop,”그는 말했다.
The agency has argued it uses private law firms to mediate with NDIS participants and data shows that only a fraction of AAT cases ever go to a contested hearing. 하나, advocates have claimed the process is “combative”.
In a case revealed by Guardian Australia 지난 달, the agency used the social media posts of a woman applying for the scheme to challenge her eligibility.
Labor has also promised a broad review of the scheme’s design, operation and sustainability, which would be carried out through a “co-design” process with disability groups.
Linda Reynolds, the NDIS minister, said the government was providing “record funding for disability services, which is only possible because we have a strong economy”.
“The economic insecurity offered by an Anthony Albanese is a real risk to this record funding," 그녀가 말했다.
“Labor’s introduction of an additional layer of bureaucracy with ‘expert reviews’ will slow down decisions for participants. Labor’s promise for yet another review, on top of all the previous reviews, will add more uncertainty for participants and providers.”
Reynolds said the promise for 380 new NDIA staff needed to be “properly accounted for in Labor’s policy costings”. Labor says the new staff will cost $157.8m over four years.
The Labor policy was welcomed by Laurie Leigh, chief executive of provider peak National Disability Services, and Children and Young People with Disability Australia chief executive Mary Sayers, who said plans to “streamline the NDIS, based on co-design are welcome”.
“While there is a commitment for a National Autism Strategy, what is missing is a National Plan for Inclusive Education that covers all disability groups,” Sayers said.
“Children and young people with disability are routinely excluded in their education, through suspensions, expulsions and gatekeeping where they are told they are not welcome at their local school.”