Families rejected by ‘ruthless’ system
DISABLED Gold Coasters in need of funding are being rejected by unqualified bureaucrats, sometimes for minor mistakes, say former workers.
About 100 people with a disability and workers gathered at a National Disability Scheme forum at Nerang yesterday to air grievances about the national system.
The forum was organised by Shadow Minister for NDIS Bill Shorten, Senator Murray Watt and Member for Gaven Meaghan Scanlon.
A number of families spoke out about system delays and funding cuts.
The NDIS provides individualised funding for services to Australians aged under 65 who have permanent and significant disability.
A health professional who had previously worked for the NDIS said many families were being rejected for minor mistakes in their applications, because the system focused heavily on money saving - a point refuted by the Federal Government.
"They hire people who work in insurance, it is all about money," the former NDIS worker said.
"Parents would submit dozens and dozens of pages and reports from their paediatrician, physio and other carers. But if they were missing one thing we were not allowed to call them and say 'can you just send this through'.
"That would mean we are coaching the family and we aren't allowed to coach the family. So we would have to send a letter saying sorry you are declined."
The NDIA refuted claims staff were forbidden to help participants with incomplete paperwork.
"Where additional information is required, the NDIA will contact participants to seek clarification. The NDIS website states that if participants need assistance in gathering evidence or information, their local area co-ordinators (LAC) can help," the spokesman said.
The NDIA will also add another 800 Australian public service positions next year.
A woman who held a number of degrees in her medical field said she was also shocked to discover decision-making was left up to bureaucrats, not health professionals.
"Despite letters from doctors asking for this treatment, untrained workers from Centrelink or insurance agencies are the ones left interpreting reports."
A current NDIA employee at the meeting described the scheme as "ruthless".
"We are undersourced and overworked," he said. "From department to department it is consistently inconsistent.
"There is an enormous amount of pressure and papers are shuffled from one party to another.
"We are dealing with five-six months of backlogs. This tells you there is a big problem with staff. It is almost demoralising."
The NDIA employee said there were still positives in the scheme, as a number of cases had been given more funding.
"People do lie about their situations so we do need to be there to make sure the money goes to the right person."
A spokesman for NDIS Minister Stuart Robert said he had recently delivered a speech to detail plans to deliver the last 20 per cent of the NDIS rollout.
"But it is worth noting there has been significant improvement to the scheme - even since the last election," the spokesman said.
Mr Shorten told the forum the issues of funding were about priorities for the Government.
"It is a great idea but it is being dysfunctionally managed by the Government.
"Too often, too many times there are too many people that legitimately deserve a hand and don't get it.
"The Government is taking money from the NDIS to prop up the surplus."