In the Media

Kelly Vincent – 5AA Interview on NDIS Website Issues, Accessible Beaches and the State Budget

Andrew Reimer: Kelly Vincent.

Kelly Vincent: There have been some big issues with the National Disability Insurance Scheme website. It’s the website where participants in the scheme, people who get their funding through the scheme, log onto the website to claim against their funding. So for three weeks up until the last few hours no one had been able to claim against their funding because they’d moved to a newer site and most people hadn’t transitioned over to the new website. So this left three weeks of people not able to access their funding, to not able to pay for things like everything from a disability support worker to get them out of bed or a physiotherapist, speech pathologist, an OT and so on. So it was having a big impact on not only the lives of people with disabilities in terms of potentially not being able to access services because if I was a low paid support worker I’d be pretty reluctant to work three weeks’ of shifts knowing I wasn’t going to get paid for those three weeks. So not only is it having a big impact on people with disabilities, it’s having a big impact on individual workers and small businesses as well. So we’ve been calling on the National Disability Insurance Agency to get their act together and fix the situation quick smart. They have put in place a few measures which include extra staffing at the office to answer the phones and also emergency payments made available so that people can continue to pay for services while their funding is not available. I’m not clear on whether the situation has been rectified yet or not; I think it may have been in the last few hours or so certainly will be meeting with reps from the NDIA agency tomorrow to make sure that we have the situation sorted out and also that it’s fixed in such a way that it won’t happen again in the future because we can’t afford for such an important scheme to fail because the technology –

Andrew Reimer: How much of the problem was exacerbated by the fact the Government was in caretaker mode?

Kelly Vincent: It’s potentially I think a fair observation that there may have been some rush to get the website live on July 1 because that was of course election day and things could have been potentially complicated by caretaker mode, it makes it more difficult for government intervention. But again I think it’s quite clear unfortunately that the technology wasn’t tested thoroughly enough before it went live and it led to some big impacts on individual consumers and small business. We’re definitely a state that’s trying to encourage small business and individual workers; it’s simply not good enough. So hopefully when I speak to you next we will have a much more positive update on what’s happening with the website because I’m meeting with representatives from the agency tomorrow.

Caller: I’ve been trying to email NDIS or NDIA in relation to a plan and it just keeps getting bounced back to me. But one of the frustrating things that I’m finding with NDIS is you sit down with your planners, you work out a plan and you look at the positive outcomes and then when you access a service provider it feels like I’m hitting my head against a brick wall at times because the service provider that I had been trying to access it was basically a swimming program and NDIS said that is a service or an activity that really parents should be paying for, but what I tried to point out to them was that it was about building resilience, looking at his health and wellbeing, his community participation and once I went down that avenue then they actually said okay. But it’s a battle and parents and carers really shouldn’t have to go jumping through hoops to get the services that are in place for a child or a person and then to have to go back and justify why they want to access a particular service or a service provider.

Kelly Vincent: This kind of situation is exactly the situation that in many respects the NDIS is supposed to eliminate where people have to jump through so many hoops just to get basic access to fundamental services. But I think it’s an interesting tension in the NDIS particularly because here in South Australia the trial or the launch site has dealt with children and young people and there’s an interesting tension that has arisen in terms of funding eligibility which is at what point does this become a disability specific service and at what point is it something that a parent might ordinarily be expected to provide for their child whether or not they have a disability? I think that’s something we do need to keep a very close eye on because ultimately if it’s achieving the goals that a child or young person and making that person more independent and teaching them new skills that will hold them in good stead and help them to be more productive far into their future then it may be worthwhile. So it’s an interesting tension and one that I hope will be sorted out in the coming times with the NDIS. It’s important to remember that in many respects the scheme is in its infancy and there are many teething problems that we have to work through I do have regular meetings with representatives from the National Disability Insurance Agency so if Andrew or anyone else has questions or comments I’m always happy to speak to them.

Andrew Reimer: You also want to talk about the beach ramp down at Semaphore and you want to touch on state politics?

Kelly Vincent: Yes. There has been another beach ramp. You and I talked about the beach ramp that was launched at Seacliff and the Member for Bright, David Spiers was quite successful in helping the community in Bright to get that right and it’s something that Dignity for Disability has also been pushing for. It’s a sort of a rubber matting on the sand that enables people in wheelchairs or parents with prams, elderly people with walking frames, and people with balance issues or mobility issues. It really opens the beach up to a wider range of people and given that we have an ageing population this is the kind of thing that we need to be investing in Dignity for Disability has been in contact with all metropolitan coastal councils about this idea and it’s been great to see more and more interest building in this great proposal it’s great to see the City of Port Adelaide Enfield trialling a ramp at Semaphore Beach there. I was certainly happy to attend the launch and test out the ramp. The whole launch lasted probably for about 45 seconds because it was a very miserable day but I certainly believe that the ramp will be very successful and hopefully see more and more people get down to the beach as the Seacliff example certainly showed there are not only great social benefits to this, great economic benefits as well one thing that we certainly would like to see added to the beach now at Semaphore is a changing place so an accessible toilet with handrails and so on, but also with a hoist and also an adult sized change table there are many people who need assistance to change clothing and are having to do that on the floor of public toilets.

Andrew Reimer: Finally Kelly, state politics?

Kelly Vincent: Yes. The State Budget there’s been a $90,000 [sic] investment announced – $40m of that is going towards the unmet needs list which is the people who have been deemed eligible for services but are still waiting for the funding for those. This is everything from housing to respite to daily support services there are still over 2,000 people in this state waiting for services like that and many of them are at critical need, for example in the housing area, many people are at risk of becoming homeless if they don’t urgently find funding to get support to find new housing this might be people who technically have a home but live with ageing parents who may not be able to support them in the home for very much longer, it’s really critical that we support people to get those services for the good of them and for the good of the economy the more we can support people, the more independent they can be and the more of an investment they can make in our community in turn. So it’s good to see a $40m investment in clearing that needs list. The disability budget has gone up steadily since Dignity for Disability has been in parliament and I’m very proud of that, but we still have a long way to go.

Andrew Reimer: Thanks very much.