NDIS Delays Leave SA Families and Providers Out of Pocket

Ms Vincent made comment in this story on ABC Radio National’s The World Today regarding costly delays for families in the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme:

NDIS delays leave SA families and providers out of pocket
Thursday, 23 April 2015
Journalist: Natalie Whiting

ELEANOR HALL: To South Australia, where disability service providers and families are being left thousands of dollars out of pocket by delays in the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The state is the trial site for children under 13 years of age.

But the Government has significantly underestimated the number of eligible children and thousands still haven’t been assessed.

In Adelaide, Natalie Whiting reports.

MARIA REINERTSEN: This hand, left, reach for it, reach, reach. Almost got it, good boy.

NATALIE WHITING: Maria and Rob Reinertsen do exercises with their 8-year-old son Matthew every day.

MATTHEW REINERTSEN: I do crunches and I do bridges and I do high kneeling.

NATALIE WHITING: It’s to help strengthen his legs and upper body because Matthew has cerebral palsy.

He also goes to therapy five days a week.

ROB REINERTSEN: We were told right from early age by all these rehabilitation doctors that the more we do now, the more likelihood of him being independent by himself for when he gets older so he doesn’t have to rely on other people to do things for him.

NATALIE WHITING: His parents had hoped he’d be covered by the NDIS by now but he’s one of thousands still waiting.

ROB REINERTSEN: Matthew was part of the Better Start scheme that was going on and now that has stopped because of the NDIS.

He was meant to start that at the age of seven, what we understood.

Now he’s over eight and we’re still waiting even to have our, just our interview to say whereabouts we are.

NATALIE WHITING: So for more than a year the Reinertsens have been covering the costs of most of his therapies themselves.

It adds up to more than $300 a week.

ROB REINERTSEN: And that is quite costly considering that we do have two other children.

Unfortunately the other siblings do miss out on things that they want to do after school purely for the fact of us having to pay for therapy costs.

MARIA REINERTSEN: So it does put a lot of strain on the whole family, there’s a lot of frustration amongst us.

It’s just the wait and not knowing when will our turn come up.

NATALIE WHITING: It was originally estimated that just over 5,000 children would be eligible for the NDIS but the Federal Government says it could be closer to double that.

The rollout was separated into five age groups and the eldest are meant to begin getting assessed this month.

But many of the youngest children still haven’t been processed.

Tony Piccolo is the State Disability Minister.

TONY PICCOLO: But what is of greater concern though is that that time lag seems to be growing so every month it seems to get bigger and bigger.

So we are concerned that by the end of the trial period, it could be potentially up to between nine and 12 months behind schedule, which puts also, two things, one obviously the transition of young people, children who need these services to the national scheme, but also potentially puts off, delays the full rollout of the scheme for the adult population as well.

NATALIE WHITING: The Federal Government says it has now put an extra $72 million into the trial to cover the plans for the extra children.

But Mr Piccolo says that’s not enough.

TONY PICCOLO: And the bilateral agreement between South Australia and the Commonwealth when we signed the agreement with the Commonwealth was quite clear that during the trial period, any monies required in addition to what was signed to make sure that the agreement is met, has to be met by the Commonwealth.

It’s quite simple. They need to put more money in.

NATALIE WHITING: In terms of the backlogs, a lot of it has been caused by the fact that we’re seeing almost double the amount of children that was expected and I understand the State Government was the one that, that supplied the initial estimation of 5,000 children, so how did you get it so wrong?

TONY PICCOLO: Well, that’s not quite correct.

It’s certainly true the numbers are higher than we expected, not by 50 per cent though.

They are certainly not, they’re higher, but the other thing though is the scheme was based on certain numbers.

Our numbers are below that number, so the Commonwealth cannot hide behind a figure or that fact because we are still running in terms of numbers, below the numbers which was the premise or the foundation for the scheme in South Australia.

NATALIE WHITING: South Australia’s Dignity for Disability Upper House MP, Kelly Vincent, says more needs to be done in the short term to clear the backlog.

KELLY VINCENT: So we need the state and federal governments to sit down and fast track that funding and have a mature discussion about how that is to be done and we also need to see more planners allocated to work with families and individuals to roll out the plans.

NATALIE WHITING: The delays are also costing disability service providers.

Glenn Rappensberg is the chief executive of Novita Children’s Services in South Australia.

GLENN RAPPENSBERG: Obviously we can’t recruit staff as soon as the demand occurs.

We have to pre-plan and costs are incurred by the organisation if the demand doesn’t occur and revenue doesn’t come in.

NATALIE WHITING: Are you able to give us any idea of the figure around those costs?

GLENN RAPPENSBERG: Look, those costs would be in the order of several hundred thousand dollars at this point in time.

NATALIE WHITING: The trial will run until June 2016.

ELEANOR HALL: Natalie Whiting in Adelaide with that report.

Link to the audio and transcript on the ABC website: http://ab.co/1Dfooh3