THE NDIS was “like a plane that took off before it had been fully built and is being completed while it is in the air,” says a highly critical review commissioned by the agency itself.
And it may be impossible for it to meet the timetable for the full rollout of the scheme by 2017-18, the review warns.
The scheme was bought forward by a year to suit the Gillard Government’s political needs and the report says the strain this created has caused huge problems.
The NDIS agency is due to move from Canberra to Geelong in July and massively expand the number of people it covers but will lose senior staff and most of its temporary workforce.
This will happen at the same time as trial sites of the NDIS will launch in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and the ACT, the review says.
This “means that many new recruits will not arrive until after the current occupants has left. As a result there will be a drop in capability over the next six months,” the review says.
“It has been truly remarkable that the Agency … was able to commence operating the National Disability Insurance Scheme on July 1 2013,” the review says.
“The agency has achieved these successes against the odds.”
The capability review was commissioned by the board of the NDIS agency in December 2013 after incoming Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield asked for an assessment of the early operation of the scheme.
The independent review was carried out by Mr Jeff Whalan, Dr Peter Acton and Dr Jeff Harmer.
Senator Fifield said on Thursday the findings of the capability review are both inspiring and sobering.
“Inspiring, because several thousand Australians with disability are now getting the better deal they deserve. And inspiring because the hard working staff of the NDIS Agency have put in a herculean effort and achieved launch in the trial sites against the odds,” he said.
“Sobering because the theme that runs through the report is that the decision by the previous government to bring forward by a year the commencement date of the trial sites has compromised key capabilities required to support and deliver full scheme rollout,” he said.
The Agency had developed an action plan in response to the review Senator Fifield said.
It “will provide further advice as to whether the current implementation timetable is consistent with a successful full scheme rollout,” he said.
The report comes as the rollout of the NDIS is at threat from union action in NSW where the state government is trying to transfer its government run disability services to the non-government sector.
The Public Service Association which represents workers affected has imposed bans on direct communication with the National Disability Insurance Agency in protest.
Former Labor minister and head of the campaign for the NDIS John Della Bosca has accused the PSA of “embarrassing the Labor Movement” and “acting in the exact opposite way of what unions should be doing”.
This article first appeared on ‘Courier Mail’ on 20 March 2014.