10382 – Individual submission
I am an NDIS participant.
I have had on-going issues with the NDIS from the beginning.
I have not had any issues with service providers except there are not enough workers who have experience or expertise with psychosocial disability.
I have psycho social disability as a result of workplace bullying & a negligent XXXX employer.
I received a WorkSafe serious & permanent injury impairment assessment of XX% & with a clear case of negligence, I took civil action against my employer & settled out of court.
I have PTSD, Major Depressive Disorder & anxiety and have just been diagnosed a week ago, at age XX, with Level 1 Autism (Asperger’s).
I am not accessing my NDIS plan at the moment except for psychology as I am too unwell.
My reason for writing this submission is that my life over the last ten years has been significantly and negatively affected by Australia’s government systems including the NDIS.
I understand that the NDIS is a new system & that many positive changes have already been made since I applied in XXXX but the fact is I have experienced nothing but stress and trauma from the NDIS processes. In contrast, my experiences with service providers have been very positive.
In theory, the NDIS know they are working with vulnerable people but there seems to be no thought or awareness of how their actions can harm & have serious consequences for participants. I feel in part that I have been a guinea pig with the NDIS practising & improving their skills on me over the last 3 years. While the NDIS may be improving, they have caused damage to my psychological health while they learn.
The actions of the NDIS towards me have been negligent, dangerous and unforgiveable. The issues I’ve had have been dealt with & are over but the damage caused to me will remain. I am incapable of expressing the level of distress I feel about the NDIS. I entered a system designed to help me & I have ended up worse because of it. That is a disgrace. I don’t want to be harmed by the NDIS anymore. I have been damaged enough. I’m a human being who needs help now. If the NDIS doesn’t get their act together soon I cannot allow their processes to cause me any more damage & will cease being a participant.
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVING THE NDIS
I appreciate & understand why you want to hear from participants about their experiences with the NDIS. My problem is I am “living” with the NDIS & all of its issues. I don’t really have the time, energy or capacity to come up with too many suggestions about how government bodies like the NDIS & the mental health system should be improved. I can tell you what I’ve experienced but then surely there are people far smarter than me who can read about my experiences & extract from that what the NDIS should have done better. Still, because of my autism it is impossible for me not to do my best.
I have had little to do with the NDIS this year & things may have changed in that time. I am speaking only of my own experiences. I do know that the NDIS is failing many participants with psychosocial disability. My issues have not been with service providers but with the NDIS itself so my suggestions relate only to the NDIS.
I want to see change – real change in the NDIS. I want the things that are flawed to be fixed. I want it done as quickly but as carefully as possible. During this review, instead of paying the most attention to what professional groups say, listen to participants as they have lived the experience & are relating it first hand, not as an observation.
1) Increased awareness, understanding, knowledge & flexibility in relation to mental illness.
2) Greater acknowledgement of the serious psychosocial disability that arises from constantly living with mental illness.
3) More training for all NDIS employees specifically about how to work with people with psychosocial disabilities so as not to cause unnecessary stress, more harm & trauma with their processes & interactions with participants.
4) More training and money directed at improving communication within the NDIS & with participants.
5) Reduce the complexity of the processes & the website information to make navigating the NDIS system less confronting & confusing for participants.
6) Stricter guidelines within the NDIS surrounding the need to follow their own processes & timeframes as stated on their website.
7) Take reports of misconduct from participants about NDIS employees more seriously, have transparent investigations into their actions & report on the actions taken to prevent any more misconduct eg. re-training, transfer to another department, caution etc.
8) In regard to participants with psychosocial disability, priority and an appropriate level of respect must be given to the reports from psychologists & psychiatrists.
They are health professionals who do not lie or exaggerate in their reports. At the time my psychiatrist & psychologist were required to give further information to support my eligibility for the NDIS, there was nothing on the NDIS website to guide them. They had to get information from advocacy websites. They are both extremely busy professionals. Everything they have had to do for me for the NDIS is over & above what is normally expected. What they wrote should have been respected by the NDIS.
9) The NDIS needs to change their attitude towards psychosocial disability.
Their eligibility & review processes focus in great detail on the limitations my mental illnesses impose on me rather than what I can do with support. Appropriate support is what keeps me well & less of a financial burden on the government. The NDIS processes also fail to acknowledge the huge effort I already put in to manage my disability and only serve to reinforce the trauma that caused my disability.
10) If a participant’s eligibility is questioned, they need to be provided with details of which type of medical practitioners were consulted before a psychosocial disability like PTSD is viewed as not being fully treated.
11) The NDIS needs to be more committed to follow the guidelines about consulting with a participant about their needs & goals before plans are written.
It is not appropriate for the NDIS to cut funding for services that the participant needs & their medical practitioners request in order to provide services that cost less or because the NDIS believe they are more appropriate.
In my case, the NDIS took away the psychology & support worker my medical practitioners had advised & that I needed & substituted this with an occupational therapist who would not be of any assistance to me but would be cheaper for the NDIS. The NDIS should not place their own bureaucratic expediency over a human being’s welfare.
My PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder are intricately interwoven, share similar symptoms and have exactly the same serious implications for the quality of my life and my ability to function. The decision of the delegate to devise a plan to try to determine which illness caused exactly which loss of function so the NDIS would only have to pay for what they considered eligible, demonstrates an appalling lack of knowledge about mental illness. The NDIS allowed this delegate to make an unintelligent, ignorant & ill-informed decision that changed my life for the worse. It doesn’t matter that her decision was reversed following a review. The damage is done.
12) The NDIS need to stop their preoccupation with occupational therapy as an assessment tool & treatment for psychosocial disability.
Occupational therapy may be helpful for participants with physical and intellectual disabilities but it is unhelpful and dangerous to over rely on the opinions of occupational therapists for participants with mental illness. Psychologists and psychiatrists have a far superior level of qualification, experience, expertise & specialisation in mental health issues & particularly of trauma to that of occupational therapists.
In my case, the NDIS delegate based her decisions on my eligibility & my plan on the opinion of an occupational therapist who saw me a few times during a period of being well above those of my psychologist and psychiatrist who had worked with me for years. This proved to be a very dangerous and negligent decision.
I do not consider occupational therapists have an adequate knowledge of trauma or depression to be of any real assistance to me. I find their techniques and strategies to be over simplistic and unrealistic to be of any help with the level of trauma and psychological distress I have.
13) The NDIS focus on how people “function” in life is not a helpful or accurate guide to how psychosocial disability related to mental illness is experienced by participants. The criteria the NDIS use in relation to function are more applicable to someone with a physical or intellectual disability and are almost irrelevant to someone with a mental illness.
Being able to function in life is so much more than being able to shower, drive myself to appointments, cook meals and all the other things the NDIS refers to as “functioning”. To me, functioning in life means actually having a reason to live and believing that I have a life worth living. Functioning means having a full and meaningful life like I had before my work injury and mental illness. Being functional is about feeling connected to people and not always feeling terrified that someone is going to hurt me. Functioning is believing that I can still contribute to society, make a difference in other people’s lives and make the world a slightly better place for having lived in it.
I can be extremely unwell mentally and still appear to be quite “functional” according to the NDIS. Someone like me who is intelligent, well-educated and who has knowledge and insight into their mental illnesses can appear to be far more functional than they actually are. The reality is that most of the time, I am so depressed & distressed that I am suicidal yet I am still pushing myself through each day just to exist.
This review was not given enough publicity. I found out about it by chance googling something else. I have been an NDIS participant for longer than many people in Australia yet no-one told me about the review. My GP, my psychologist & my psychiatrist never knew about the review. Three friends who are also NDIS participants never knew. No-one in my family knew.
Every NDIS participant & their treating practitioners should have been notified about the review & invited to participate. During the Federal election last year, no end of politicians contacted me trying to get my vote but when it comes to informing people about a very important review into the NDIS, let’s keep it quiet. If the government were actually serious about this review being shaped by the experiences of people with disability, their families & carers, why weren’t we told about it? If the government was truly seeking feedback about people’s experiences with the NDIS & what should be included in the Guarantee, the review should have been publicised more.
Why aren’t you publishing written or emailed responses? That is ridiculous. Not everyone has the ability to complete a survey online. There is no possible or given explanation to treat written & emailed submissions differently to online submissions. Given the level of technology, I can no reason why all submissions, however they are presented, can be given the same treatment & published if their writers wish that.
COMMENTS ABOUT DISCUSSION PAPER
This discussion paper is indicative of a lack of understanding of disability. The review has unrealistic expectations in regard to hearing about the experience of NDIS participants. Your process expects an awful lot from NDIS participants. I have a university degree & have no difficulty reading & comprehending this document. Responding to such a mountain of information & trying to convey my experience of the NDIS is overwhelming for me.
Many NDIS participants do not have:
• any idea the review is even happening
• access to the internet
• a laptop
• the education, skills, health or ability to participate in the ways the review is expecting
The NDIS has not transformed my life except to make it worse.
I have not had a successful experience. It’s been rubbish.
The government says they’re committed to providing choice & control to NDIS participants but that has not been my experience. I have had to advocate for myself on an almost weekly basis for 3 years & I feel exhausted & defeated by my involvement with the NDIS.
Apart from the time between XXXX 2017 & XXXX 2018, I have been provided with little opportunity to pursue my goals. The stress of dealing with the NDIS review & complaints processes for more than a year has meant that I am now too unwell to access most of my plan despite appropriate funding.
The only consistency I’ve found in the NDIS is the unprofessional & appalling communication, the complete lack of timeliness in their processes & their ability to lie about, cover up & blame me for their incompetence.
I have never received a responsive & quality service from the NDIS. The internal frameworks of the NDIS have not worked for me. There was no communication between the 1800 number, feedback & the Geelong office. A referral from the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s office sat unnoticed on my file for 5 months. Even then the CO’s still open complaint was only “found” on my file because I went into the Geelong office & told them it was there. A do not call request was ignored. I was repeatedly told someone would contact me over a 7 month period but no-one ever did. The CO found that the NDIS was confused & made mistakes & I should accept their apology & get over it. I received 2 written responses to my complaint about the NDIS. One was not addressed to me & contained incorrect information. The second response was a cut & paste of the first response, simply deleting the incorrect information. It was addressed “Dear XXXX”. Not professional or appropriate.
At the moment, the NDIS has no consistent approach to quality internal processes. In dealing with my complaint & the complaint from the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the NDIS didn’t meet ANY reasonable timeframe for responding let alone a statutory one (if it even existed). There were no apparent service standards to ensure get good practices when the NDIS took 14 months to set up my first planning meeting or when it took 13 months to deal with my complaint. The way the NDIS failed to deal with my complaint reinforced to me that I have no rights & all I expect now as a participant, is more of this.
I’ve seen no process improvements in the NDIS complaints & review processes in my time. My own review process was efficiently conducted once it began but it took months of me following up & intervention from my MP to get that to happen.
90% satisfaction rate
Everyone with a brain knows that statistics can be manipulated to prove anything especially if the survey comes from a government body. The quoted NDIS 90% satisfaction rate is grossly distorted to give the false impression to the Australian public that the NDIS is working well. I’ve had an NDIS plan since XXXX 2017 & no-one has ever surveyed me.
Reporting a 90% satisfaction rate without giving any survey information is at the very least deliberately misleading. I have found no information published about exactly how many NDIS participants were surveyed, whether there is an equal coverage of intellectual, physical & psychosocial disability, how participants were selected in the first place etc. I even phoned the survey company who clarified that survey participants are selected by the NDIS & are not random.
The challenges & concerns reported in the discussion paper that were raised through the survey, relate only to those systemic issues that have already been clearly identified by the Commonwealth Ombudsman, advocacy groups & media companies who are independent of the government.
Systemic issues like:
• the NDIS taking too long to consider applications, access & reviews & to to approve plans.
• the quality & consistency of decision making
• the quality of planning
have been consistently raised for 3 years by participants. That is too long.
The Participant Pathway
I’d never heard of it until I read this document.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman told me a month ago that I had a single point of contact in the NDIS. The NDIS didn’t tell me. I emailed the woman I’d spoken to at the Geelong NDIS office asking, “Are you my single point of contact referred to in the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s report?” She confirmed she was.
As she was the person who wrote the misleading & deceptive response to the Commonwealth Ombudsman, I no longer consider her my single point of contact. She is nothing to me except a liar & I’ll absolutely never contact her again.
The NDIS was begun firstly without enough staff & secondly without staff who had an appropriate level of training. I have had 3 years of being subjected to people who have absolutely no training or experience with mental illness or the psychosocial disability arising from it. Many of the NDIS people I’ve had difficulty with came from a physical or intellectual disability career background. They inappropriately & unfairly used that context to assess & judge me & my ability to function in life.
My eligibility for the NDIS was challenged by an ignorant delegate nine months after being given access & my entire support structure destroyed. It took months for my eligibility to be reinstated & the stress around that, negated whatever gains I had previously made with support. While the NDIS was taking years improving the appropriateness of their staff training, I was already being damaged by staff ill-equipped to help me.
I asked RIAC for assistance in late 2018 for help with a complaint & a request for a review. Due to limited funding & staffing they were unable to help. Independent advocacy needs to be government funded & staffed adequately so that NDIS participants can access advocacy whenever they need it. It is yet another example of the misleading information that floats around the NDIS. As a participant you are told there is advocacy agencies out there to help you but when you seek them out, they’re all full up & do not have the appropriate level of resources to help you.
My LAC resigned in July 2018 & I’ve never had another one. The role of the LAC has been totally non-existent in my NDIS experience. I met with my LAC for a review in April 2018, we emailed a few times up until July & then I never heard from him again. Apparently he resigned. He could not explain or answer anything I asked about & did not contribute to a positive NDIS experience for me. The NDIS has not communicated with me about any replacement so I presume I haven’t got a LAC anymore.
I’ve had no-one in the NDIS to advise me of what other supports may exist in my community, information on mainstream government services & how the NDIS works within the broader context. NONE of this has happened to me in 3 years. I have had a co-ordinator & she did these things as best she could with the limited funding the NDIS provided for her but my one & only LAC didn’t do anything for me.
The NDIS does not work at all within a broader context but then neither does the mental health system or WorkSafe. I have to juggle all 3 trying to get an appropriate level of support & most of the time, especially over the last year, I cannot manage it at all. WorkSafe fund my psychiatrist, some medication, travel to psychiatric appointments & a limited number of psychology sessions per year. NDIS fund limited psychology sessions per year. Combining Worksafe funded psychology with NDIS funded psychology is still insufficient psychological support for me for the year so then I have to organise a Medicare funded Mental Health plan through my GP. It is stressful, time consuming & beyond my capabilities & it all seems to be about no-one wanting to pay for what I need.
If I don’t get enough psychological support my mental health deteriorates & I am hospitalised. That costs the Australian government a lot more than the NDIS or WorkSafe adequately funding the psychology I need in order to stay out of hospital. Do the maths.
I get no support from the public mental health system. Even in crisis & despite requests from my psychiatrist, GP & psychiatrist, the public mental health system is reluctant to give me any support. My private hospital fund & Medicare cover hospitalisation even though I am eligible to access WorkSafe funding for this. The WorkSafe process of getting approval & funding for hospitalisation is too stressful to utilise. NDIS fund a support worker & a co-ordinator but I am not well enough to see either at the moment.
All of these systems are too complicated. None of them work together to support me. They are only concerned with keeping their own power & money. I am left juggling them all, fighting for scraps of funding. It is obscene.
My access to the NDIS was smooth. I applied & access was approved a month later. I have no complaints about my experience accessing the NDIS except that it was taken off me 9 months later.
This is when the rot set in. I was on the system as 2 different people & I waited 14 months for a planning meeting.
My first planner was great. She was helpful & listened & I received a suitable plan that catered well to my needs. I had 9 months of amazing support & my first review seemed fine then further rot set in.
My first review with my LAC seemed to go well until a delegate decided I wasn’t eligible. The delegate didn’t even meet me. She focused entirely on an OT report that said I was functional & dismissed the reports of my co-ordinator, psychologist & psychiatrist. If it hasn’t already been discontinued, the practise of allowing a delegate to make life-changing & ill-informed decisions about a participant’s eligibility so lightly needs to cease immediately. This was an extremely damaging decision for me.
The email I received from the delegate saying she was investigating my eligibility was blunt & provided little information. I emailed the NDIS refuting the delegate’s statement in her email that my PTSD was not fully treated, listing the different treatments I had tried unsuccessfully over a ten year period. I also asked several questions about who the delegate sought information on PTSD to help form her decision. The NDIS never replied.
The delegate had 4 reports I’d provided for my review. When my eligibility was questioned my psychologist & psychiatrist both wrote additional & more comprehensive reports. We considered we had provided the information the delegate needed to make a good decision. The delegate told me & my co-ordinator on separate occasions that she was not going to consider what my psychiatrist & psychiatrist had said because their reports were too clinical & the OT had said I was functional.
On review, the planner found ample evidence that I was indeed eligible & the delegate’s decision was reversed.
While all this was going on, my usual plan was suspended & the delegate gave me an interim plan. I had no say in this plan & it was totally unsuited to my needs. I got no draft. The plan was emailed to me as a done deal. I only used some of the plan because I disagreed with it. I immediately requested a review of the planning decision. That process took 3 months. The amount of stress, work & constant following up was completely unacceptable. There was a lack of transparency about what went on but it seemed that it was the NDIS who simply didn’t really know how to ensure their own processes were followed & in a timely manner. The review process was disorganised up until the actual planner began handling my review. She was intelligent, fair, respectful & efficient.
Following the review re-establishing my eligibility, I had another planning meeting. My psychologist & co-ordinator attended with me as I was unwell & incapable of contributing. I trusted both of them to get me a new plan appropriate to my needs & they did. If they had not attended with me & advocated on my behalf, I would have never gone to the planning meeting & would have discontinued with the NDIS right there & then.
I can only speak of the significant challenges that I faced as an NDIS participant in that meeting (XXXX 2018). I felt I went into the meeting at a disadvantage. The planner was not the person we had been advised would be conducting the meeting. This caused me distress as I don’t deal well with the unexpected. A manager also came into the planning meeting. I felt intimidated & threatened by his presence. I felt confronted, overwhelmed, stressed, anxious & distressed before, during & after the meeting. I couldn’t concentrate, speak or understand & remember what was said. I felt they were trying to trick me into saying something so they could make me ineligible again like the delegate had. The first plan we received was incorrect & they had to redo it.
Prior to the meeting my co-ordinator had helped me formulate goals because my depression is so chronic I didn’t have any. I didn’t know what I needed to help support me or what was available but I was very aware of what hurt me & was of no use to me.
Planners need to understand I have complex trauma, major depression & now autism. I need continuity of support as I have difficulty with change & am slow to trust people. I also have difficulty building & maintaining relationships. If I don’t click with a support worker or co-ordinator then there is no point in me continuing with them as it just causes me distress & defeats the purpose. As I have complex needs & am often unwell, I need support workers who are trained & experienced & who are a good fit for my personality. This is difficult as there are a shortage of people trained in what I need. My current NDIS support worker is a psychologist & she is an excellent fit for me.
Using & reviewing plans
The section in this discussion paper about using & reviewing plans is totally unrelated & incongruent with my experience. To me the review & the planning meetings felt like inquisitions to try to get me off the NDIS to save money. It felt like I was on trial & only allowed to answer yes or no & not allowed to give further information explaining my answers. The planner’s questions were all closed questions like “Do you drive a car?” If I said yes, that would be viewed as being too functional. If I said no, that would be untruthful. The answer is – yes but only when I am well enough to leave the house, have the concentration to drive, when I know the route & in quiet traffic. The planner was only interested in a yes or no answer & that was unfair.
I never received a draft of any of my 5 plans. They just arrived done & dusted. Having no say before the plan is approved just increases the number of participants who are unhappy with their plan & then have to request a review. The current practise of not being able to review a draft plan is nonsense & simply causes delay & distress for participants. I think the planning process should take less than a month. The longer the process, the more distress for the participant.
Challenges faced in using supports
For me, the stress involved in having a review, having my eligibility questioned then re-instated & a formal complaint taking 13 months is the reason I have stopped using my supports. I’m too unwell at the moment to meet with my support worker & co-ordinator. Attending any programs would be completely out of the question. I have used my psychology funding but due to distress, I have cancelled many appointments.
I have had difficulty finding support co-ordination & workers who have sufficient training & experience to handle my complex needs. If I have a worker who is not a good match for me it causes more harm than good. One service provider I went to was happy to do co-ordination & support work but told me I had to pay all the worker’s expenses when we met in the community (coffee, parking, meals etc.) out of my own pocket. I felt that was unfair so cancelled my service agreement with them immediately.
In my experience, having a great co-ordinator is a key factor in me having successful NDIS support. My first co-ordinator knew me well. She’d previously been my PHAMS worker. She had an excellent understanding of mental illness & all the different kinds of things I could access in the community. Supporting me through a review & complaints process took a toll on her & she eventually stopped doing NDIS co-ordination. I need a co-ordinator who is knowledgeable about what’s out there for me & can suggest appropriate activities etc. The opposite of this is harmful.
I’ve had a few support workers. They were all nice people but they had no knowledge of mental illness so never really understood what my needs were. Often they downloaded their home & work problems onto me because I’m an empathetic listener. It was unprofessional & I was often overwhelmed by their issues. I’m pretty sure that’s not what should happen. My current worker is a psychologist so she is perfect.
Plan reviews are a nightmare. I’ve only requested one & it was only because I kept on to the NDIS that it happened at all. The review process takes far too long. It causes extreme distress. Having to continually follow up & getting told something different from NDIS staff every time was so frustrating I ended up being hospitalised. I had more knowledge of the review process than some NDIS staff I spoke to. A review should take no more than a month. While the NDIS continue to delay reviews, participants will be forced to put their lives on hold, feeling stressed, anxious & frustrated. Get the review done as efficiently as possible so the participant can get on with their life.
If the NDIS put more effort into getting the plan right & getting the participant to review the draft before putting the plan in place, there wouldn’t be as many review requests. Planners need to be more highly trained & specific to the participant’s disability. They need to listen more carefully & at times offer helpful suggestions based on their experience & expertise. If you get a good planner, you get a good plan. Get a dud planner, you get a dud plan. There is too much inconsistency, lack of expertise & experience in planning staff at the moment.
Communication within the NDIS & with participants is atrocious. The communication from the NDIS about my complaint was virtually non-existent, often incorrect & totally confused. A request for information from the Commonwealth Ombudsman with a response date sat unnoticed on my NDIS file for 5 months. A do not call notification on my file was ignored. The first response to my complaint was not addressed to me & the second response was addressed “Dear XXXX.” Not professional. Not appropriate for a government body. Not appropriate as a response to a formal written complaint. Neither response came from a dedicated complaints/service staff member. Both were planners. Planners should stick to planning & staff with training in customer service & complaint handling should deal with complaints. Writing incorrect information in a letter to a participant is not acceptable under any circumstances. Lying to the Commonwealth Ombudsman is not acceptable either. Every participant has disability. The NDIS needs to be much more aware of how they communicate. It must be clear, kind & respectful.
Discussion question 27
Legislation needs to use very clear vocabulary. Terms like “reasonable & necessary supports” or “as soon as reasonably practicable” are too grey & too open to interpretation & the whim of a planner or decision maker.
I have no experience of requesting a change to my plan. I have just been diagnosed with autism so I probably do need to request a change but after going through 13 months of a review & a complaint I simply do not have the will power, health or capability to do that at the moment. That should tell you something about how overwhelmingly difficult all the NDIS processes are for participants.
Timely: the NDIS have no concept of timely but they need to be forced to develop one right now.
Engaged: hasn’t happened in my case. The NDIS have used physical & intellectual disability frameworks for my psychosocial disability & it is totally inappropriate, discriminatory & psychologically damaging.
Expert: none noticeable in my experience. A complete lack of knowledge & understanding about the life impact of serious mental illness & the disability resulting from it. I think the NDIS should employ & train staff for specific disabilities so participants benefit from dealing with someone who has experience & expertise in their particular disability. For me it is about the NDIS understanding I need on-going support to manage my disability. There is no fix or cure.
Connected: sounds good on paper, is not happening now but needs to & quickly.
Valued: OMG! I have been treated like I’m a worthless, lying, annoying, demanding piece of crap by the NDIS. Do NOT write this principle in the service charter unless there is going to be an independent body who has the power to hold the NDIS accountable & to enforce some sort of justice the next time the NDIS treat me like I have no value as a human being. As a complainant I was not valued by the Commonwealth Ombudsman either so double shot of worthlessness from both systems!
The role of the Commonwealth Ombudsman
The CO definitively needs more money as they initially refused to help me with a complaint about the NDIS because they already had “too many complaints.” The CO also needs to be given more power to hold the NDIS accountable as at the moment, they can’t make the NDIS comply anyway. This setup as it stands, is useless & invalidating for participants. There is no point having the CO listed as the body to assist participants in their dealings with the NDIS if the CO is not equipped or prepared to help.
In my dealings with the Commonwealth Ombudsman, I felt their actions & decisions did not reflect their service charter, they failed to safeguard me in my dealings with the NDIS & they enabled the NDIS to treat me however they liked with immunity. The CO afforded the NDIS every right they failed to give me. Their communication style & tone did not reflect an understanding of how to communicate kindly & respectfully with a vulnerable person.
Having the CO listed as the body participants can go to if they feel the NDIS has acted unfairly or unreasonably gives participants a false sense that their rights are being protected. Government bodies like the NDIS are never held accountable because Ombudsmans don’t have the power to do anything except provide complainants with the illusion that they are being listened to. Just because the CO investigates & comes to a decision, it does not mean anything is resolved for the complainant. The NDIS can keep doing the same thing because there are no consequences for their conduct.
As the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s process for dealing with complaints about the NDIS is at the moment, it is fundamentally biased against the complainant & is a completely useless & pointless process.
SERVICE GUARANTEE PRINCIPLES
From my own experience I can say that there was no evidence of any of these principles operating within the NDIS from 2016 to now. My NDIS experience could not be farther away from these principles. The treatment I received was the exact opposite of these principles.
I agree with all of the possible principles listed on pages 5 & 6. I think they are all important principles. However, like all government bodies – WorkSafe, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Health Services Commission, the Education Department of Victoria – their documents, service charters, guiding principles etc. read extremely well on paper but are not always followed. Having the principles written down does not ensure they will be followed. People’s lives are damaged because government bodies like the NDIS do not follow their own rules.
All NDIS participants should be surveyed on a regular basis – not just the select few who have been surveyed over the last few years. Every NDIS participant should have a LAC & a single & direct point of contact within the NDIS. The NDIS should have a separate & dedicated service & complaints department that receives verbal & written complaints, communicates directly with the complainant, investigates & works on resolving the issues etc. No-one was appointed to deal with my formal complaint for 3 months & then it was given to a planner. I do not understand why my formal written complaint written on the official NDIS complaint form was not sent straight to a specialised department whose sole job is to work on complaints. The NDIS took no responsibility for handling my complaint & I was fobbed off for 7 months.
Whatever principles are adopted I would like to see transparently independent checks & balances to insure the NDIS & their staff actually abide by the principles. A separate & completely independent body needs to be established to deal with complaints about the NDIS after their complaints process has failed. This body needs to have the time, staff & commitment to believe & support vulnerable participants & properly investigate their negative experiences with the NDIS. The Commonwealth Ombudsman is failing to do this. If principles are not followed, the NDIS needs to honestly acknowledge their transgressions & be held accountable in some way.
The NDIS should not be allowed to lie their way out of everything & pull the mental illness or disability card from out of their sleeve to deflect all blame onto the participant complainant. If the NDIS distort or exaggerate facts or deny information or their actions there should be tough sanctions – retraining, transfer, written & face-to-face apologies, formal warning on their file etc. The current system of having the Commonwealth Ombudsman overseeing the NDIS did not work at all for me & was simply another source of stress, humiliation, invalidation & disappointment.