The National Disability Insurance Scheme has joined the ranks of experiences that show up a few truths about the government’s obsession with privatising services.
This is supposed to be a scheme that delivers a better and cheaper service to disabled Australians.
The NDIS is supposed to provide the people it serves with more control over decisions about their needs.
But as it has rolled out, complaints have soared. Up 700 percent in the last year. To put this in perspective, In the previous financial first year there were 62 and in the last one 429.
A big problem is that planning decisions are being made that have a major effect people’s lives without face to face interviews, with brief telephone calls all there often is for recipients to have a say. Outcomes are said to often be problematic.
The ombudsman’s office has investigated of 124 of last year’s complaints and listed another group for urgent action. The major problem found, is a belief that a failure to listen is causing delays that are leaving disabled people without payments and needed equipment.
On the surface, this might seem not too big a number, given the NDIS has some 90,000 clients. The scheme has only been going on for a short time and it is highly probable that the number experiencing problems is much higher. If this is true, complaints will soon soar to a much bigger number.
There are also complaints about long delays when trying to communicate through online portals, which is related to the “Nadia project“. This is a computerised system that responds to communications without a human being having to take part. It is failing, just as Centerlink’s “Robo-Debt” system and the last census did.
Driving everything has been the push to cut expenditure by driving thousands off payments when their cases come up for review, or through making it as difficult as possible to get help.
There is a pattern here.
It is not surprising, when government agencies are turned into glorified schemes to turn over tax payer dollars to private insurance companies. It seems that in this case, the priority is not service, but to provide the service as cheaply as possible, so that the insurance companies take a bigger slice of the pie.
It is inevitable that those at the receiving end will pay a price for this.
Another concern is that the government has thrown money at consultants. In just two years, 100 contracts have been signed up through the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), the operator of the scheme. This has soaked up $30 million.
We do know that multinational firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) more than $350,000 to review Nadia and that a substantial amount was spent to trim staffing and operations under the guise of the NDIS Human Services Quality Framework. There are reviews into the internal complaints procedure.
The whole thing smells of the Centrelink approach and here too it is unlikely that any real solutions will be forthcoming.
Meanwhile, the profiteers are in their, dipping into the trough that has so conveniently been set for them by the Australian government.