Ombudsman releases NDIA reviews report

Commonwealth Ombudsman Michael Manthorpe has released a report into the National Disability Insurance Agency’s (NDIA) handling of reviews of decisions under the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013.

 

The report discusses systemic issues highlighted by complaints and stakeholder feedback including significant backlogs, delays in decision making and poor communication practices.

 

In releasing the report, Mr Manthorpe acknowledged the considerable pressure the NDIA has been under to meet bilateral targets since the national rollout of the NDIS, which began in July 2016.

 

However, the Ombudsman stressed this must not be used as a reason to deprioritise or delay other work, including reviews.

 

“It is clear from this report there are a number of areas in which the NDIA can, and should improve its administration of participant-initiated reviews. Without significant efforts to improve the timeliness of its approach and its communication with participants, there remains a risk that participants’ rights to review will be challenged and the review process will continue to be unwieldy, unapproachable and the driver of complaint volumes.” Mr Manthorpe said.

 

Since mid-2016, complaints to the Commonwealth Ombudsman about the NDIA’s review process have represented around 32 per cent of all NDIA complaints.

 

The report makes 20 recommendations aimed at improving the NDIA’s administration of reviews, all of which were accepted by the NDIA.

 

Executive Summary of the Report

"Between July 2016 and January 2018, the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman received 400 complaints that were, at least in part, about the NDIA’s administration of reviews. This represents 32.5 per cent of all complaints made to our Office about the NDIA during this period.

 

"Of particular concern is the issue of delays in completing reviews. In February 2018, the NDIA advised our Office it had around 8,100 reviews on hand, and it was receiving around 620 new review requests each week. The NDIA has acknowledged some reviews are taking up to nine months to be completed.

 

"While the NDIA implemented a new dedicated national team in November 2017 tasked with addressing the backlog, to date this approach has not been adequate to quickly and effectively work through the outstanding requests. As of 30 January 2018 (12 weeks after the commencement of the backlog team), the NDIA had triaged around 3,400 requests and completed around 1,500 reviews. (A further 4,000 reviews were ‘removed’ from the backlog and referred for consideration within an upcoming scheduled plan review.)

 

"While we acknowledge the NDIA’s efforts to address review delays, we consider more can and should be done to ensure administrative drift or under-resourcing does not prevent participants from readily exercising their review rights.

 

Complaints to our Office also highlight other systemic issues such as poor communication about review processes and outcomes. We have made a number of recommendations to help improve communication.

 

"Without significant efforts to improve the timeliness of NDIA’s administration of reviews and communication with participants, there remains a risk that participants’ right to review will be undermined and review processes will continue to lack fairness and transparency and continue to drive a high volume of complaints."

 

See the report Administration of reviews under the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013: Report on the National Disability Insurance Agency’s handling of reviews at http://www.ombudsman.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0029/83981/Report-on-NDIA-administration-of-reviews-under-the-Act_1.pdf

 

16 May 2018.