ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Media release: Stories of Transition - Reforms can deliver but urgent change needed

6 November 2017

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has released a new publication, Stories of Transition, which combines individual and organisational stories with information and data to highlight the effects of disruption across the human services sector in the last decade.

ACTCOSS has recommended the ACT and Commonwealth governments act on the “Top ten jobs for now”, outlined in the publication, to better manage the realities and consequences of rapid change in a range of areas (see Attachment A below). 

Seven Canberra individuals and families tell different stories of their transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), while four Canberra organisations provide speak to different effects of a decade of tumultuous change to services and programs. A timeline speaks to the pace of change while analysis asks whether reforms have met the expectations set out at the start of the journey.

Susan Helyar, Director of ACTCOSS, said today, “Most people with disability and carers welcomed a promised move towards additional funding and greater person centred supports. None of us were satisfied with what we had – a broken system applying triage to people with disability and families in desperate need of equipment, respite, communications and domestic help plus other basic supports. 

“The stories provide a reality check on the implementation of reform and whether it is keeping to the vision of people with disabilities and their families amidst the disruption. They also speak to a fraught funding and service delivery environment for community services; impacts on broader infrastructure; and what we can do to get back on track.

“Some individuals have highlighted major issues with the NDIS with a number of people saying early positive experiences have been marred by a lack of person centred planning, communications, lack of support to navigate the system, bureaucratic processes, and a reduction in supports over successive planning cycles. Sometimes people questioned whether the journey was worth the toll.  

“One woman who has a hearing disability said that the NDIA had suggested that her husband speak for her in a planning process and another spoke of waiting on the phone for hours at a time and that no one answered when they called a ‘rapid response line’ after getting their in home support cut off. 

“Analysis of the outcomes we see against the NDIS path set out by the Productivity Commission in 2010 finds that there are key gaps in information and referral services. People are falling through service cracks including mental health and carer support, local area coordination is not fully delivered, peer support and advocacy are underinvested, there are barriers to self-managing supports, and recommendations to stall creeping red tape have not been realised.

“The promise and ambition of the NDIS has been compromised by inadequate focus on a rights based choice and control approach. This can be fixed. We are highlighting implementation challenges but maintaining our support for reforms”, Ms Helyar concluded.

A copy of the Stories of Transition can be found here:   

For more information or comment please contact
Susan Helyar, Director, on 0448 791 987 or 02 6202 7200.

Attachment A: The top ten jobs for now

For the ACT Government

  1. Maintain contingency funds to ensure the ACT retains key social infrastructure following changes in policy and funding responsibilities across territory and Commonwealth jurisdictions
  2. Stocktake, map, quantify and prioritise meeting demand for tailored, personalised and specific services prior to devolving further services to the NDIS that were  previously provided by the ACT Government  
  3. Provide long term contracts and surety to key underpinning services to enable business planning and continuity  
  4. Cover the gaps in mental health, ageing, housing and other human services areas  
  5. Support the sectors that need to manage the change – especially in housing, mental health, aged care and disability. 

For the National Disability Insurance Agency and the Australian Government

  1. Restore person centred planning including direct contact with planners in the NDIS and focus on peer support and capacity building for self-management  
  2. Make deregulation genuine and let consumers provide the final test of proof – deregulation that creates more process or complexity for any group of consumers is failed deregulation  
  3. Restore human rights to the centre of person centred reform  
  4. Heed the lessons from the NDIS in changes to housing and aged care  
  5. Respond to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s expectations for community controlled NDIS services.