letter: need to act on NDIA's mad transport/travel policy

Dear The Honourable K Andrews MP

subject: Urgent: notify the community about the NDIA's transport policy review

Recently, someone reported on Facebook that their child's transition to the NDIS resulted in limiting or denying their child with a disability access to their school. Basically, the NDIS planner would not fund transport to and from school for a child with a disability.

I reviewed the NDIA's policy and on 14th June I posted the following to the Facebook discussion group …

Under NDIA policy if a "participant" chooses a service providers located more than 5km away (10km round trip), then the service provider cannot factor transport costs into the price they quote for the service.

The document at http://www.ndis.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/price_list_vic_12may2014.docx says "Provider travel to and from the participant is included in the hourly rate paid for the support, up to a round trip of 10km" but not if the trip is over 10km. And even if the provider is closer than 5km, they may not get paid for travel, since "Where there is a provider in the participant’s geographical area that does not charge for travel, NDIS will not fund additional travel costs."

So if a provider exists who is more than 5km away (but still "in the participant's geographical area") and who decides to not charge for travel, this means no other provider can include cost of travel. It doesn't indicate that the non-charging provider should even offering a comparable service or be available to meet the participant's needs.

This is bureaucracy gone completely mad.

People on the group mostly agreed that the policy is 'mad'. Some reported that the policy was not applied to their personal plans … possibly because:

  • their plan was prepared before the NDIA adopted this mad policy,

  • because their planning team did not know of (or understand) the NDIA's latest travel/transport policy, and/or

  • their planning team thinks this policy is mad so chose to interpret the policy differently until they are specifically instructed otherwise.

The situation is “less than ideal”; policy like this makes aspects of the NDIS are as dysfunctional as the system it is replacing.

On the 15th June, the following was posted in the discussion group …

Kym M Charlton Hello - firstly let me introduce myself - I started as the head of Communications and Engagement with the NDIA last week. I thought the following information might help clarify the management of travel costs:

Transport for delivery of supports is funded by NDIA at the hourly rate of the provider after a round trip of 10km. Travel for less than 10km is expected to be built into a provider’s hourly rate.

The reason for this is to encourage service providers to roster efficiently so that there is minimal down time between clients.

Choice of provider is obviously that of the participant and their family.

The scheme does however have to be managed at a sustainable funding level.

So a family or individual participant can choose a service provider and the Agency will pay for the cost of equivalent service provision (i.e. likely to achieve similar outcomes) from a locally available provider which incurs no, or minimal, travel costs for the Scheme.

The subject of travel costs of providers is currently the subject of a review of a joint working party consisting of the Agency and NDS.

The outcome of this review will be available shortly.

Clearly, review of the policy is welcome and hopefully a much improved travel/transport policy will result.

But the issue does not stop there. In addition to my role as Convenor of Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia (A4) and Chair or Speaking Out for Autism Spectrum Disorder (SOfASD) in the ACT, I have a role in caring for my 23 year old son who has severe autism. We are told that my son will be one of the very first to be “phased” into the NDIS in the ACT.

On 17th June, I received a letter from one of his current disability service providers that said:

“Our examination of the NDIS to date suggests that our current arrangement in relation to pick ups and drop offs will not be a funded option for most Plans.”

In effect the letter from the service provider invited us to consider how we would get access to their disability service that did not involve “pick ups and drop offs”, that is transport to and from the service.

My son cannot travel alone on public transport or in a taxi. A disability service that does not pick up and drop off my son (as is often the case) is not accessible to him. While Governments and many disability advocates have worked to develop disability access standards, their understanding and the consequent standards ignore the needs of people with disability such as my son. The current NDIS policy on transport is worse that the existing system.

The lack of access standards that include/address the needs of people with autism arises because the peak bodies for autism a) have limited resources for advocacy, and b) are ignored by Government and by the NDIA. It is disappointing that, while autism is currently the biggest distinct group of participants in the NDIS, Government, the NDIA and the wider disability sector usually exclude autism peak organisations from discussion and consultation over the future of disability services.

Disability service providers who are trying to work under NDIS policy need to know that the NDIA's mad transport policy is under review so that they don't waste everyone's time and cause unnecessary anxiety in the community.

So when the NDIS transport policy is reviewed, please ensure that the needs of people like my son are met.

Also, please ensure that everyone knows about the current review so that disability service providers do not waste everyone's time trying to work around 'mad NDIS policy' if that policy is likely to change.

Bob Buckley

cc: Beeby, Clare (Sen M. Fifield) <Clare.Beeby@aph.gov.au>, Ms Burch MLA <BURCH@act.gov.au>, WALL <WALL@parliament.act.gov.au>, Whitten, Meredith <Meredith.Whitten@act.gov.au>, HERD, Dougie <Dougie.HERD@ndis.gov.au>, HAWKINS, Mary <Mary.HAWKINS@ndis.gov.au>