(Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

From blown-out wait times to inaccessible information, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a far cry from the revolutionary support system it was supposed to be.

Last week it was revealed 1200 Australians died while waiting for packages, while the latest review, released on Monday, highlights some of the system’s major flaws.

Crikey has trawled through the report to find some of the worst revelations: 

Getting a plan is slow

Once approved for NDIS, applicants create a plan based on the goals, activities and tasks they want to achieve. But the review found that after being found eligible for NDIS, it took on average 88 days to have that plan approved, down from 117 days in the previous financial year.

It’s slightly faster for kids, but still not fast enough — in the September 2019 quarter there were 1686 children who had to wait more than 50 days for their first plan, with the average wait time being 54 days, down from 104. Forty six percent of NDIS participants are under 18 while 13% are under six.

People aren’t happy

While the review found complaints are at their lowest levels in two years, a staggering 11,179 complaints were made in the first half of 2019. One survey respondent said dealing with the system caused them to be “on the verge of having a mental and emotional breakdown”.

Just 4% of survey participants said their concerns were definitely listened to by staff; 73% felt staff didn’t know about or understand their disability or what support would help them; and just 25% said they felt listened to, respected and heard in their dealings with the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). 

In fact, one participant wrote that their planner “couldn’t understand how it was necessary or reasonable that I have a bag for my wheelchair”. 

Few understand how it works, or what they’re entitled to

It would make sense for the NDIS website to be one of the more user-friendly sites around. Instead, it ranks below best practice for online accessibility, with large walls of text and broken links. 

“The website has so much stuff on there and it is simply too overwhelming, it needs to be written in layman’s terms and less of it,” a person with a disability commented. “I gave up because I couldn’t figure it out.” 

The website is emblematic of the system: participants didn’t understand how decisions were made, with NDIA not releasing information to help participants understand what decision is meant for them. 

Almost a third of participants weren’t told they had a right to ask for a review of their NDIA decision, and only a quarter of participants were told how to find NDIS service providers. 

The system does little to alleviate the burden on carers and families

People with disabilities aren’t the only ones suffering from the woeful implementation of the NDIS.

In the words of a carer, “there is no understanding or consideration given to the impact on informal carers. There is no provision to help — even in cases where a person with a disability requires 24-hour support and the carer may not have left the house in years, been able to seek medical attention or been able to cook dinner.”

Advocacy group Children and Young People with Disability Australia wrote: “Families are denied support and services considered ‘parental responsibilities’, as there is a push to medicalise the supports in the plan.”

The system can’t — and won’t — support everyone

Despite an estimated 4.1 million Australians with a disability, the scheme designed to “benefit all” had just 311,744 people signed up by September last year and will support just 500,000 by 2023.

Interestingly, supported independent living accounts for 32% of all NDIS funding, but the scheme only services 6.9% of participants. 

From failing to deliver services in a timely fashion to not helping participants understand the system, the NDIS is plagued with problems.

While the Morrison government has called for an overhaul of the system, who knows how long real reform will take.