NDIS Heroes

Image is of a silhouette of a woman in a field. Her hands are on her hips, she looks to the horizon as a cape blows dramatically from her shoulders, like a super hero.

And the shame was on the other side
Oh, we can beat them forever and ever
Then we could be heroes just for one day

We can be heroes
We can be heroes
We can be heroes just for one day –

David Bowie

Happy Easter everyone. If Easter isn’t your thing well just be happy anyway. You know, on these pages I am very critical of the NDIS. The criticism is well deserved, really. You know, the NDIS should be a world class program. Run properly it can provide world class support to people with a disability. It actually does provide world class support for many. Sadly, within the NDIS there are people that really should not be there. They lack experience, understanding and knowledge. This includes Minister Reynolds and many in the executive who should have kept their cushy jobs in the banking industry.

Last week on Auslan Day, of all days, a mother of deaf child had Auslan interpreting for her child denied. Many parents request Auslan interpreters for their children so that they can participate in sport, social activities and not be left out or miss important information. It is often rejected by the NDIS, some clueless review officer will deem it as parental responsibility. I am not sure about you but when I played soccer as a kid, the last thing I wanted was my mother hovering around. (An ordinary life and all that.)

Not in this case, however. The mother in question posted on one of the NDIS discussion pages. She posted a photo of the text of the explanation from the review officer as to why the support had been declined. It read simply, “…….interpreter may cause her to become more dependent on an interpreter rather than use and develop her oral English skills.” I read this and I fancied I could hear every Deaf person that uses Auslan, every hearing person that knows anything about Auslan, every coda that uses Auslan and every Auslan interpreter in the country screaming …. FFS!!!!!

It will surprise no one that I was livid. I invited the mother to send me a personal message and offered my assistance. As a person who previously worked within the NDIS sector, I still have many contacts and networks within. The mother did indeed contact me. I have been assisting her to identify contacts within who she can contact and make a complaint. It will be a long journey. However, it is a truism that it’s not what you know, but who you know.

But guess what? There were actually people within the NDIS who read the post, who saw my message to the mother offering assistance and who contacted me offering help. Within the NDIS, for every incompetent, power hungry and ignorant bureaucrat, there are good people. People that care. People that understand disability and people that want the very best outcomes for people with a disability. These are the heroes of the NDIS! Sadly, to few of them are in positions of power.

In the case of this mother, they offered advice. They asked me questions. They provided me with questions to ask the mother. They provided me with contacts and they provided me with advice as to how to use these contacts. They offered to assist to identify the Review Officer that made this decision and who had provided the offensive and ignorant explanation for the denial of the support. In this way they could condemn and hopefully educate the person concerned. But you know what? They asked me to be careful and not to identify them because otherwise they would get in big trouble.

Can you imagine that? You work within this huge program and you are frightened to do be identified for wanting to help and do the right thing. What sort of organisation develops a culture like that? What sort of organisation develops a culture where people within have to engage in whisper campaigns and subterfuge to make sure that the right thing happens? Well, I think it is an organisation that has lost its way. It is an organisation that needs an almighty clear out and restructure to get it back on track.

But you know, there are many people within the NDIS who are like the people that helped me assist this mother. They are heroes. They want to do the right thing. They try to find ways to get the very best outcomes for people with a disability. I will give you a couple of examples.

In my time with the NDIS they had a computer generated logarithm that calculated the level of support a person should get. It was bloody awful. It was one of the many assessment tools that the NDIS used to try and work out what support to give to people with a disability. The problem is that disability is not all the same. The variations of support are immense. The tools that the NDIS use are nearly all focused on physical and cognitive assessments. You provide a score to a question like – On a scale from 1 to 5, how easily can the participant feed themselves. You go through this set list of questions in the computer program that cover things like mobility, communication, independence and so on. From the data entered it generates a Typical Support Package. (TSP)

Now, often the TSP was so far off the mark, it was laughable. (Don’t get me started on the tool that they used for kids) As a planner I had to recommend a level of support. Now, if that level of support was within 5 % of the TSP I could approve it. If it was over I had to go to my manager, who would then go through a process of deciding what was an appropriate level of support. It was not a quick process. I had one poor woman that was on the cusp of being homeless, my manager had her case for over four months. By the time I left the role, my manager had still to make a decision.

There were planners who knew how to make sure the TSP generated the highest amount of support possible. They would see a person needed a lot of support and they would enter information to the TSP in such a way as to generate the highest support package possible. They would work the system in a way so that they didn’t have to go through their manager. They would work the system so that they could approve a plan with a high level of support and avoid unnecessary delays. These are the heroes that I am talking about.

When I worked as a planner in Melbourne I often had planners or LACS as far away ass far North Queensland contact me. They would want advise about a Deaf client and how to develop justifications so as to provide the best level of support. They would ask me what we could do to provide Auslan to clients, despite the lack of Auslan proficiency in the area. They would bend over backwards to try and make sure the client got the best and highest level of support possible. Such planners are real heroes. You would be surprised how many planners don’t do this kind of research, simply because they cannot be bothered!

And directors, yes directors, would contact me from Tasmania. They would say that they had a plan for a Deaf person and they didnt have the expertise to do a plan for a Deaf person. They would ask me to mentor and guide the planner to make sure they developed a plan that matched the persons needs. These are the heroes who I am talking about!

BUT, sadly there are people within that just use TSP to write plans. They just use the figure that it generates. It doesn’t matter to them whether supports that the TSP generates are appropriate or not. It is quicker, less work for them and helps them to achieve their KPIs. That’s why we have such pathetic plans for some Deaf people, like $5000 of which half is to pay a plan manager, a quarter is for an assessment and $800 is what is left over for actual support. Other planners are just power hungry and apathetic. They see themselves as gate-keepers of the public purse. That they are dealing with a human being with needs does not really register with them.

Then you have the clueless. Like Stuart Robert who claimed millions of NDIS money was spent on prostitutes. Or you have the planner, who you would swear attended the 1880 Milan conference, who will claim that Auslan will impede the development of oral skills. Numpties in other words, clueless and power hungry numpties.

But there are heroes. They exist within the NDIS. We don’t hear enough about them. They fight the good fight everyday to get the very best outcomes possible. Let us not forget them, because they often do what they do at great risk to themselves. I thank god that they are there, otherwise the NDIS would be truly screwed. Long may they continue!

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