When Disabled people and our families interact with the NDIS we should be able to speak with well trained staff that understand us, have time to listen to what we need and the power to get us that support. Those staff should be part of a team that is large enough to enable them to fully engage with the complexity of the challenges we face and build long lasting professional relationships with us.
Instead of taking the action needed to achieve these outcomes for participants, successive Liberal governments have refused to fund enough NDIS staff or provide existing staff with comprehensive training.
The original recommendation for the scheme was that the National Disability Insurance Agency should have at least 10,000 employees directly yet, currently there are only approximately 3,400 staff.
In order to function, the agency is forced to hire thousands of subcontractors who are not only subject to different standards of training, but also different workplace laws.
Bruce Bonyhady, the inaugural Chair of the Agency, has said publicly since 2018 that such a staffing cap doesn't make sense and that the inefficiencies being caused by a scheme that is so understaffed are ultimately costing the government more money as well as impacting outcomes for participants.
We also know that the agency has had a significant problem in adequately training their staff to understand the complexities around disability.
If a disabled person is meeting with a planner for the first time, then it makes sense that they would want to be talking to someone who looks like them or, at the very least, has a deep understanding and experience of working with disabled people.
Unfortunately, this is often not the case. There have been endless reports of disabled people being asked to explain their disability over and over again for the purposes of a plan review. As an example, a disabled person with an amputation should not be asked if their disability is permanent.
For our NDIS to work properly for us there has to be an investment in the staff that run the agency. This means more staff, more staff with lived experience and much more appropriate training.