is crystal clear. We want to help participants have a better life. To do that, participants must be at the core of everything we do. We also recognise the critical role played by carers, providers and disability groups.
But delivering on that mission with the ambitious speed of the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) embodied in the Bilateral Agreements is not easy. This Scheme is a world first and there is no template to follow.
Certainly, we have been successful in the first year of transition in bringing 66,500 participants into the Scheme and the Early Childhood Early Intervention program. This is in addition to more than 35,000 Australians who entered the NDIS during the first three years of trial. However, given the speed of the rollout in other areas, we have fallen short of the high expectations the Board and management have for the fulfilment of our mission. We are committed to addressing the issues that have arisen.
First, we are addressing the quality of the participant experience. It has not always been consistent with our aspirations. Plans have not always been as outcomes driven as we would like. Participants have not always found it easy to interact with the NDIA. Telephone planning has not always delivered an empathetic and value-adding experience for participants. At times, the wait time for the call centre has been too long. And the portal is not as easy to navigate as it might be. We are working with haste to address these and other issues through the Participant Pathway Review.
Through 13 workshops held with more than 300 stakeholders since April, we have sought feedback on what needs to improve. In conjunction with those stakeholders, we are now redesigning the pathway to deliver a quality experience that improves participant outcomes. This is a significant task. The new approach needs to be responsive to a diverse array of participants’ disabilities, backgrounds and geographies. We are trying to get it right for all participants regardless of those differences.
We are making good progress and are looking for quick wins that are consistent with the longer term approach. However, there is little doubt that as we continue to bring participants into the Scheme in accord with the Bilateral Agreements, we will continue to rely on the goodwill and patience of participants and the sector more broadly as we work with speed to address these fundamental issues.
Second, we are engaged in improving the quality of the provider experience. It has sometimes been variable. This became obvious in July 2016 when payments could not be made because of issues with the portal. While the payments issue was fixed, other underlying issues remain, including with the user-friendliness of the portal. To that end, in conjunction with the Participant Pathway Review, we are undertaking an end-toend review of the provider pathway. Again, good progress is being made. In addition, in response to feedback from providers, we are undertaking an Independent Pricing Review. The results of that review are expected to be given to the NDIA in December 2017.
Third, we are striving to roll out the NDIS in accordance with the ambitious schedule in the Bilateral Agreements at the same time as addressing the quality of the participant and provider experience. We are mindful of the need to balance the desire of participants to enter the Scheme as soon as possible and our obligations under the Bilateral Agreements between the Commonwealth and state and territory governments, with our commitment to ensure a quality experience for participants and providers.
Fourth, we are highly conscious of the need to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the Scheme. This is a responsibility we do not take lightly. The NDIS is an insurance scheme for all Australians, paid for through a “premium” by all Australian taxpayers. We have an obligation to them which we are committed to fulfilling. While underlying pressures have emerged, the Board and management of the NDIA are proactively taking measures to ensure the Scheme’s long-term financial sustainability.
Fifth, we are working with other government bodies and the sector to better communicate the role of the NDIA within the broader disability sector. The NDIS is not designed to provide all of the support required for all people with disability. It is designed to supplement the support provided through mainstream service systems, such as health and education, and the informal support provided by families, carers and communities. This complex picture of where to seek such assistance is not clear for many individuals, particularly those with psychosocial disabilities. We are working to eliminate this source of frustration in the lives of people with disability, their families and carers.
These are challenges that the Board of the NDIA is committed to addressing. Indeed, we are very fortunate to have a highly talented Board of Directors who have a shared view of the mission of the Agency and who have the skills to deliver on that commitment. In particular, I thank the Chairs of the committees of the refreshed Board for their dedication to the task: Mr John Walsh
(Sustainability Committee); Ms Sandra Birkensleigh (Audit Committee); Mr Jim Minto (Risk Committee); and Mr Paul O’Sullivan ( Committee).
I also thank the other continuing members of the Board, namely Professor Rhonda Galbally
(who also chairs the Independent Advisory Council); Mr Glenn Keys ; and Mr Martin Laverty, as well as the other new directors: Ms Robyn Kruk AM, Mr John Langoulant , Ms Estelle Pearson and Ms Andrea Staines. For my part, I consider myself immensely privileged to have been asked to take on this enormously challenging but very rewarding role. Like my colleagues, I am committed to getting it right for participants and to making a difference to their lives.
In that context, I also acknowledge and thank the former members of the Board led by Mr Bruce Bonyhady
for all they have done to get this ground-breaking Scheme up and running. This was a Herculean feat for which every participant, I am sure, is extremely grateful. It is a truly significant achievement which will long be recognised in the annals of Australian history. National Disability Insurance Agency Annual Report 2016–17 8 I also wish to acknowledge and thank the management and staff of the NDIA for all they are doing to bring this significant Scheme to fruition. As has recently been announced, there has been a change in leadership at the NDIA. Our outgoing CEO, Mr David Bowen — who announced in March 2017 his intention to retire — has made an enormous contribution to the NDIS and this Agency. Through his vision and tireless work, he has led the biggest social and economic policy reform in Australia this century. He was instrumental not only in establishing the NDIA, but also in wanting to ensure that it could truly change the lives of Australians with disability for the better.
In turn, we welcome our new CEO, Mr Rob De Luca, who is unequivocally committed to the mission of the NDIA. He has the vision, values, will and skill to ensure that the NDIA rises to the challenges it faces and moves forward in making a difference to the lives of participants in the Scheme. The Board of the NDIA knows that with his customer focus, drive, determination and willingness to embrace and engage the sector, our aspirations will be fulfilled.
Finally, the Board wishes to acknowledge the ongoing support it has received from participants and their families, as well as the disability sector more generally, and from the governments—the Commonwealth and the states and territories— as well as from politicians across the spectrum. One of the truly remarkable aspects of the NDIS is the community support that has been forthcoming. That is something we acknowledge and treasure.
Dr Helen Nugent , Chairman