People with a disability would be at risk of poor quality support and struggle to find a place with providers if service prices remain too low, a disability peak body warns.
Pricing has been just one of the problems identified in the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in the ACT, National Disability Services chief executive Ken Baker said.
About 650 NDIS participants, carers, and providers are meeting in Canberra for the NDS's two-day conference this week – the largest of its kind in the ACT.
When the NDIS roll-out began in the ACT last July, the territory's pricing was the highest in the country, but Dr Baker said the NDS felt service pricing especially for one-to-one support was inadequate across the country and negotiations were continuing with the National Disability Insurance Agency.
"The price underpins service quality and choice, if the price is too low there won't be enough providers to offer services or the quality of service they will offer will be inadequate," he said.
"In general across Australia the new prices [under the NDIS] are less than providers have been receiving."
Transitioning from the ACT government funded system had also proved problematic with some providers forced to carry the financial burden when there was a gap before NDIS funds began, Dr Baker said.
The planning and assessment for NDIS participants was another area that needed improvement, with Dr Baker advocating for the role to be handed over to the non-government sector rather than the NDIA.
"I think it's reasonable the agency [NDIA] would want to check people's eligibility and allocate them an individual budget, but much of that discussion about what's the best way to support this person to achieve their goals is best taken place outside the agency with their family and service providers," he said.
Rather than the desperate lack of cash that strangled the sector previously, disability advocate Dougie Herd from Every Australian Counts said the new challenge was taking feedback from NDIS participants to ensure the scheme met their justifiably high standards and eased their anxieties.
"It's better for us to work to solve these problems of new support, growth and development rather than the old system in which the problem was really about when will we ever get enough money to meet people's needs," he said.
"All jurisdictions have been rationed by available dollars over the last 10 years or so."
Mr Herd said before the roll-out there were about 2500 people with a disability accessing the ACT system; the extra money made available under the NDIS would allow the number to double by the end of 2019.
While Dr Baker was confident all the issues will be ironed out as the ACT trial site transition continues, he said many questions surrounding the NDIS rollout could not be answered while the design of the scheme was still evolving making it difficult for organisations and individuals to plan.
"At present it feels like a construction site, it has all the promise and excitement… but all the frustration, disruption and problems of building something new while the plan is still evolving," he said.
Dr Baker said unlike other trial sites the NDIS roll-out in the ACT offered an opportunity to examine how people with a disability who missed out a full NDIS package could still access support.
While the number of providers in the ACT was sufficient for now, Dr Baker said as the scheme expands there will be room for more with interstate organisations already expressing interest.
Mr Herd said he expected new forms of service support to cope with the increasing demand.
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