People with disabilities are missing medical appointments and becoming isolated in their own homes due to a change in the way they can access their NDIS funding, advocates say.
In July this year the National Disability Insurance Agency changed the way people with disabilities could claim funding for transport, banning transport costs being claimed under participants' core support funding.
In the past, if a participant's transport funding ran out, they could use the larger core support funding pool to get themselves out of the house, to medical appointments, social events and other activities.
"It does nothing but create anxiety," said Grieg Chapman, advocate at ACT Disability Aged Care Advocacy Service. Mr Chapman said the change has been hard to understand by some people with disabilities, who now face paying for transport on low incomes.
"Once it's explained, they're really unhappy about it. Most of my clients are on the disability support pension, so they live sparingly.
"The problem is the NDIS, as great as it is with giving people opportunities to access therapies they probably didn't think about prior to NDIS, it becomes difficult to get there because they have to start putting their hand in their pocket to get there, which they don't have a lot of."
The issue is a particular worry in Canberra, which is a most car-dependent city, and where not all public transport is accessible.
Mr Chapman is worried people with disabilities are missing out on appointments and activities due to the cost of getting to them.
"They've said they won't attend, they can't afford to attend, they're concerned about using their budget too quickly."
As well as the isolation and health issues related to people with disabilities, Mr Chapman is deeply concerned that people with disabilities may get themselves into debt in order to pay to keep up with their commitments.
More than 30 local organisations met at a forum on November 8 to discuss issues around transport and the NDIS, sending a letter to the agency's chief executive Martin Hoffman outlining their concerns.
In reply, Mr Hoffman maintained the rules had not necessarily been changed but had been clarified, meaning that claiming transport costs under the core support budget is "now contrary to the current NDIS rules".
He acknowledged the change meant participants and providers would need to change their approach.
The response was "very disappointing," Mr Chapman said.
Bill Aldcroft, business development manager at QuestCare, an ACT-based disability service provider, said the ruling put him in a difficult position - legally he had to obey the rule, but it is hard to know his clients are missing out on transport they could previously use.
"We can't do a good service," Mr Aldcroft said.
The decision also made it difficult for providers to be able to know how many staff to employ and know that the NDIS funding would cover the costs of the services provided. The letter sent to the NDIS boss said providers risked insolvency by absorbing the costs associated with transporting clients.
Mr Aldcroft and Mr Chapman were part of a round table meeting with Canberra MP Alicia Payne and Labor's spokesman on NDIS issues Bill Shorten on Tuesday.
"The broader issue probably is to do with the pricing guide and the fact that adequate funding for transport isn't being provided," Ms Payne said.
"But the immediate issue is that people have this funding in their core supports, which as of 1 July a sort of NDIA bureaucratic decision has meant that they can longer access that and worse than that they are making providers who are trying to do that feel like criminals for helping people access the services that they need."
In the final parliamentary sitting fortnight, a bipartisan committee looking at issues with NDIS planning recommended that the National Disability Insurance Agency "immediately implement a mechanism to allow participants to pay for transport out of core funding".
A spokesman for Minister Stuart Robert said the government would respond to the committee's report "in due course".
Transport funding has been the subject of reform in recent months, with the federal government committing to re-imburse state and territory governments for taxi subsidy schemes for NDIS participants from January 1 until October 2021, and an increase in the costs that can be claimed for some travel-related items.