Collen Pritchard , Caringa CEO Rachel Choy, and chair Vince Castle share a laugh with National Disability Services chief executive Ken Baker (second from left)
Collen Pritchard , Caringa CEO Rachel Choy, and chair Vince Castle share a laugh with National Disability Services chief executive Ken Baker (second from left) Adam Hourigan

Pitfalls of NDIS rollout can be overcome

THE shortcomings of the National Disability Insurance Scheme rollout have been picked over in Grafton by the National Disability Service's top man.

At Caringa Enterprise Ltd's annual general meeting on Tuesday, special guest and NDS chief executive Ken Baker spoke to members of the board and employees about what he saw as the way forward for the scheme.

The local disability support service has been facilitating the transfer of their clients to the NDIS as a registered provider, since it came to the Clarence Valley in July.

Mr Baker said he still believed in the overall vision and destination of the NDIS, but admitted the rollout of the program so far failed to impress on many levels.

"If we can deliver this scheme, we will have a world-leading disability support program across Australia,” he said.

"But the implementation of the NDIS is difficult. It was always going to be complex... but I think its proving a rockier, rougher road than we anticipated.”

One of the biggest concerns highlighted by Mr Baker was a heavy focus on the quantity of individual NDIS plans being drawn up, at the expense of the quality of those plans.

"The scheme has moved from around 30,000 participants nationwide at the end of June 2016, to now over 100,000 participants,” Mr Baker said.

"That great surge has been at the expense of the quality of people's plans. "What we're hearing is yes there are some good plans, but some planning has been really poor.

"We don't want people to get less than they need, in terms of support, to live decent lives.”

Mr Baker said one way to combat this was to make sure planning was done face-to-face, rather than over the phone, and in the company of the NDIS recipient's friends or family.

The cost of the plan - which was originally estimated $22 billion a year once the NDIS is fully operational - was also in danger of blowing out, he said, partly due to a higher than expected number of children aged 0-6 that were being signed up.

Mr Baker finished by going through some of the 24 recommendations from the NDS to improve the scheme's implementation.

"There are significant problems, but they are not insurmountable,” he said.

Caringa CEO Rachel Choy said it was a real honour to have Mr Baker speak at the AGM, which was a first as far as she was aware.

"It was a really valuable exercise for Caringa and an honour, because Ken is a really busy man and usually doesn't speak outside NDS forums and government forums,” Ms Choy said.

"I don't think it's ever been done before. But Ken's given me feedback that he's really impressed with Caringa, and Grafton itself too.

"He thought it was a beautiful town.”



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