The NDIS has been a game-changer for thousands of Australians living with a disability. The funding they receive has allowed them to set their life up the way they want to, achieve the things they have a mind to.
But what about those who don’t get what they need from the NDIS? If they choose to appeal their case with the AAT, what does that look like?
At a September webinar hosted by EAC (Every Australian Counts), audience members were asked this very question, and they didn’t hold back: traumatic, soul-destroying, frustrating, exhausting.
Also present was the minister for the NDIS, Bill Shorten, who outlined how a new taskforce plans to turn this all around and get the appeals process working for the appellant.
What Is The Issue?
The appeals process for the NDIS has needed attention for some time. In May this year, the queue of cases before the AAT (Administrative Appeals Tribunal) sat at 4,501, a 400% increase on the previous year.
This has put many people in need of NDIS funding in a horrible positon. After waiting months (or years in some cases) for their appeal to be heard, appellants are giving up and resigning themselves to a life without the support they need. In some truly tragic cases, people have died waiting for their case to be heard.
The new chief counsel for the NDIA, Matthew Swainson, has acknowledged this, stating that many of those involved in the appeals process will have had a “terrible experience” and that the agency needs to look at how it’s doing things.
This frank assessment echoes the words of appellants themselves. Clearly, a scheme such as the NDIS whose agenda is to make lives easier can’t be having this effect on participants.
Bill Shorten plans to address these concerns with a new taskforce that will blitz the backlog of cases before the AAT. Here’s what we know so far.
What’s different about This Taskforce?
The minister was blunt when describing the point of the new taskforce: to ‘cut the bullshit’. By Christmas, it’s hoped to have churned through 2,000 of the 3,991 appeals awaiting AAT attention as of early September.
Not only is this taskforce supposed to do things faster, but in a different manner. Here’s how:
It will take a conciliatory approach.
Any process in Australia that involves lawyers tends to be adversarial, and that’s certainly how many people have found the AAT. The minister intends to change this so that the approach seeks to find a resolution favourable to the appellant, without unnecessary interference from lawyers.
It will be run by those who understand you.
Those running the taskforce will be trusted people from the disability sector, and it will be headed by none other than Graeme Innes. Knowing that those reviewing the appeals understand where the participants are coming from and the challenges they face brings a lot more trust and confidence to the process.
It’s voluntary and doesn’t affect your AAT position.
It’s up to you whether your case is heard by this new taskforce. If it is, it won’t affect your position in the AAT queue, and you can even the have the decision reviewed by your advocate and a lawyer to see if it gives you the support you need.
Consultation at every stage.
One of the main issues with the AAT process is the lack of communication. Months go by for some appellants while they wait for news of progress, only then to be contacted by a lawyer they don’t know. The new taskforce is committed to communicating with the appellant at every stage. How this communication takes place is also up to the participant. It can be through their advocate, a lawyer or someone else that they trust.
This Is Welcome News
The NDIS has given many the financial support they need to achieve what they want in life. But, like all ambitious schemes, there are still some kinks to be untwisted. This new taskforce is welcome news, and will hopefully change the appeals process from an adversarial one to a conciliatory one that works for the appellants.