What we heard when the NDIS Review Panel shared their ideas in Newcastle
The Australian Government announced an independent review of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in October 2022.
Over the past year the members of the NDIS Review Panel have been talking with people from across the disability community about their experiences of the NDIS and what needs to change. They have also received submissions and other feedback from consultations around Australia.
As the panel prepares its report for Government, they have started sharing what they have heard and ideas that will be included in their recommendations.
On 22 August, panel co-chair Professor Bruce Bonyhady spoke about the future of the NDIS in Newcastle NSW. He was joined by the other panel members for a Q&A session. The event was livestreamed for people around the country.
Professor Bonyhady said “we must stop thinking of the NDIS as though it is a limitless Magic Pudding … governments, service providers, and some people with disability and their families, have all started to treat the NDIS as a limitless resource.”
Members of the Inclusion Australia team who are also NDIS participants were listening online. They have shared their feedback on what they heard in Professor Bonyhady’s speech and questions that they have for the Panel.
The team had some feedback on the accessibility of the speech. Together we have created an Easy Read summary of the NDIS Review Panel speech to help explain some of the big ideas. You can download the summary below.
Brooke Canham, Policy Officer at Inclusion Australia, shares her experience of her first meeting since joining the NDIS Intellectual Disability Reference Group
The IDRG is a group of people with intellectual disability, academics, advocates, providers and parents. The group was formed in 2015 to make sure the voices of people with intellectual disability are heard more clearly by the NDIS. The IDRG makes the NDIS more inclusive for people who have an intellectual disability. Their lived experiences highlight of what needs to change and ways to make things better and more equal within the NDIS.
In August, I travelled to Adelaide because I am a part of a group called the Intellectual Disability Reference Group (IDRG). They held their August meeting in Adelaide.
When I arrived at the meeting, we had morning tea straight away. We had the chance to talk to some of the members and I introduced myself.
We received a file of the papers in colour-coded folder. This made it easier to understand what people were talking about. It made it easier to get to the page I needed, as there were page numbers listed in the easy read file.
We all introduced ourselves around the table and spoke about what we do and where we all live in Australia.
During the meeting, the main things the group talked about were:
Making the new Supported Decision Making policy work
The justice system
I think the IDRG is important because it gives people with intellectual disability a platform to have their voice heard and share their ideas about the NDIS and give advice to the NDIA.
There are lots of things I am looking forward to as a member of the IDRG:
Having my voice heard and opinions heard and respected.
Have some more face to face meetings and more travel as this helps my independence grow.
Having more in-depth conversations with the members
Meeting more people who are on the IDRG.
Hearing from past people who were on this group before about their experiences on the IDRG.
The biggest thing I think I can contribute to the IDRG is my voice and therefore being heard at these meetings. I feel like I get my voice across while speaking in this group and am able to share my opinions.
I think the IDRG’s biggest strength is that it brings together different people with intellectual disability from all different backgrounds to share their lived experiences. This can help make the NDIS and other parts of Australia more inclusive of people with intellectual disability.
It’s important that the NDIA gets to hear from different people and that the IDRG members are able to speak up and also getting the chance to disagree with each other—this means the conversation is very strong!
My hope for the IDRG and the impact we can make into the future is:
Making the NDIS more accessible and make it more inclusive and more accessible for people with an intellectual disability.
Making more accessible information in an Easy Read for people with an intellectual disability.
Trying to make mainstream services more inclusive.
Making things more accessible for people with disability so they can better understand and focus on how the planning works – breaking it down into steps.
Congratulations to Ben Hankin from the Inclusion Australia Northern Territory team (IANT) who has been invited to join the NT Disability Advisory Committee.
The Committee gives advice to the Minister for Disabilities about things that are important to people with disability in the Northern Territory.
Ben attended his first meeting of the Advisory Committee last week. Ben and Liz Collier, IANT Manager, presented to the Committee about employment for people with an intellectual disability.
After the meeting Ben and Liz met with the Northern Territory Minister for Disabilities, Ngaree Ah Kit and talked about how important open employment and fair pay are for people with an intellectual disability. They also talked about how to include people with an intellectual disability in deciding how to improve employment for people with disability in the NT.
Ben and Liz talked about the work IANT has done to hear what people with an intellectual disability think about the NDIS for the NDIS Review, and the work the team would like to do in the NT in the next year. It was great to hear that Minister Ah Kit still had the Traffic Light cards for inclusive meetings that the IANT team gave her in April.
This week Ben and Liz met with Bill Shorten, Federal Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) for a working lunch and attended a meeting for the first annual report of the NT Disability Strategy Action Plan at Parliament House in Darwin.
Ben said he wants to use his position on the Disability Advisory Committee to make sure that everyone has the same accessible information and to talk with people with an intellectual disability about speaking up.
It will be great to see what Ben achieves during his three-year term.
Inclusion Australia staff member, William Ward-Boas reports on his experience at the Disability Employment Australia Conference in Brisbane.
Disability Employment Services (or DES for short) are funded by the Australian Government to help people with disabilities to find work. The DES program presents significant barriers to people with an intellectual disability to open, inclusive and equitable employment. Fewer than 4% of DES participants have an intellectual disability.
A review of DES is taking place as part of government reforms to increase open employment of people with disabilities. This was a big focus at the recent two-day Disability Employment Australia Conference in Brisbane.
William Ward-Boas, Your Service, Your Rights Project Coordinator at Inclusion Australia attended the conference. As a former DES user, William was invited to participate in a panel session, Quality Servicing and Different Perspectives. This was exploring a new approach to measuring quality of service delivery by DES providers, including what quality looks and feels like for people with an intellectual disability.
William was a little worried before the panel session, with over 150 people in attendance at the conference. ‘I was ball of anticipation and nerves from the moment I woke up until I walked on stage.’
However, once on stage, he felt instantly comfortable. He talked about his work on the Your Service, Your Rights project which is about people with an intellectual disability using NDIS services to understand their rights, how to make a complaint, what support there is and how to be involved in their service. He also shared his own experience of being a DES participant earlier in his career.
William had some advice for DES providers, telling the audience ‘I would like providers to not just take a client on for the sake ticking a box, but to really understand the person.’ William also said providers need to ‘really think aboutwhat support people need, what is not working and how things can be better.’
Other sessions covered topics such as duty of care, policy updates and the future of disability employment in Australia. ‘Some speakers were really insightful, positive and uplifting,’ said William. ‘However, others came from an ableist point of view and used lots of difficult to understand language.’
William was pleasantly surprised by a session run by Jodie Rogers, creator of the TV series ‘Love on the Spectrum.’ ‘Her presentation was well done. As a qualified sexologist and previously disability education, she does not fit squarely into the disability employment space, but I saw that she has a significant and positive impact to make.’
William felt the conference had a bit of a NDIS versus DES provider feel and offered his insights about how this could be improved. ‘With the NDIS being participant focused, and DES being results focused, it would be great to see some overlap between the two. If they coordinated their objectives, they could be a great team and provide great outcomes for people with a disability.’
Outside the conference, William enjoyed his first time in Brisbane. He did some sightseeing with many beautiful landmarks and a walk along the river. His favorite was the Channel 7 Ferris wheel which provided great views of the city.
As we shift into the second half of the year, we look forward to seeing how the DES program reform and other review processes – including the NDIS Review and the final report of the Disability Royal Commission – increase opportunities for people with an intellectual disability.
You can read our recent submissions on DES and employment here:
Inclusion Advisors from South Australia share their ideas for being more inclusive for people with an intellectual disability.
Our Towards Inclusive Practice website launched in April 2023 and the response across the country has been fantastic. The website and resources have been shared widely across many government departments and large organisations.
The project aims to share ideas and tips to help governments around Australia do work that is more inclusive and accessible for people with an intellectual disability. It was co-designed in partnership with a national network of people with intellectual disability who were employed as Inclusion Advisors.
Their work has not stopped though, and we were happy to receive this report from our friends at SACID in South Australia about how they have been promoting Towards Inclusive Practice with the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). Thank you to Mel Cheung, Towards Inclusive Practice project facilitator at SACID and to SACID Inclusion Advisors Gavin, Jo, Libby and Thomas for your great advocacy on inclusion.
Jo and Libby preparing for their talk to NDIA staff in South Australia
This month Jo, Thomas, Gavin, Libby and I presented to the NDIA about the Towards Inclusive Practice project.
We presented to 2 different groups online on Teams:
Jo and Libby presented to over 80 people from the NDIA Australian Compensation Branch.
Thomas and Gavin presented to 8 NDIA senior leaders from around the state.
We shared what the TIP project was about – tips on what the government can do to be more accessible and inclusive.
We also gave the NDIA team a sneak peek at 2 short videos from the project, including the Power and Trust films.
It was the first presentation Jo and Libby had done to people in government.
‘I felt honoured and they [the NDIA staff] took on what we said’, said Libby.
The NDIA asked what our final message was and Libby and Jo said ‘Listen to us, we are the boss, disability or no disability!‘
Gavin and Thomas said that they felt like they were listened to, and the NDIA senior leaders took note of what was said. They asked a lot of good questions.
Thomas and Gavin also shared some of their personal experiences with NDIA and what the NDIA could do better.
Gavin and Thomas said we should talk to more people in government, starting with the councils, and make more connections!
The videos we shared from the project were very powerful and effective. We felt that it strongly sends the message to people in government of what they can do to be more understanding and be more inclusive of people with disability.
We have since done another session with 25 NDIA Directors and Assistant Directors of across the country.
We look forward to sharing more of the resources from the TIP project 😊
Family members have a critical role in the lives of people with an intellectual disability. The experience of families will be crucial to shaping the future of the NDIS.
Inclusion Australia is running a series of online workshops as part of the independent review of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
These aim to give people with an intellectual disability, families, and other experts an opportunity to have a say in the Review.
Throughout July and August, we will be running online workshops on Zoom with family members.
We specifically seek your insights on the following topics:
☐ ‘Reasonable and necessary’ supports and group services – The NDIS can fund supports considered to be ‘reasonable and necessary’. Sometimes this leads to inconsistent decisions, with people with an intellectual disability asked to use their funding for group services, rather than 1:1 supports.
☐ Home and living – Home and living supports help people to live in their own home or in supported accommodation. Supported Independent Living (SIL) is a support for people who need lots of help at home. Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) are homes especially for people who have very high support needs.
☐ Complex support needs and restrictive practices – People who have complex support needs often need a lot of support to do everyday things. They are also more likely to experience restrictive practices when receiving supports.
☐ Access and planning – This is about applying for the NDIS and the process of NDIS planning meetings.
☐ Supported decision making – This is about people making their own decisions with the right support.
Each workshop will last two hours. Evening options will also be available.
Workshop participants will receive a payment of $140 for taking part.
All information will be deidentified to ensure your identity remains anonymous.
How to register
If you would like to join one of these workshops, please email Emma Bloom, Engagement Officer via [email protected]by Wednesday June 28.
Our first submission to the NDIS Review can be found here (more to come soon!)
Kalena represented the intellectual disability community at the conference, presenting on, ‘An Accessible NDIS: Learning from people with an intellectual disability and what needs to change’.
She said one word to sum up the conference would be “fancy”! On the first day Kalena walked into the main room and was shocked by how many people were there. There were over 1,000 people attending in person and online. “I felt like I was going on TV! There was a dressing room, and an area for speakers to wait before going on stage”.
As well as her own experience navigating the NDIS, Kalena was representing the work that Our Voice members have been doing around the country over the past year. This includes asking people with an intellectual disability about the NDIS and what needs to change. “Navigating the NDIS can be hard and stressful. Participants do not feel like they are being heard,” Kalena told us. “Because of these issues, people with an intellectual disability are not getting what they need from their NDIS plans.”
Kalena attended the conference with Maeve Kennedy, Senior Manager of Policy and Projects at Inclusion Australia. They identified things that could be helpful, including:
More information about what you can ask to be included in your NDIS plan.
Asking the right questions can help individuals meet their needs.
Easy Read Guides to make information easier to understand.
Easy Read NDIS plans.
Making the NDIS call center, website, and portal more accessible.
Treating people with a disability just like everybody else.
Kalena was also very interested to hear about the new NDIS Supported Decision Making policy. “Supporting decisions shows respect and understanding.” she told us. “I’m looking forward to finding out what the new policy means for people with disability and how it will work.”
Two other speeches at the conference stood out for Kalena. Senator Jordon Steele-John’s speech about a fair, accessible, and fully funded NDIS resonated with her. She also found Bill Shorten’s speech interesting. He spoke about how the NDIS is changing lives. And that participants can be reassured that the goal is to improve the system and not just save money. Kalena also enjoyed the speeches about quality and safeguarding and the Royal Commission.
This was also Kalena’s first time travelling alone. She told us she enjoyed seeing the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge for the first time. This was especially exciting as it was lit up with the Vivid Festival lights.
Kalena was very proud of herself. “I cried after my speech. People came up to me to say congratulations. Mostly from the Council for Intellectual Disability, and I cried even more. But in a way that I was thankful”.
Reflecting on the conference, Kalena said “the NDIS Review is a good chance to fix things and I am looking forward to seeing what happens”.
Join the conversation about open employment in this free online event by UTS.
People with disability historically have significantly lower rates of workforce participation than people without a disability. People with an intellectual disability face greater barriers to employment than most other people with disability. This increases the chance of people working in Australian Disability Enterprises or ADEs where they can be legally paid as little as $2.67/hour.
The Disability Royal Commission has highlighted exploitation, discrimination and other injustices experienced by people with intellectual disability working in ADEs and supported employment programs. Human rights violations are also experienced in other countries. Japan, for example, also has segregated workplaces and subminimum wages for people with intellectual disability.
People with an intellectual disability have the right to work on an equal basis with others, and to workplaces that are open, inclusive and accessible. Urgent change is needed to ensure fair pay, open employment and realisation of people’s right to work.
The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) is hosting a free online discussion with advocates and researchers to talk about disability, employment and human rights in Australia.
The event is on Friday June 16 from 11am-12pm, AEST.
They will explore such questions as:
What are the experiences of people with an intellectual disability working in supported employment programs?
What is wrong with segregated employment and subminimum wages?
What advocacy are people with intellectual disability and advocates leading in this area and what changes do they want to see?
How are families of people with intellectual disability supporting the calls for transition away from supported employment programs?
What are key features of inclusive open employment?
What good practice is already happening?
What does government need to do?
What can employers do?
How can the broader community support this transition?
This event will be hosted Dr Linda Steele, Associate Professor at Faculty of Law, Law Health Justice Research Centre and Disability Research Network, and Professor Simon Darcy Faculty of Business and Disability Research Network at UTS.
Their guests will include:
Brooke Canham, Policy Officer, Inclusion Australia
Sindre Bloch, Manager, More Than Just a Job, Council for Intellectual Disability
Jun Takagawa, Professor, Faculty of Contemporary Law, Tokyo Keizai University