Video via abc.net.au/7.30/
Last night ABC TV’s 7.30 program told the story of Francis, a young man with severe disabilities trapped inside the Melbourne Assessment Prison because, under the NDIS, there was no-one willing to care for him on the outside.
Victoria Legal Aid lawyer Sonia Law, who is representing Francis, told the program that despite the great promise of the NDIS, the system is failing some people with complex needs:
“So the fear of the NDIS is that we give funds to a person, they go out to the marketplace, they can choose the service provider that best meets their needs, but if there is not a service provider who wants to provide that service, there is no market, then that person’s funds are really of no use to them.”
This case aligns with warnings from VCOSS members that the market-based nature of the NDIS combined with inadequate pricing may create disincentives for providers to assist people with complex needs. This could result in services ‘cherry picking’ participants or services withdrawing from providing more intensive support, leaving some people without services.
This analysis is also consistent with broader issues about how the NDIS and justice system intersect that VCOSS raised in our submission to the Commonwealth’s Inquiry into Transitional Arrangements for the NDIS.
As the submission highlights, COAG principles indicate the NDIS will support people involved in the criminal justice system in the community, but will not provide supports upon entering prison, whether on remand or during a custodial sentence.
This creates a lack of service continuity for people in the justice system, particularly given the limited supports available for people with disability in the justice system. Disrupted care may comprise their health and wellbeing and increase their chance of reoffending.
VCOSS members also report other access issues for NDIS participants in custody including difficulties accessing the NDIS portal to plan for re-entering the community, due to limited computer and internet access.
Providing people with continuity of care before, during and after any custodial sentence can improve outcomes for these people and improve community safety.
VCOSS members report two cases of NDIS participants having intensive psychology treatment cut as a result of moving to the NDIS. In both cases, the individuals were receiving funding through their Victorian Individual Support Packages for psychological services to help reduce offending related behaviour and promote pro-social behaviour and broader life skills.
The NDIA has ruled this support is not ‘reasonable and necessary’ on the grounds it relates to offending behaviour. However, the COAG principles states the NDIS will cover:
“supports to address behaviours of concern (offence related causes) and reduce the risk of offending and reoffending such as social, communication and self-regulation skills…”
The NDIS must be designed and resourced to assist all eligible people with disability. The pricing model should be amended to cover the costs of supporting people with complex needs. Alternative funding arrangements should also be considered for ‘thin markets’ such as block funding core services and retaining ‘a provider of last resort’.
Without these supports, and a broader rethink about how the NDIS should interact with the justice system, people like Francis risk being abused and forgotten by the very structures that are supposed to assist and empower them.