SPEAKING OUT: Veronica Dobson struggled for a year and a half to get money from the NDIS to help her son Lawrence, who is profoundly deaf.
SPEAKING OUT: Veronica Dobson struggled for a year and a half to get money from the NDIS to help her son Lawrence, who is profoundly deaf. Leighton Smith

Local mum's push to fix NDIS after 1.5 year struggle

AFTER a frustrating year and half wait for NDIS to provide money to help her profoundly deaf son, Veronica Dobson is speaking out to encourage others struggling through the bureaucratic hurdles.

Last week, Mrs Dobson brought two folders worth of communication into The Morning Bulletin, charting the struggles she experienced between January 2018 and June 2019 trying to get a new speech processor for her 49-year-old profoundly deaf son Lawrence.

During her dealings with National Disability Insurance Scheme, she alleged there was incompetency, going around in circles, poor communication, possible stalling tactics and a lack of understanding about her son's requirements.

It was only on the eve of a $8000 specialist audiologist appointment in June that the NDIS finally relinquished the necessary money.

Mrs Dobson said when she took her concerns to local politicians including Capricornia MP Michelle Landry, she said they simply repeated back the wrong information they'd received from the NDIS and didn't understand what was really going on.

A National Disability Insurance Scheme employee who acknowledged that Mrs Dobson had been to "hell and back” commended her stated intention to continue to advocate on behalf of those struggling to get their packages.

"It really breaks my heart that people are still suffering trying to get speech processors, wheel chairs or prosthetic limbs that cost thousands of dollars,” she said.

"That's why I've got to keep pushing forward, lending my voice to them, because I must.

"I think there needs be a shake up. They need to get it right from the first appointment, listen to the person with the disability, listen to the specialists, streamline the process and get everyone on the same page.”

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Speaking about Lawrence's case, and whether changes had been made to improve processing times, an NDIA spokesperson said they recognised the importance of assistive technology.

"Since May 2018, low cost, low risk AT, under $1,500, could be purchased without further assessment, quotes or approvals once approved as reasonable and necessary in a participant's plan. This benefited an estimated 45 per cent of participants requiring AT,” the spokesperson said.

"Since December 2018, no more than two quotes have been required for AT costing greater than $1,500.

"Since February 2019, the NDIA has made it easier for our participants to replace their AT valued at less than $15,000 without the need for a detailed assessment.”

Veronica Dobson with her son Laurie in the gardens outside Rockhampton Hospital. Veronica is thanking hospital staff after her miracle recovery.  
Photo Sharyn O'Neill / The Morning Bulletin
Veronica Dobson with her son Laurie in the gardens outside Rockhampton Hospital. Sharyn O'Neill ROK010714srecover

Ms Landry said NDIS was one of the biggest, boldest, and most complicated pieces of public policy ever rolled out in Australia and as such there are a range of challenges it faces in meeting the needs of every Australian with a disability.

"My office has been in contact with Mrs Dobson before and I am only too happy to discuss the hold-ups her family has experienced,” she said.

"Any Central Queenslanders experiencing trouble negotiating their way through the NDIS is encouraged to reach out to their local MP. My office is always willing to help.”

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Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Stuart Robert, said the NDIS was a world-leading reform changing the lives of more people living with disability than ever before, with more than 300,000 Australians now receiving support through the scheme and more than 100,000 receiving disability-related supports for the very first time.

The most recent NDIS quarterly report also indicated 88 per cent of participants were satisfied with their planning experience, and 94 per cent of parents and carers with children under five years said the NDIS has had a positive impact on their child's development.

Mr Robert said the latest figures were evidence of the significant progress of the NDIS to provide greater choice and control to people living with disability, however further improvements to the delivery of the scheme were an ongoing priority.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison meets with stakeholders and participants of the NDIS during a roundtable meeting at the NDIS in Penrith, Sydney, Thursday, June, 13, 2019. The Prime Minister was joined by the Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert and Member for Lindsay Melissa McIntosh. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins) NO ARCHIVING
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for the NDIS Stuart Robert meeting with NDIS stakeholders and participants DEAN LEWINS

"The NDIS is delivering important outcomes for participants to live more empowered, independent lives and to achieve their goals. However, we recognise each person has individual needs,” Mr Robert said.

The NDIS reached a major milestone recently with Queensland joining six other states and territories with full scheme agreements which puts in place long-term funding and governance arrangements between governments, from July 1, 2020.

"The Queensland and Australian governments have agreed to continue transitional arrangements to July 1, 2020 in recognition of the state's current participant numbers, which are lower than estimated,” Mr Robert said.

Under the agreement, Queensland has committed to paying fixed contributions from the commencement of full scheme arrangements in 2020-21. This includes an annual value of $2.13 billion in 2020-21, which will be indexed each year until at least mid-2028.

The Commonwealth has committed to pay the balance of NDIS costs in Queensland and will also provide Queensland with access to $1.95 billion in DisabilityCare Australia Fund payments to 2023-24.

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Queensland Minister for Disability Services, Coralee O'Rourke said the Queensland Government was committed to ensuring the NDIS Full Scheme Agreement funded disability services in a fair, equitable and sustainable way into the future.

"The NDIS is making life-changing differences to the approximately 50,000 Queenslanders with disability who are in the scheme, which is now available in all areas of Queensland,” Ms O'Rourke said.

"This agreement puts Queenslanders with disability first and ensures our state only pays its fair share of the funding, particularly while tens of thousands of our residents continue to transition into the scheme.

"Importantly, this agreement gives us more certainty around the funding contributions of each government going forward.”

Mrs O'Rourke said more than $3 billion in support dollars had been committed to Queensland participants in their NDIS plans, and that these funds would continue to generate jobs across Queensland.