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The NDIS review – Claire Wittwer-Smith unpacks what it means for providers and participants

An image of Claire Wittwer-Smith.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) review is underway and it’s an opportunity for providers to have a say about how to make the Scheme better for everyone.

As a former National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) staffer, who went on to create My Plan Manager from her kitchen table in 2014, our founder, Claire Wittwer-Smith, knows the NDIS inside and out. We spoke with her about the review, her vision for how the NDIS can return to its roots, and why it’s so important to hear from everyone in the Scheme – providers and participants.

To start with, Claire says she believes the Albanese government is truly committed to implementing the Scheme in the way it was designed in legislation.

“I think the Federal Government really wants the opportunity to shape it and get it right, true to the legislation,” Claire says.

“After all, it was a Gillard government that implemented it and it follows on from Medicare, which was the Whitlam government. Both initiatives are based on the principles of fairness and equity for all, and that everyone has the opportunity to develop to their full potential, and that’s what we’re aligned to here at My Plan Manager.”

About the NDIS review

Bill Shorten, Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, announced a review of the NDIS in October 2022. The review, led by an expert panel and co-chaired by Professor Bruce Bonyhady AM and Lisa Paul AO, has the goal of putting people with disability back at the centre of the NDIS and restoring trust, confidence and pride in the Scheme.

The review will have two parts:

  • Part 1 will look at the way the NDIS is designed, how it operates, and how it will be sustainable as an insurance scheme into the future.
  • Part 2 will look at ways to make the NDIS and the workforce it needs responsive, supportive, and sustainable.

Crucially, Minister Shorten has said that changes will begin happening to the NDIS before the review’s completion date. He’s already made changes to the way the NDIS operates, with a commitment to putting more people with lived experience at the helm – including NDIA Chair, Kurt Fearnley – and a new culture at the Agency.

Provider contributions are vital

Claire says providers should be contributing to the review as it will take feedback from everyone involved in the NDIS to make the review – and the Scheme – a success.

“I think we have to work together to make the Scheme a success. I’m sure we would all agree that the most important voices are the participants and ensuring that participants are able to reach their potential and live their lives with the intended quality that an insurance scheme brings,” she says.

“I think we should look at how the caring sector actually starts to work together. We have the disability sector, aged care, child care – I think we should start streamlining our education in those areas, so your qualifications and skills are transferable and we’re not duplicating training and paperwork unnecessarily.

“There are such similarities in terms of supporting vulnerable people – children and adults – how participants access funding and so on, and we should be capitalising on that.”

Claire says it’s also important that the wider community understands the benefits of the NDIS and recognises it’s an insurance scheme – not welfare.

“It shouldn’t be seen as a burden. I think we need to get better at measuring the benefits of the Scheme – what it’s providing – not only in terms of economics, but in terms of quality of life for people with disability and their families. It’s about everyone having a fair go.”

The value of participant feedback

Claire says listening to client feedback and implementing it has been a gamechanger at My Plan Manager, so she knows the NDIS review has the power to make change.

“Clients have been able to help us understand what a plan manager should be providing for a participant, and the information and insight they give us about that is so rich,” she says. “If you want to be able to provide a good service, you have to be able to listen and be informed by your consumers.”

The NDIS review is open for feedback until the end of the year. However, early feedback is always valuable, and Minister Shorten has said changes will be implemented while the review is open.

To provide feedback, or for more information on supporting your clients to provide their feedback, go here: https://www.ndisreview.gov.au/have-your-say/have-your-say-online

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My Plan Manager acknowledges the objectives of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

My Plan Manager acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia, and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures, and to Elders both past and present.
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