A new report into the experiences of NDIS participants and their families during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic shows many were stretched to breaking point and let down by poor communication and a lack of support and help.
The report Left out and locked down by Every Australian Counts asked more than 700 NDIS participants and their families about the impact COVID-19 and the lockdown on their lives during the first wave of the pandemic, how they coped, and their views on changes made to the NDIS during this time.
Every Australian Counts Campaign Director Kirsten Deane, who gave evidence at the Disability Royal Commission today, said that people with disability and their families felt forgotten during the early weeks and months of the pandemic.
There was also a high level of frustration at the slow response of the government and the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) in addressing the particular needs of people with disability and their families.
“Life for most people with disability and their families is constant juggle at the best of times. Add a global pandemic and lockdown and many of these already precariously balanced lives were thrown into complete turmoil.
“People understand that the pandemic is unprecedented. No one expects government and agencies to get everything right all the time.
“But what they really needed at such a difficult time was simple and clear communication about what was happening, more support to manage the challenges they were facing and greater flexibility in using their NDIS funding so they could get what they needed to stay safe and well.
“And what the survey results show is unfortunately this is not what many people received.”
Ms Deane said despite the fact that people with disability are one of the most at risk groups from COVID-19 they had to wait more than a month for a government plan addressing their specific needs.
“The results of the survey show that support for the NDIS is still very strong. People went to great lengths to express their gratitude for the NDIS and the difference it had made.
“But the responses also made clear that many were frustrated by confusing and inconsistent information, an inability to use their NDIS funds in a way that worked for them and lack of support trying to manage the changes the pandemic had made to their lives.
“These issues are the same issues that we hear about the NDIS all the time. But in the middle of a pandemic they not only contributed to people’s stress and anxiety but more importantly stood in the way of them getting what they needed to stay safe and well.”
Left out and locked down outlines six key changes NDIS participants and their families believe are needed to improve the NDIS and make sure people with disability have what they need over coming weeks and months.
“Our message to all levels of government and to the NDIA is – this is very far from over. We need everyone to work together and urgently make changes so people can get the support they desperately need.”
The survey can be found on the Every Australian Counts website: