News | 21 February 2019

The Proof is in the Portal

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A MacBook keyboard with a broken home key

Or perhaps, more accurately, how it was NOT working.

And because it was released in the chaos of Christmas we thought it was worth another more detailed look.

We also thought it was worth a longer look because so many of you contributed to this inquiry.

So just as a reminder … last year when we saw that the IT inquiry was about to close without getting many submissions, we asked you to send us some thoughts on what has and has not worked well for you. We packaged them up and sent in a big joint submission from over 450 of our supporters.

The inquiry was looking at:

  • The Portal (provider and participant)
  • NDIS website
  • The internal NDIS IT systems, used for things like planning and the call centre

We all know that there is a LOT that needs be done to improve the NDIS IT systems. At the Make It Work forums across Australia we heard time and time again about how the IT system seemed to be driving the roll out of the scheme – rather than the other way around.

For example the IT system requires a primary disability to be listed. But people’s lives rarely fit into neat little boxes – people often have multiple disabilities and the way they interact is often important. Which disability is “primary” also depends on circumstances.

There is also a lot riding on it – if the primary disability is wrong people may not end up with the right supports in their plan.

Many people told us at forums also told us they found the myplace portal hard to navigate and the language too confusing – it didn’t match what was on their plan or what they had been told over the phone.

Better, fit-for-purpose NDIS IT systems means an NDIS that is easier for all of us – we have and will continue to keep pushing hard on that.

But what does the Committee think needs to improve? Let’s have a look.

The overwhelming message from the Committee is that things need to SIGNIFICANTLY improve – and fast. There are too many problems, for too many people, and they’re slowing everything down.

They strongly argue that many of the problems wouldn’t exist if the portal, the website and the other infrastructure was co-designed with people with disability, families, carers and providers from the start.

And that many of the problems wouldn’t exist if communication from the NDIA was simple, clear and delivered when needed.

“Since its establishment in September 2016, the committee has consistently received evidence of the NDIA failure to communicate clearly, effectively and in a timely manner with participants and service providers.”

In short – tell people what’s going on. Tell participants, families, carers, providers, NDIA staff, LACs – everyone – what’s happening before it’s happened. Make information clear, consistent, accessible and appropriate. Make it quick and easy to find, in the format that works best for them.

Some of the other recommendations from the committee:

  • Co-design EVERYTHING right from the start and review regularly. Most of the current problems wouldn’t exist if more had been co-designed and tested from the beginning.
  • Tell people where they are. Too often emails go unanswered, and people are left waiting in limbo. Put a system in place that will help people work out where they are in a process, and outline what happens next and when.
  • Publish the changes that are being made to the participant pathway – with dates, and a schedule. Say when, where and how.
  • Make sure NDIA staff, LACs and call centre staff have access to clear, consistent, current and easy to access information themselves (via their internal ‘knowledge management system’) so that they’re passing on the right information, and following the best practices. That way we will get consistent info no matter who we speak to.
  • Don’t neglect the quality of the written information on the website. Again – clear, consistent, easy to understand.
  • Get Nadia, the chatbot developed a couple of years ago, out of mothballs and fire her up. Put her on the website and on the portal. Don’t make excuses for why she’s not ready – get on it.
  • Make it really easy to find user guides and troubleshooting info about the portal on the portal. Do the same with information about upcoming portal changes.
  • Staff need better internal resources. Get a move on and develop a ‘fit-for-purpose, robust knowledge-management system’ which would allow NDIA staff, contractors and LACs to find consistent, clear, and up-to-date information on policies, processes and easily and quickly. This will prevent so many problems further down the track.

Just like we have seen before, these recommendations look good on paper – but we won’t really know if they help until we see when and where and how they roll out.

Some have started already – the website has been redesigned (and they’re still taking feedback) and there have been changes to the portal to make it easier to use.

So we’ll be keeping an eye on their systems, looking for changes and making sure it gets easier for all of us to use.

And make sure you let us know what you think in the comments below.

In case you missed it – here’s our story on the Committee’s report into Assistive Technology.

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