Did you catch our live forum about NDIS AAT appeals with NDIS Minister Bill Shorten and NDIA Chief Counsel Matthew Swainson? You can find a quick summary, as well as the video recordings and the transcript right here.
A few weeks ago Every Australian Counts and our friends from Disability Advocacy Network Australia asked the NDIS Minister Bill Shorten, and the NDIA Chief Counsel Matt Swainson to join us for a conversation with people about fighting for NDIS supports at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
We wanted them to tell all of you about what they had been doing about it over the last few months, and find out what they wanted to do next.
And we wanted them to answer any questions you have about all of that – both in the forum but afterwards too.
But more importantly – we wanted them to hear directly from you.
So we held an online forum for people who have been through (or are in) the AAT with NDIS matters. We livestreamed it to Facebook too, and we have set up some feedback forms on our website over here.
If you missed it or want a refresher, you can find the video recordings below. Or if you’d like to read what was said you can keep scrolling down for the (very long) transcript.
Very quickly – what happened?
- In May 2022 there were 4,501 people with disability with cases against the NDIA at the AAT.
- At the time of the forum (September 2022) there were about 4,000.
- The Minister wants to get people out of there as fast as possible, in a way that respects and listens to people with disability, families, and advocates. He doesn’t like the way all of this was going under the old government.
- He said former Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes would be setting up an ‘oversight committee’ soon – for a new ‘alternative dispute resolution’ process for people who are at the AAT right now. Minister Shorten is hoping this committee would find ‘independent expert reviewers’ that would then help 2,000 get sorted with their AAT appeals before Christmas.
- It would be voluntary – meaning you could change your mind at any time and not loose your spot in the AAT queue.
- Minister Shorten said there would be a 1800 number for people to call and get help or advice from advocates – and advocates should get more funding because they don’t have enough to help everyone who needs it.
- The new(ish) Chief Counsel at the NDIA Matt Swainson said he had been meeting with advocates a lot lately, and he was really grateful to hear from you here too.
- He said the NDIA had looked at every single NDIS AAT case over the last few months. The NDIA had started calling people again about their AAT appeals, but not everyone (and an advocate said they had heard it wasn’t always a good process – it made sometimes made people feel pressured or confused). He said he wants the NDIA to do much better and one way to make that happen was by always listening to all of you.
- People with disability, family members and advocates asked very thoughtful questions. We will ask the NDIA and Minister for more detailed or updated answers, or give you the chance to ask them again in other online forums.
- We have set up a new section on our website where you can send us your questions for us to ask people like the NDIA and Minister to answer. Stay tuned for more…
Speaker view – YouTube
This video is a recording of the entire Zoom forum, using Zoom’s ‘speaker view’. That means the video shows the face (or screen) of whoever is speaking, meaning it shows just one person on the screen at a time.
Gallery view – Facebook livestream
This video is what people watching on Facebook saw live. Unfortunately we had some technical problems, so it didn’t start playing until a few minutes after we had already started the Zoom. That means the first few minutes are missing. We’re sorry about that!
This video shows the forum using Zoom’s ‘gallery view’. That means that you can see 20 people all at once in a grid from the first page of the Zoom forum on the screen the whole time. You can see the Auslan interpreters in this version, but they might be hard to follow on a small screen.
1 – Welcome, acknowledgements, housekeeping, accessibility, and tech support
Jean Cotchin, Every Australian Counts
Hello, everybody. We will wait a few moments for everybody to come out of the waiting room into the meeting. We won’t be very long. Thank you. We have almost 100 people with us now.
Thank you, all, for being here. We’re really appreciating your generosity, as always for being part of our wonderful community and helping to shape the future of the NDIS.
Before we get started I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands on which we are all meeting, I am coming to you this morning from Wurundjeri land and I’d like to pay my respects to Elders, past and present and acknowledge any First Nations people we have in the Zoom or in the livestream or in the pre-recorded video.
I want to acknowledge all the people with disability, family members and workers and advocates who have come before us and done a lot of hard work to get us to this point. Thank you.
Before I introduce our guests, I will run through a few housekeeping things. Because this is set up a bit differently to the way we would normally do things, we have a Zoom forum with 100 or so people, and we’ve asked for the Zoom forum people to primarily be people with disability, family members and/or advocates or other supporters who have been through the AAT process themselves in some way.
Because we don’t want anyone to miss out, we have limited the number of people so that you people in the Zoom get a decent chance of having a say. We also have people tuning in from Facebook and YouTube. We may have been having some technical problems with one of them, hopefully it’s resolved.
For all of us in the Zoom, we appreciate you having your cameras on if you are comfortable with that. Because it is public in the sense that people in the livestreams are able to watch, it means anybody is able to watch. We have reason to believe there may be some media watching, it could be anybody. If you are not comfortable with that, for any reason, that is fine, you can turn your camera off or change your name, use an alias – whatever you feel comfortable with.
In addition to that, we have got Chelsea and her colleague, Auslan interpreters, who will be taking it in turns to interpret – and I have just reminded myself I am probably speaking too quickly. I will take it a bit more easily.
We also have live captioning. If you are in the Zoom, you can click the CC button at the bottom to bring it up, and we will post a link in the chat shortly, which you can click to open the transcript in a browser window, which some people find easier.
That brings me to my next point, Sophie, technical support today, for those in the Zoom, you can send her private messages if you need, if you are having problems with the tech. It is quite a large group, defaulted so everyone except for our guests are not able to use the microphone. But we want to hear from you all. Or as many as possible. When we get to that point, our tech support people will weave their magic and click a button that allows you to come off mute, but you will have to respond by accepting it or not. It’s a bit tricky. But it makes life easier for interpreters and captioners.
I think that’s everything re housekeeping.
2 – About this forum
The reason we are here is because, as you know the last few years – particularly the last 12 months – have been really difficult. We’ve seen record numbers of people with disability having to go to the AAT to do external appeals to get things sorted out.
It’s been really hard, and everybody in our community has been really wonderful and supporting each other where they can, so that we can make sure this is an issue we can get sorted out. And thankfully, we have a new Minister for the NDIS now, Bill Shorten, thank you, and a new Chief Counsel at the NDIA, Matt Swainson. Matt has been there for a few months.
I’ve been having some conversations with both the Minister and Matt and people in their teams, and so have some other groups, but we decided it was a good idea to open the conversation up to all of you. Thank you for being here. We hope that today is a new beginning for the way that our community works with the NDIA and the Minister for the NDIS. I appreciate Matt and Minister Shorten taking a leap of faith here and joining us to hear from you about what is important.
A quick outline of what you can expect from today… first up we will do a mood check, we have a tool called Civility and we will use that at three points throughout the forum. It will help us – especially the visual learners amongst us – to get a sense of how people are feeling, what matters and what’s important, and what we want to see change.
I want to also, and I will remind you all throughout the forum, this is not our only opportunity to give feedback and be heard. We have more stuff on the website and we are hoping this is just the beginning of a larger conversation. We will begin with a mood check and then we will hear from Minister Shorten. And then we will hear from Chief Counsel Matthew Swainson and we will have a chance to have questions from the audience. We will follow up with other things you think are important for the Minister and the NDIA to hear, particularly around what you would like to see change with the appeals system and in response to what we are about to hear from them both.
We may not be able to give you all the answers today, the Minister and Matt won’t be able to give us all the answers, but we will do our best to do as much as we can, we will collect everything and follow up with them afterwards as well.
It’s going to be tricky for them to address, or make promises about individual cases at this point. I think one of the more powerful things we can use this moment together for is to make it easier for the people who are making decisions, not just the two of them, others too, who are tuning in, to see how some of these issues that affect you as individuals are systemic. That is, they affect lots of people in similar ways and if we can address the root causes and problems for you and other people, hopefully that will make a significant difference.
3 – Mood check
Alright, moving on, it would be good to hear how you are feeling now about how things have been for you with the appeals process. Sophie is going to pop a link in the chat which will take you to a tool called Civility, it’s a bit like menti.com. If anyone has used that before. This will let us get a sense of how people are feeling right now. Sophie, there we go. This might not work for everybody, you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. But we will, we have tested it for accessibility, you can ask Sophie if you have problems, ask her in the chat.
What we have now and the screen is this QR Code, so go to WW W.menti.com, and go — enter the code, ‘6169702’. This is also a QR Code which means you can get your smart phone come out and if you just hover over the QR Code it will bring a linkup which allows you to open it. Once you have opened it, there is a button with a love heart on it. If you hit that, it allows us to see how many people have joined in and I can see that we now have 70 or so, increasing. And the next option, Sophie, will bring up the question for the new check. Here we go.
After you have pressed the love button…what one word would you use to describe the NDIS appeals process?
I think I can have some guesses about people’s words to describe how they feel about the AAT appeals process and what you have thought about that. We will read out the answers and they will come on the screen. Is that right, Sophie? There we go.
So we have a word cloud on the screen now. The biggest word by far is frustrating. Followed by traumatising, dramatic, complex, exhausting, difficult, disgraceful, soul-destroying, unnecessary, confusing, and inaccessible.
There are many more. We will share the results of this and it more thoroughly afterwards. But I think that helps us show how this has made people feel. And if anyone else is in doubt.
Hopefully, that is the end of that now. Thank you.
You can also pop your answers into the chat, as well. We would appreciate that also. Thank you, all.
That is a bit of a tricky one for the Minister to follow. Not that he is unaware. Minister Shorten joined us at the rally that we held before the election, which we are really grateful for. So thank you, Minister, for always listening to our community and being here today. I will let you address the community, thank you.
4 – Statement from the Minister
Bill Shorten, Minister for the NDIS
Thank you. I would like to acknowledge that wherever you are in Australia, for this session, you are on Aboriginal land. Always was, always will be. But I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.
I think we need to be truthful here.
I think the Agency and I am now the Minister for the agency and we must acknowledge that the internal review process, is unaccountable, the AAT Process is complex, and in most cases broken.
Under the previous Liberal government, a number of participants were seeking external reviews and that increased by 400%. It appeals to a number of participants and that has more than doubled.
Since being elected, my office is inundated with people experiencing problems. I think under the previous Ministers there were about 250 matters a month that politicians would get in that office. We are at 1,250 a month.
After the election in May of this year, the end of May, there were 4,501 active cases in the AAT.
I committed before the election to take this clear problem and I pledged that we would have an alternative dispute mechanism to make the appeals process better for people with disability.
I am here today to ask you and hear from you about the weight of this commitment, and I acknowledge Chief Counsel Matt Swainson is here, and I want to reveal the real problems with the review for the NDIS processes.
We are here to listen and to gather the most (inaudible) ideas and your feedback will help shape a trial pilot to trial a model for dispute resolution.
I am determined to put people with a disability back at the centre of the NDIS.
The conversation today is a small part of Labor’s commitment to this consultation.
I think this consultation and the ongoing dialogue I want to have with you about the best way to do — address the AAT is this. I want to rebuild trust and work together with these problems.
I acknowledge the NDIS efforts in recent months particularly since the election has been (inaudible) to improve the appeals backlog. The shift has reduced the overall caseload by about 10%. It is just under 4,000 active cases as of 19 September. From 4 1/2 thousand.
I get that sometimes there will be disagreements in the scheme. But in my opinion, especially in recent years, the scheme was being managed not by sensible planning decisions or internal review, but rather by reference to the AAT. And I think it is a terrible way to manage the scheme.
I am deeply conscious that one way to help resolve the series of cases is to have a better initial planning process. And also to have more transparent internal review. And for the agency to provide written reasons rather than a way to (inaudible).
I want to make sure that the Model Litigant Rules apply in all cases and I think there has been an overuse of external lawyers which has created an unfair David and Goliath sort of struggle.
It is clear to me that we need to improve future processes. As part of that, we must deal with the legacy cases with people right now under the AAT.
I am interested in the things that participants know and need for a clearer and more efficient process, but we need a circuit breaker to consider individual participant cases.
So I am interested to understand how long it should take to get an outcome. I am sure there will be a lot of items here about how the NDIA can do things better. But also what kind of support I needed to navigate this process. I appreciate Jean and every Australian Counts and any new processes for internal dispute resolution in the future must have continued scrutiny and that is to be conditional advocacy support when trialling things with these advocacy cases.
So one, we want to set up an oversight committee to help the existing cases. The oversight committee has got to be trusting people with disability in that sector. Advocates, I am pleased to announce that this will be chaired by Graeme [Innes], Australia’s former Disability Discrimination Commissioner.
They are going to do, is the oversight committee, once it is created, those members will appoint expert reviewers. These are independent reviewers from the Agency, to which there are thousands of cases of the AAT.
To be very clear. This is a voluntary process. No one loses their place in the queue.
Now participating in the review of the matter does not mean they have to accept what the reviewer says. This is an entirely voluntary extra effort to try and cut the bullshit and just get on with the issues.
We’ll be consulting with people with disability and their experts at every stage.
If that works you want to get to 2,000 matters which are currently on the waiting lists before Christmas, although I would love to see everyone’s matter looked at as soon as possible.
And I am of the view that many of these matters with participants were arguing things can and should be fixed and they should not require a participant to have to (inaudible) all the way to the door of the court.
I think the current situation is repellent and repugnant and it is not acceptable for this government or any government to behave in this way.
Someone would lose their place in the queue by this additional process? No one. I get that a lot of people would have an aversion to this question, but the NDIA has been stumbling around with it for a long time. I’m sick of getting reports, it is costing a lot of participants suffering.
What is going to change? I want the bad old days dispensed with, I want to knock off and resolve thousands of these matters and by that I mean resolve in the interests of the participant. There will be proper supports with an oversight committee.
I just want to make very clear on behalf of participants, as far as I’m concerned, I say this clearly to the NDIA, (inaudible) adversarial approach is not the approach which I support.
As Minister, I want the process to change so that participants experience a much better, much better respect than they currently have.
With that sort of introduction, I also want to make it clear that when people, if we have this alternative review process, it is without prejudice, people don’t have to do it, they don’t have to accept it. If they’ve got questions though, there will be a 1800 number which will be supported by advocates, advocates will then be involved in helping provide resources and reports, and ultimately if an offer is made by an expert reviewer, then the participant should have the right to be able to get some agreed legal support just to assess this.
And I now want to hand over to Matt, and acknowledge that Matt has got things moving since he has been Chief Counsel. So I would ask you to listen to him with an open mind. It is not more of the same business as usual. Over to you, Matt. Thank you.
I will just introduce Matt, if I could jump in. Matt is the new Chief Counsel at the NDIA. And I have been fortunate enough to be part of a number of meetings that Matt has been in with a number of appeals advocates.
I have been really pleased to see how sincere he is about listening. So I hope that Matt is able to set a good example for the future of the NDIA and everybody else that works with him and alongside him. So with that, I will hand over. Thanks, Matt.
5 – Statement from the NDIA
Matthew Swainson, NDIA Chief Counsel
Thanks, Jean, and thanks, Minister. Good afternoon, everybody. I want to start my first acknowledging that I’m coming to you from Ngunnawal land, in Canberra, and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. From this land and also the other Countries where you’re coming from this afternoon.
I have quite recently been made Chief Counsel in the last three months and in that time I spent a fair bit of time speaking to people and listening to what other pressures in the system. As people have been very generous with their time and I appreciate the time people have taken to help me understand and help the Agency to understand.
I think what is quite clear is that we need to listen to the experience of participants. Who have been through the process or who are within the AAT at the moment.
I just want to acknowledge that I expect that many people who are calling in today within the Zoom, within the meeting, have had very terrible experiences.
I expect that I am going to be hearing something which is quite confronting and I am quite nervous about this today because I do acknowledge the experiences that people have had. And I have heard that, I have heard that coming through.
But I feel it really is incumbent on us to listen directly from participants and to hear those experiences and to learn from them. I appreciate that people have questions today. I will do my best to answer those questions when I can. I will try to give as honest and as as I can, some questions, however, I won’t be able to answer all of them.
I think one of the things mentioned at the start, and I don’t anticipate this to be the only time that we come and talk to people and listen, the Minister mentioned our obligations which are very important and our obligations on the government. I think part of those obligations are to listen to people. That is something that we have been working on. What is the best way to do that. So this will not be the only time that we want to hear from people, so there are some questions I may have to come back to people on.
So there has been a fair bit of focus on numbers. Minister Shorten mentioned some numbers and yesterday the caseload has reduced since May. And I think that is good. It is encouraging.
I want to acknowledge that each of those numbers is a person. If you are being in the AAT, it doesn’t help the caseloads come down.
I acknowledge there are things I’ve seen we need to work on as the Agency, we have things in play and in train that we are hopeful will make a difference.
Minister Shorten did mention the expert review process, we are hoping to consult with people. Setting up the oversight committee for that is a big part, we have to make sure there is an arm’s-length, a body at arms length from the Agency to make sure whatever was set up with independent, that is work that Graeme Innes will be leading and I thank him for putting his hand up for that work.
He will be leading some consultation on what that process looks like for people. That is not settled yet. One of the things we have heard from people is that participants and their advocates or representatives want to hear from an Agency staff member, not a lawyer. We do have lawyers in the system, they help us make sure cases are progressed as quickly as possible, we don’t want people to be delayed.
But we have heard people want to speak to an Agency staff member and we have been rolling that out, getting Agency staff members to lean in to contact participants to talk about their case. That is one thing we have progressed in recent months and we are getting good feedback on that.
As I said, I am here to listen today, answer questions where I can. There is pretty broad acknowledgement that we need to look at what we are doing and how we are running things, and putting the participant back at the centre of external review.
There is a statutory system, there will be times when you disagree with decisions and you need to be able to go to an external body to question decisions. That is your right.
I will hand back to you, Jean. Thank you, everybody, I appreciate your time this afternoon.
For those who share this afternoon, I want to acknowledge your courage, it is confronting. Thank you for your time.
Thank you, Matt. Thank you for making it clear that both yourself and Minister Shorten are personally committed to listening. We will hold you to that, don’t worry.
6 – Questions and Answers
For now, we don’t have much time, I will put somebody on the spot right now and ask if Bob Buckley is happy to ask the question you put in the chat. I have clicked a button that will let you unmute.
My first question was – if there is an alternative process, does it actually stop you? Does it slow down the AAT process? If you go to the alternative process, is your AAT process held up? Or do the two proceed in parallel?
OK, I will ask the Minister to respond.
Matt is in charge of the legal detail, but the principle I have is the alternative process should not delay the AAT. It’s like a train track, it is concurrent.
Secondly, I am hoping in this pile of work that the review of a matter done by someone independent of the Agency, either cited by Graeme Innes’s committee will take no longer than a month. This is an additional offer and am trying to organise Agency and government resorts is to resolve matters rather than have a fight.
It doesn’t affect anybody’s legal standing, they don’t have to take the offers.
I personally believe we have a more conciliatory, less adversarial approach, independent experts who understand disability with the aim to fix it, not fight it.
I hope that answers your question, Bob.
Thank you, Minister. Over to Nick Avery.
My question is around the NDIA Operational Guidelines. They were changed around the NDIS internal review processes in September or October last year – to remove the requirement for the internal review team to speak to the participant – and that has resulted in a lot of harmful decisions because the participant was left out of the decision-making process.
Will those Operational Guidelines be changed back? And if so, how soon? Because it is causing harm now.
It is the Minister here, I blew the whistle on that with advocates last year, the idea where you have an internal review where you don’t speak to the person is a bit like having a bus coming that doesn’t pick up passengers. What is the latest on that, Matt?
As I mentioned, it’s a key piece of feedback we have heard around the need for Agency staff to contact people. We’ve been doing it in the AAT program, something that is well-received.
The question goes to internal review – I’m not able to talk about the change in Operational Guidelines – I will have to come back to a future session after taking it on notice.
I know the internal review team are increasing contact with participants through the internal review process. That is certainly something coming back, it is happening at the moment, not in every single internal review but it is something that is coming back. I hear your comment, I don’t know if it would lead to a change in the Operational Guidelines, but I know there is contact coming back for internal review people.
Thank you. Some of these are going to be ongoing conversations. Next up, I think we will go to Kayla.
I am a disability with an advocate’s rights service in Adelaide. Matt, when you were talking about the new process you been trialling over the last few months in terms of having NDIS representatives contact participants directly, making sure how we are safeguarding around that?
Something we’ve heard from our clients is they have been contacted directly by NDIS representatives, asking them to settle – not giving them an opportunity to discuss their new plan, what it would look like with an advocate, for example. Maybe feeling a bit pressured. That would happen without the knowledge of an advocate or an NDIA lawyer, as an advocacy service we are completely on board with not wanting to have so many external lawyers as well, and spending that money on the NDIS and plans instead.
My question is – how are you going to safeguard to make sure participants’ rights are still protected while giving them an efficient process through the trial you have been doing?
Thanks for the question. I don’t think we would call it a trial, we want to do it ongoing. It’s clear feedback we’ve had that people want to speak to Agency staff members and not external lawyers. It is something we will keep going with. The expectation from me is a participant should be contacted through their preferred method or what is most suitable for them, if they have an advocate, that’s where the contract should be.
There shouldn’t be timeframes around the offer. Resolving a matter means putting an offer. In some cases that will be everything the participant has looked for and in other cases it won’t.
I think there are two things I would like to commit to, and you can hold me to it in future sessions. If there is an advocate involved we should go with the advocate, and we shouldn’t give timeframes for participants to consider offers.
The tribunal may be pushing us with their timeframes, that could be a factor we have to think about. There could be other reasons we want to get things moving along but as a general principle, both of those should stand. Does that answer your question?
Yes, that’s OK, I will feed that back into our service.
If it’s not happening, we should hear about it. It is participant-centred arrangements.
Thank you. The next question is from Ange Horton. And then I will ask the Minister or Matt which of you would like to take the question. We will wait to hear what it is first.
My question was around the alternative review place has is to blitz the numbers at the AAT at the moment or is this going to be an ongoing thing?
Initially it is to reduce the existing caseload because they are the people under the most pressure.
But the other piece of work is to develop and use the experience of this to have alternative dispute resolution.
We have three things we want to do – I want to bring a lot more planning decisions in-house, I want planners to talk directly to people they are building plans for, when the plan is built and we are reviewing it, I want to seek continuity between the family and the participant and the person who built the plan.
If there then becomes a problem and the plan is not what people look for, there is internal review but I want to give alternative dispute resolution ? This is my early thoughts, not the final decision of the Agency. When someone is unhappy with the internal review, the participant can have an advocate present, but I don’t want the Agency to lawyer up.
The focus has to be on a solution, not legal attrition that wears down the participant into accepting something they don’t really want. And without the cost of going to the AAT. There will still be external reviews, but I would like a better alternative dispute resolution – not playing games and multiple hearings at the AAT and then an offer…and if you’ve lasted 1.5 years, some of these matters are too urgent to take this long.
Thank you, Minister. A question from Sarah Butler. We’llry to be quick and we will move on to the next section, thank you.
Hello, everyone. Hello, Minister.
What changes are being made so participants don’t have to go backwards and forwards to the AAT to get decisions overturned for their supports if something is already being funded?
How can we ensure it is funded in the participant’s current, subsequent and future plans without them having to be told by the NDIA to go back to the AAT again to get the same decision overturned?
Should we give that one to you, Minister, or Matt? We hear this one a lot. Why do people have to go back and fight for something that they have already done previously?
As a general principle, and we’re talking generics – we have looked at this issue that we have disputed, and made a ruling on the information that this should be the position. And I think we only have about seven, 298% of matters and we have looked at that evidence and we know that that supports what participants are asking for is a general principle and we shouldn’t have to go back and ask that same thing again.
I guess the circumstances we are talking about if circumstances change, that might mean that something is different. But I agree with the general principle that once we have agreed to something, we have looked at the evidence and we agree that that’s the way it should be, that should stay.
Bill here, we have to look forward to that whilst every person is unique and individual, there are issues which are generic. And where there is a standard set, those decisions at some point need to be published or the guidelines need to be a lot clearer so that people aren’t having to reargue over things which, of course everyone is different but some things are commonsense and are common claims. I think the existence of clear guidelines and previous decisions makes it easier for planners, participants, advocates just to know what’s in the swim lanes.
Thank you, Minister. And Matt.
Michelle is here today who many of you will be familiar with her son’s case. We will get to you in a little bit, Michelle.
The questions coming through in the chat are really thoughtful and smart and I’m sorry that we can’t get through them all today. But I will ask somebody from our team to properly can the chat. We have set up a new section on the website, we have just published. This is for later, but just in case you want to open them up for later, for anything that we can’t address today or that you want us to follow up on later with the Minister and or the Agency, whoever is appropriate, we will do our best to use everything that you have given up today in addition to everything that we have heard in the past, and make a Frequently Asked Questions page, and hopefully that will help make all of this clearer for all of us and make it a bit sort of clear to the Agency as well what matters to you all the most.
But right now, I’m going to ask if you wouldn’t mind using this Civility tool again and this will help us give us a quick overview. An overview of what we have just heard from the Minister. So I think Sophie is going to put that into the chat now. Or if you still have the link open from last time.
Here you go. The link for anybody you can’t click it in the chat is menti.com/ALJ …
There we go. It is up on the screen. Forget about the/bit. So enter the code 6169702 or use the QR Code with your smartphone camera.
We have 121 people in there now ready to go. And I didn’t press it, so I haven’t got it? Sophie, can you remind me what the question says?
There we go. On the screen right now, we have a series of answers to the question, ‘How do you feel about the proposed changes you’ve heard today?‘
Cautious, optimistic, concerned, hopeful, sounds good but actions speak louder than words…positive but sceptical. Tentatively positive.
I’m going too fast but it feels like the overall sort of sentiment is hopeful, sceptical, and somewhere in between. Which I understand. Exactly why people are feeling cautious. Because we have all been burnt. So great news, sounds hopeful. OK, we will share the details in full with you afterwards and we will also make sure that anybody who missed out on that can do it again later. Thank you, Sophie.
We will move on to the next part of hearing from all of you.
It would be good if we could shift the focus a little bit now to what sort of, what do you all think is important for the people making decisions to consider? And any sort of changes going forward to the AAT Process. More broadly or more specifically the external review process the Minister described.
Again, we will ask people to keep their questions coming in through the chat but also now is a really good moment for you to share anything that you think is really important and helpful that might prevent problems further down the track.
Let’s start with Michelle, who I promised to get back to earlier. Michelle. There you go.
Hello, everyone. For those of you who don’t know me, I actually took the NDIA to Federal Court, with a decision to be made about how Reasonable and Necessary is read in the legislation.
My question I guess mainly is to (inaudible) because Bill Shorten is very knowledgeable around this federal decision.
My concern is that too many applicants are having to go to the AAT because the NDIA as an Agency is not using that Federal Court decision. The number of AAT matters that have been decided referencing my case, which shows that it needs to be used, sooner rather than later. It could avoid the whole backlog that is happening at the AAT if the NDIA applied it correctly.
I have had to actually inform staff at the NDIA individually that the decision exists. I got hold of the end of last year that an AAT decision does not last forever, and I’ve had to actually send the staff members on more than one occasion the link. So the staff in the Agency aren’t being informed of the legislation and how it is supposed to be read. The problem is always going to be broken.
How are you looking at addressing the training of the staff to make sure that in-house the decisions are being made correctly and by the right guidelines? Thank you.
Thanks, Michelle. Obviously appreciate the effort it takes to run a matter right through to that sort of appeal point.
I think training is a really big piece of the puzzle. We are pretty committed from the legal space to the incrementing for the training and decision-making. And I think it is really important. I agree with you, I acknowledge that and I think we are committed to doing that. And that’s really important.
I think one of the other things I think the Agency is putting a lot of effort into is publishing guidance to sort of assist with that interpretation or the way in which reasonable and necessary is applied. I hear that decision of the Federal Court, and I am aware of that. It is still quite a complex process to make that decision and I think the operational guidance and a lot of work the Agency has been doing in putting out guidance to assist participants and also to advocate people to understand how the agency is applying that I think is helpful.
I think training is probably the key to it. I agree. We are committed to rolling up more training.
Excellent question, thanks Michelle.
I have made a mistake and gone a bit over time. My apologies, and thank you all for your grace with my first attempt at emceeing something big like this. I’m not really too afraid to admit I am a bit nervous. So luckily we have an excellent community doing this.
We only have four minutes left, I will invite the Minister now to reflect on what was said from all of you today and then we will try and get wrapped up by 2:30. Thank you.
Hey, thanks, very much Jean. And thanks very much, Matt. And thanks to everyone participating. I also acknowledge the captioners and the Auslan interpreters the work they’re doing and tech support.
I think people have been let down by the NDIA for a number of years, my predecessors. So we have to be truthful about that. I know people want everything changed immediately, and there is a fair bit of trauma and pain. I can’t change everything immediately. I can promise you that working with you, this is to do with legacy cases and is to deal with one part of the system but ideally I want to help build trust with everything else.
I also recognise that the best way to avoid this is to have a better initial planning process, to have a weight of transparency and what you can and can’t claim, to better train up the planners and internal reviewers about what has happened before so that we are not constantly reinventing the wheel.
And I’m very committed to having an internal resolution process or internal mediation and I have asked Graeme, in the Oversight Committee, to prepare not just what we are doing on the current cases, what the alternative dispute resolution might look like by early December.
That will be robust, and I want to take the lawyers, the agency’s lawyers out of that alternative dispute resolution because it is an unfair contest.
I want the Agency to run down the reasons why they reached a decision rather than constantly, in my opinion, too often delaying the facts that people are (inaudible) and don’t even know why.
Thank you for all those solutions coming through in the chat. It is very good. I just need to be very clear. The only way that this can work or alternatively, by properly funding advocacy. I were making sure there is more advocacy resources and the approach to trust building, a level operation to the participant feels empowered and resourced to understand and make a decision and not be coerced into making a decision.
What we have said today changes the existing rights of anyone, and as a general effort to deal with anything we have put in that too-hard basket with you.
I will stop at that point because I know Jean will probably want to say something on that.
Thanks, Minister. My apologies. I have made us go over time. I think it is clear that there is a lot more to talk about, but I really appreciate your presence here today, everybody. And I apologise most sincerely to everybody that would have liked to have been a part of this but wasn’t able to. And I promise you that we will do everything in our power to make sure that this is inclusive for everyone. Going forward. But we are at 2:30 now, and I know a lot of people have places to be. And things to do.
We were hoping to do one more mood check to compare with how people were feeling at the start of the session, so if you need to rush off —
So we’ll follow up with links after this of all of the links that we share today and we will be back in touch really soon. Make sure you are signed up to the Every Australian Counts mailing list Iif you aren’t already. So that we can keep you in the loop.
But right now, up on the screen, 73% of people also are in the Civility tool. And I can see those graphs on the screen in response to the question, ‘how have you found the session?’ ‘I feel I know more now’ is sort of halfway between, a little bit closer to, roughly halfway between strongly disagree and strongly agree. It is sort of, 23 people have said strongly disagree, six ticked something right in the middle there.
Roughly in the middle, people said ‘I feel included in this process’. 28 people, roughly halfway between strongly disagree and agree again. And said they feel included in this process. It looks like we have much more work to do. ‘I feel more hopeful’ has similar results more towards strongly disagree but largely in the middle at 2.6.
Thank you all for being honest with us, there is a lot of hardship people have experienced, and I hope and I’m sure you do too that it wasn’t for nothing – we can use this to build a brighter future for everyone who needs support from the NDIS and or other systems.
I will let you go. Thank you all most sincerely. Please feel free to stay engaged so we can keep this going. Cheers, thank you all.
Thanks, Jean, thanks to the team, really appreciate it.