Hunter disability provider says NDIS needs to move faster

SONGBIRD HOMES: An image of one of the company’s homes, from its website.
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HUNTER disability housing provider Songbird Homes has taken aim at the National Disability Insurance Agencyover the time it has taken the agency to reviewplans for threeof its clients.

The agency –which administers the National Disability Insurance Scheme –denies it is at fault, but the case shows the sorts of situations that are arising over clients with complex needs.

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Anne Alexander, relationship manager at the Maitland-based housing provider, said two of her clients had been unnecessarily taking up hospital beds “for months” while the NDIA processed their care plans.

She said the two had gotten to know each other and Songbird was moving them, and a third man in a similar situation, to a group home at Cameron Park, which would be ready on January 16.

She said the NDIA had “finally” approved one of the plans just before Christmas, after the familyhad taken the matter to Paterson MP Meryl Swanson, but it was yet to approve the other one.

“We can move these menout of hospital into respite care on January 3,” Ms Alexander said.

“But as far as we are concerned it looks like the NDIA is happy to leave them in hospital, where they are taking up beds that they don’t medically need. They are medically stable and have been ready to discharge for most of the time they have been in hospital.”

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Ms Alexander said the client, whose plan had not been approved, had funding in his NDIS account topay for “respite” care untilJanuary 16 but the NDIA would not endorse the request.

“These are high-care clients who need extensive support and the NDIA is not helping things. It has known about this for months.”

Asked what was likely to happen, Ms Alexander said: “They will move in, with no funding, and we will cop the cost of that, and then get into an ongoing fight with the NDIA to get paid. And I know we are not the only service provider in this position.

“The NDIA makes it quite clear it is not a crisis [care] provider but it is the holder of the funds, and in situations like thisthe public health system isa pseudo-provider for the disability system. There is no urgencyto come up with alternatives.

“There needs to be some sort of policy that stipulates what a crisis is, so that people in these high-needs situations can have some sort of priority to have their plans reviewed.”

The NDIA said it could not discuss the case for privacy reasons but would work with Songbirdto ensure there wereno barriers to the movement of individuals “when facilities are available and all the required evidence relating to quality guidelines isin place”.