The NDIA & The Power of Precedent

The old idiom tells us “there is no time like the present.” There are few situations where this is truer than it is for the present environment of the NDIS.

The NDIS is often described as a plane built in flight. How the Scheme will be implemented and what it will look like in 20 years time is being determined right now. We are all intensely aware that building a plane in flight presents challenges for everyone, but we often overlook the potential opportunities. Every passenger on the NDIS plane - from service providers to participants - has the responsibility and the ability to help build the Scheme as we want it.

Cases brought to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) allow participants, their families and the sector to influence how the NDIS Legislation is implemented and operationalised. Participants, with support from service providers and advocacy organisations, can set a legal precedent in contentious and problematic areas of the Scheme’s implementation.

We can see participants are already taking advantage of this opportunity. Last week participant Jessica King won her AAT appeal, with the tribunal ruling that the physiotherapy and gym membership that she argued helped her build the strength to leave her wheelchair were “reasonable and necessary” supports and should be funded by the scheme. We can almost see participants around the country breathing a sigh of relief, knowing that this outcome might assist them getting the same or similar supports from the Scheme.

There is also, of course, the highly publicised case of Liam McGarrigle from the rural town of Moriac who recently won a Federal Court appeal against the Agency’s decision to only partially fund his transport costs. As transport is a contentious issue in the Scheme, most of the sector is keenly monitoring this case. All involved parties are acutely aware that the outcome will go some way to resolving this issue.

Appealing a decision by the Agency is no doubt time consuming, complex and potentially costly for participants. That is why it is essential that the service providers and advocacy organisations support participants in important and landmark cases. In the end, the potential benefits from a positive outcome far outweigh any time investment.

There are still many areas of contention yet to be defined in the NDIS. The question of what transport costs will be covered still looms over participants and the sector. There is also ongoing controversy over mental illness - both in regards to what is reasonable and necessary to cover and who can access the scheme. We are also still to determine what exactly the Scheme will mean for people with chronic illnesses and episodic conditions.

How these issues are resolved will impact the lives of potentially thousands of people with disabilities. We owe it to them to put our best foot forward now and to appeal against the Agency’s stance when we believe it conflicts with the spirit of the legislation.  There truly is no time like the present.