Finally! Some News About the Participant Pathways

If you can cast your mind back to the hopeful time that was February 2018, you might remember the Participant Pathways Review and the promises it heralded. We were led to anticipate a bunch of improvements to the NDIS pathways- a seamless end-to-end experience for people engaging with the Scheme. Well since then it has almost been radio silence. Until now: the latest Quarterly Report (Y6, Q4) gifted us with a full 6 pages worth of updates.

We’ve known for a while now that the original plan of one new general pathway and 6 specialised pathways seems to have been scraped. Instead, there will now be:

  • 3 pathways: general, complex support needs and ECEI

  • 2 service streams: psychosocial disability and hearing impairment

  • 4 service enhancements: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, culturally and linguistically diverse, remote and very remote and LGBTIQA+.

So anyway, what is happening with the pathways/enchancements/streams?  


The Pathways


The general pathway is the one most people will journey through in the Scheme. And it has had some much-needed upgrades. Some of the changes that you might have already noticed include:

  • A stronger focus on community, other government, informal and employments supports during Pre-Planning.

  • Participants now having access to a consistent point of contact.

  • Planning communications now coming in a variety of formats (which some people would say is pretty important for an Agency whose main thing is disability).

  • Planning meetings now being face-to-face (and thank goodness for that), unless otherwise requested

  • Improved communication between NDIA Planners and Local Area Coordinators (LACs).

  • Improved training for NDIA Planners and LACs. 

Participants will soon also be able to request joint meetings with their LAC and an NDIA Planner to finalise their Plan. This is designed to give Participants an understanding of why supports have or have not been included in the Plan. The NDIA Planner can then approve the Plan in the meeting.  

The NDIA has also released a disability navigator for staff and Planners. This is a disability awareness online portal that includes disability snapshots and videos from Participants.

It’s important to note that the Independent Assessment Pilot (IAP) in NSW appears to have been a success and will likely being rolling out around the country. The IAP is the NDIA’s attempt to create more consistency in access and planning decisions by referring participants to an “independent” assessor (i.e. one contracted by the NDIA and not chosen by the Participant). It’s encouraging to see that 91% of people indicated that they were satisfied or very satisfied with the process.


Complex Support Needs  

The complex support needs pathway is for people who might require coordination with multiple services and extra support to engage with the NDIS. Interestingly, the examples the NDIA provides are of people who are leaving hospital, custodial settings, acute rehabilitation or aged care facilities. There is no mention of people with complex behaviour support needs or complex health support needs, so it is unclear whether these people will be included.

The complex support needs pathway began rolling out in March 2019. Participants who access the NDIS through this pathway will have specialised Planners.


Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI)

Unsurprisingly, people have not been happy with the delays in the ECEI Pathway. Early intervention only works after all if you get in early.  Recently the Minister intervened and we have not been promised that change is afoot. The change is that eligible children who have an expected wait time of over 50 days for their Plan will now be given a standardised interim Plan. ECEI Partners have been promised more resources, and children with complex support needs will now be streamlined to an NDIA ECEI Planner.

The Quarterly Report includes this pretty infographic to explain what has been happening:

Figure showing rollout of pathways as of June 30, 2019. New NDIS participant pathway. Roll out of enhanced baseline service improvement training for staff and partners- complete in all states and territories. Roll out of joint planning- not commenced in any state or territory, expect SA where is is underway. Complex support needs pathway. Specialised APS staff progressively being added- underway in all states and territories. Enhanced ECEI pathway. Refinements made (ECEI booklet, ECEI prioritisation framework, ECEI practice leads)- complete in all sates and territories. Additional resources under consideration- underway in all states and territories.
Screen Shot 2019-08-23 at 4.24.45 pm.png

Service Streams

Psychosocial disability

 New training in psychosocial disability has been rolling out to LACs and Planners throughout the country. There is not a lot of information about what is contained in the training. The NDIA is also working on streamlined access for people with psychosocial disability. As part of this initiative people with psychosocial disability can:

  • Make verbal access requests through a support worker or trusted person

  • Consent to the support worker or trusted person contacting the NDIA on their behalf throughout the access process

  • If necessary, re-test their eligibility with the support worker or trusted person.


Hearing impairment

The main focus of this stream appears to be transitioning people from Commonwealth Hearing Services Programs to the NDIS, with help from Hearing Australia. Access has already been streamlined for children between 0-6, and a process is now being developed for people over 7.


Service Enhancements

We do not have much more information about the service enhancements promised for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Participants, people from CALD backgrounds, LGBTIQA+ people and people living in remote or very remote locations. What we do know is that the NDIA is developing further training for Planners on improving service delivery for these groups of people. According to the infographic below, training has already rolled out on LGBTIQA+ competency. The Quarterly Report also says that an online cultural competency module on supporting with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is being developed and will roll out in 2020.

In May, the NDIA released a new internal resource on how to simplify access to language and communication interpreters. Seems like an important thing for Planners to know.

Image showing progress with service enhancements. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. Extended community connectors- underway in WA, Queensland, NT. Rolling out enhanced staff and partner training (in design Tier 1 and Tier 2)- underway in all states and territories. Culturally and Linguistically Diverse. Developed resources so Participants can connect to interpreting services- complete in all states and territories. Rolling out enhanced staff and partner training (Tier 1 and Tier 2)- not commenced in any states or territories. LGBTIQA+. Rolling out enhanced staff and partner training (Tier 1 complete)- complete in all states and territories. Rolling out enhanced staff and partner training (Tier 2 to be determined)- underway in all states and territories. Remote and very remote. Extended community connectors- underway in WA, Queensland and NT.

 We now have a lot more information on the new pathways (and service streams and enhancements) than we’ve had in a long time. But I am greedy, I want more. There are still so many questions to be answered. Most importantly- why the decision to move away from one general and six specialised pathways? It seems like pathways are one of those things that you can never have too much of. Kind of like updates in Quarterly Reports *hint hint.* 

If you want to read more about what else we learnt in the latest Quarterly Report, check out DSC’s article here.