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Those most affected have a say in improving the National Disability Insurance Scheme

The National Disability Insurance Scheme is one of the most significant social reforms in recent Australian history. It is an ambitious program to improve the lives of almost half a million Australians with disability, their families and carers. Change of this scale does not occur without challenges.
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Trials of the Scheme, which began in March 2013, have been very successful. Trial participants from nine sites across Australia have reported high levels of satisfaction. The Scheme has helped them to become more independent and more engaged socially, educationally and in employment.

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), which is responsible for implementing the Scheme, began full scale rollout in July 2016. From fewer than 30,000 involved in the trials, the Scheme will expand to an estimated 460,000 national participants by 2020.

The NDIA found the pace of this transition challenging. Even though the trial was a success, participants and providers were having inconsistent experiences with the Scheme. The NDIA realised it needed to improve its processes and systems to better meet its participants’ needs.

The NDIA resolved to address these issues by going directly to those most affected. They engaged ThinkPlace to help them learn from the experiences of participants, their carers and service providers. They wanted these voices of experience to meaningfully contribute to improvements that could be achieved quickly and across the Scheme.

Working with ThinkPlace and other partners, the NDIA talked with participants, their carers and service providers. We listened and learned. They shared their good and bad experiences as they joined the Scheme, developed their plans and connected with supports. They told us how they thought things could be done better.

These conversations guided a series of national workshops with participants, providers and Agency front-line staff. We helped the groups identify and describe opportunities for improvement to the Scheme, drawn from their collective experience and diverse points of view.

The result was a list of innovative and practical changes the NDIA could make to improve the experience of participants, their carers and providers. By going straight to those most affected, we uncovered the actions that will have the most positive impact, and will improve the experience of the people supported by the Scheme.

The process has strengthened communication between participants, providers and the NDIA. These groups have grown in mutual understanding and empathy. By encouraging engagement between these groups, the NDIA endorsed recommendations based on real world experiences and a deeper understanding.

The NDIA has made improvements to its processes based on this engagement and in December 2017 will trial a new participant pathway. By listening to those most affected, they have gained confidence as they implement these changes that the outcomes will improve economic and social outcomes for participants.

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