Summary There are issues with the timely provision of Assistive Technology (AT) to NDIS participants, however ATSA acknowledges that the NDIA is listening to participants, AT suppliers and allied health practitioners (AHPs) and is responding to their concerns.
The changes that are planned by the NDIA, such as the new Pathways program, are yet to be fully implemented and it is anticipated they will deliver significant improvements. The stakeholder engagement approach used by the NDIA will see the benefits realised over time.
In addition to the NDIA’s changes to their processes, the education of their frontline staff on AT is of high importance to aid in the minimisation of delays and unintended errors in the development of plans and processing of quotations/orders.
A review of Section 34 of the NDIS Act which covers “reasonable and necessary supports” would contribute to reducing delays in the approval process. The current requirement is that all AT supplied must address each of the 6 elements before an approval can be issued for supply. Therefore, when an application for AT device that is a replacement for an existing old item that has come to the end of its useful life, it can only be replaced once all the 6 elements are addressed. A large amount of paperwork and time is required to respond to the legislated due diligence that is currently set in Section 34.
Once the rollout of the NDIS is complete, careful consideration will be required on the future roles of State/Territory AT funding schemes and the provision of AT to the NDIS. These schemes are tax payer entities who have access to significant government capital and other resources that businesses could never access. If these entities are allowed to compete with business, their size and purchasing powers could distort the market with the possible loss of choice, innovation and competition.
There is a need to identify a suitable solution to support AT markets that have low demand but are important to the participant who needs that AT, e.g. a specialised wheelchair that is needed in a remote location where there is either no AT supplier nearby, or due to the uniqueness of the device, only 1 every couple of years is sold by the supplier. The question is, how do we support not only the participant but an AT supplier to provide technical support over the life of the wheelchair in the remote location and be financially viable? This is apparent in regional and remote locations; however, this is also a risk in the major centres with a speciality device that only generates a low number of sales per year. Consideration is required on how to appropriately underpin the supply of low volume AT wherever it is supplied.