Plan management is the key to success for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), according to an expert from the US.
President of financial management service organisation PCG Public Partnerships Marc Fenton, told Pro Bono Australia News that self-direction could revolutionise the Australian experience.
It comes after Integra, part of the country’s largest contracted provider of Disability Employment Services for the Australian Government, APM, partnered with PCG Public Partnerships to help people with disability self-direct their own support and finances.
According to Integra Choice and Control, plan management can empower people with disability by allowing them support to have greater control and understanding over their own NDIS budget.
Fenton, who has been in Australia to advise on how plan management can be applied to the Australian context, said the NDIS presented a “world class view” of how disability services can be delivered.
But he warned Australia lacked some of the necessary tools.
“There is really no other country in the world that is doing what Australia is doing in terms of enabling everybody who has a serious disability to have their own budget,” Fenton said.
“Nobody does that. You guys are doing that. Which means it is very hard, you don’t have all the tools and actually you are not ready to do that.
“We have the tools, we’ve adapted them to Australia, we have tested them in Australia and we want to help Australia do that and enrol as many people as possible and get them up and running.”
Fenton said they “know this business very well”.
“So we’ve [PCG Public Partnerships] been doing plan management work in the states officially since 1999,” Fenton said.
“We started it doing some work with foundations that were investing in self-direction before the government started and so we sort of got into it very early and I’ve been working in the field of public sector disabilities all my career so I saw what self-direction does and I was thrilled with what it could do.
“Now we are in 26 states and we serve 115,000 participants and soon it will be 150,000 participants in 28 states so we know this business very well.
“And what people need is they need to be able to make their own decisions about who their carer is, about how they instruct them about their schedule, they need to make their own decisions about various purchases they can make, we’re just there off stage to help them do it well.”
Fenton said he was a “big believer” in self-direction.“One benefit is that people learn how to make decisions,” he said. “People learn how to figure out what works and what doesn’t work, they are no longer dependent on an agency to tell them what to do or an agency to tell them what they can’t do, they have to figure it out for themselves, with help, with friends, with family, with other people, and in some cases we can help with that, but first thing is they become decision makers.
“The second thing is they become more independent. “We did a study of about 100 people who started with us back in 1999 for five years…they got budgets that were quite complex, that were quite flexible, like they are in Australia… we looked at what people spent every year for five years over a period of time… and what we found, which is what you would expect is that for the first year or two they didn’t do anything differently… but really by the third year they started making different choices, different decisions, a lot more services that were much more community focused, and not necessarily disability focused and by the fifth year, if you look at the pattern of their spending it was far different from what it was in the first two years and I am sure that is what will happen in Australia. And we want to help people make those choices.”
Fenton said the organisation hopes to become a “one-stop shop” for people with a disability.
“What it does in the states, and I think it is fairly similar to what it is supposed to do in Australia, is that it enables individuals who have a budget for goods and services to spend their money properly, to get all their bills paid, to deal with all the tax issues and liability issues, and all the security issues and make it easier for individuals to direct their own services,” Fenton said.
“So we sort of act in some ways like their bank, in other ways we act like their support facility and also for the NDIA we will be sure that all of the bills are correct, all of the claims are paid and all the rules are followed.
“We will also have a very lively customer service that will be on phone and online because what we’ve discovered in the states is that even if the rules are written clearly, people always have a lot of questions, there’s always a lot of what ifs, there’s always a lot things that need to be figured out and so we see customer service as being a very important part of it.”
Fenton said the NDIS creates “a whole different industry” in Australia and the NDIA needs to consider how it will be implemented.
“Let me make this clear, because I think Australia has taken on a huge responsibility. They are doing two things at the same time I’ve not seen any other country or government agency ever do, they are both nationalising a program, moving the budgets and the responsibility from the states and territories to the NDIA and at the same time they are just aggregating it into 460,000 budgets to individuals,” he said.
“That is enormous, you could do either or, but doing both is pretty hard.
“What they will hopefully finally figure out, because they haven’t yet, is that they should hire a half a dozen or so companies that actually know how to do this work and do it for the whole country… because it will give them several things, it will increase the enrolment, it will make the work happen in a more timely way and also be sure that the work happens more correctly, both for the participants and for the NDIA.
“Because it was such a big program they focused on what are all the goods and services, how do you do the planning, how do you put together a budget, how should things be priced, all those things they had to do first, it was an enormous amount of work, they didn’t think enough about the implementation and now that’s what they’ve got think about.”
Pro Bono News
Tuesday, 15th November 2016 at 10:36 am