Aside from headline-grabbing articles about the sustainability and costs of the NDIS lies a lesser-discussed element of the scheme, providing important insight into the hearts and minds of the individuals and families directly affected by the NDIS.
For this group, the NDIS has not only opened up a world of opportunity but also a world of doubt.
I recently came across an article written by Sally Coddington, the mother of a young daughter with quadriplegia who is also an NDIS participant. Sally spoke of the blatant antagonism many NDIS participants and their families feel towards NDIS providers seemingly promising families the world- for a fee. Many families are extremely unwilling to share details of their NDIS packages, for fear that their providers don’t have their best interests at heart.
I completely understand where these families are coming from. It is no shock that the enormity of the NDIS has caused many new providers to emerge out of the woodwork. The NDIS has dollars attached to it and wherever there is money to be made, providers’ motives can and must be questioned.
To be clear, I am not cynical about the NDIS. I am extremely confident that the NDIS is exactly what this country needs to level the playing field, raise expectations and help create a better life for people with disability. What does concern me, and others in my team, is providers that are in it for the wrong reasons; those more interested in their bottom line than the real, tangible benefits for people that need it most.
Most people with disability and their families have been put through the ringer multiple times, prior to the NDIS and now. Life experience has taught them to tread with caution. People are screaming out for genuine interactions; longing to deal with providers that will walk the talk and actually prove their willingness to put in the hard yards.
Last year, when EPIC Assist (EPIC) was in the midst of a merger with Ability Tasmania Group (ATG), I met with a group of ATG parents to introduce myself and EPIC, explain what we’re all about, and importantly answer any questions and concerns they had.
I was met with similar feelings that Sally speaks about in her article; I wouldn’t call it antagonism, but certainly extreme wariness. The reactions of these parents makes complete sense. These are people who are fiercely loving and protective of their children. People who have fought tirelessly to ensure these young adults reach their potential and are afforded the very best opportunities to achieve success.
It was clear EPIC wasn’t going to have the trust of this group until we earned it. And how do we earn that trust?
The answer is as old as time, but often forgotten in the manic pace of modern life.
If someone says they’re going to do something and they don’t follow through, any hope of trust is gone. They are seen as disingenuous and unreliable. Similarly, if someone says ‘we’re going to do whatever it takes to get a person a job’, and follows through with that, a mutually beneficial relationship is born.
The NDIS is a big beast, and to the untrained eye it may appear to be a jungle out there. But predicting which providers will survive in this changing environment doesn’t require a crystal ball. It will be the ones willing to listen, really listen, to what participants and their families need. Those that will stay on the journey through thick and thin. And those that have the skill, expertise and experience to deliver what has been promised.