Valmar CEO appears in panel discussion

Valmar CEO Hugh Packard on ABC’s ‘the Drum.’

Valmar Disability Support Services CEO Hugh Packard appeared on national TV on Monday, as part of a panel discussing the NDIS rollout on ABC’s the Drum.

Mr Packard had the opportunity to air some of his concerns publicly with National Disability Insurance Agency General Manager of Community Linkages and Engagement, Maryanne Diamond, along with host John Barron, former Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes, and disability advocate Samantha Connor.

He said it was vital people with disabilities have the opportunity to view a draft of the plan laid down by their NDIA workers.

Funding and service plans are based on a singular brief interview between the person with a disability and an NDIA staff member, sometimes over the phone, that then take months to rectify any issues.

“I think the biggest challenge we’ve seen so far is the speed with which the plans have had to be done,” he said.

“Pre the first of July, when the trial was happening, there was time to have considered planning with the people with disabilities. It was a two-way street. Whereas since it’s ramped up there’s not even a chance to have a look at a draft plan, you just have a brief meeting and then you’re given your plan and that is your plan that you have to accept.

“That is really a dramatic difference between what was happening pre the trial finishing and going into full scheme. We’re seeing a much higher level of discontent with the scheme from that one small issue, of not having a chance to have a say in your plan other than that one initial meeting.”

The NDIA is going from putting 80,000 people with disabilities onto the scheme in a four year trial period, to putting 450,000 people on it in approximately two years. Mr Packard, who has been rolling out the NDIS in the ACT for the past three years with Valmar, said that speed has come at the cost of quality and care.

However, NDIA GM Maryanne Diamond said they were conducting a review of all participants and providers and were working to rectify the issues with the roll-out, including the opportunity for participants to have more of a say in their own plans.

“I want to bring up the point raised between getting people on the scheme, and quality plans: we aspire to have both,” she said.

“We need to meet the demands of the agreements between government, but we also want quality plans and to have people with disabilities in control, which is the whole basis of the scheme.”

Mr Packard said it will be “great to see” the planned changes, which are set to include face-to-face meetings being the standard when deciding plans and improved and regular NDIA staff training, and added that the NDIS, when rolled out effectively, was having a tangible effect on people’s lives.

“Certainly in the ACT where we’ve been supporting people with NDIS plans now for the past two years, we’ve seen a massive increase in support – in client satisfaction, if you like – with the supports that people are getting. So yes it can achieve what it’s meant to achieve.”

The National Disability Insurance Scheme involves both more government funding for people with disabilities, and a new approach that, when it works, gives the person control over their own funding plans and services. It is currently being rolled out across the country, and Mr Packard said he was glad to have the opportunity to speak about the scheme to the national public.

“I was really pleased that out of the thousands of providers in Australia they chose one with their headquarters based in Tumut, so that’s a feather in our cap,” he said.