Agency committed to getting NDIS AT right

In April I wrote to David Bowen (CEO of the NDIA) about a number of concerns I had about the path that the Agency has been taking in formulating its approach to providing AT across Australia to its participants. I also expressed dismay at the feeling that it was now stalled following the feedback to the Agency (yet to be released) on their Framework paper. You can see some of my thoughts on their draft Framework in (one of) my official capacities on the Engineers Aus  website where the NCRE submission is.

David Bowen and the NDIA team have formally responded (6 May) and the letter below (with David’s permission – published unedited) contains some interesting updates (including a note that he has allocated extra resources to the task).

I am sure many of you will join with me in offering to assist Ms Kerr-Smith and her team to reinvigourate this process and help build the world class AT system that Australians with disability (or functional limitation) deserve. As I note that David’s tenure is due to expire about now, I trust the CEO (David or a successor) will be able to continue this long standing commitment to getting AT right!


Dear Lloyd

Thank you for your letter of 23 April 2015 regarding the development of a national system for the provision of Assistive Technology (AT).

As you will be aware, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has many concurrent priorities to deliver on, including the rollout of National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) trial
sites and meeting the needs of participants who are phasing into the Scheme during the trial period. I agree with and acknowledge the importance of AT within the NDIS. As such, the NDIA is progressing work on an AT strategy.
During the trial period the NDIA has been, and will continue, working closely with state based equipment schemes to deliver the AT required by trial site participants. This has meant participants have their equipment needs assessed, delivered and set up as quickly as possible to increase their ability to safely undertake daily activities and to increase participation in their community. This has already reduced long waiting periods caused by budget constrained equipment schemes and has expanded the variety of equipment available to participants.
Increasingly, AT devices available to all Australian residents are being used to meet participant needs, particularly in the area of communication technology. Working closely with state schemes has also meant knowledge that can inform the development of the NDIA’s strategy is shared.
If you are aware of any specific instances of delays in provision of AT, please provide details directly to trial site personnel or to the General Manager of Operations, Ms Liz Cairns

I appreciate that you and your colleagues are eager to see visible evidence of the work on AT progressing faster. Following the analysis of the responses from the ‘Towards Solutions for
Assistive Technology Discussion Paper’ the NDIA now has additional information from a wider audience to continue informing a model for delivery of AT to NDIS participants in the full Scheme. As you are aware, strong views are held in relation to all aspects of AT and decisions need to be made which will have a significant impact on NDIS participants, so the complexities must be worked through diligently.

To this end, I have increased the resources devoted to this component of the NDIA’s work. Ms Esther Kerr-Smith has been recruited to the position of General Manager of the Market and
Sector Division and is leading the work on market design, including AT. Ms Kerr-Smith’s team is growing to reflect the NDIA’s investment in these priority areas.

The focus for AT strategy incorporates, but is by no means limited to, questions about procurement. Ensuring the NDIS is  set up to promote best practice and innovation are key priorities for the NDIA in AT and across all supports.

The procurement arrangements are very important in AT as constructing the most cost efficient system for the delivery of daily use products will enable consequential savings to be invested in research and development for more innovative ways of meeting participant needs. The NDIA is comprehensively analysing the inputs and outcomes from state schemes to better construct the national direction for the full rollout of the NDIS. The next focus will be on consumer input, feedback and testing, following which the NDIA will be in a position to brief
more widely.

I appreciate and share your continuing interest and determination to see the NDIA appropriately addressing provision of AT to NDIS participants.

Thank you again for writing

David Bowen

May 2015