AUSTRALIA'S disability insurance agency has defended its services after advocates warned families are struggling to access support.
The National Disability Insurance Agency has also said it is incorrect to say a Bendigo family was denied access.
"In this matter, the agency was awaiting further information from the family before a decision could be made on whether to approve access to the NDIS," a spokesperson said
"The agency is pleased it was able to work with the family to ensure access to the Scheme, so they can receive the disability-related supports they need going forward."
The spokesperson said the Australian government earlier this year announced the most substantial package of reforms to the NDIS since its establishment.
"In addition, the NDIA released a new Participant Service Charter and Participant Service Improvement Plan," they said.
"These set new service standards and clear timeframes for decision making by the NDIA, making it is easier for participants and their families to navigate the NDIS.
"The NDIA has worked to improve the access process for people with disability and their families.
"In the quarter to 30 September 2020, 100 per cent of access decisions were made within a 21-day timeframe, compared to 74 per cent a year ago."
FAMILIES are experiencing stress and trauma, as they frequently struggle to access the disability support needed for their children through the relevant government agency, advocates have warned.
It comes after a Bendigo family was granted access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme only when the Bendigo Advertiser covered their months-long struggle for support to care for their daughter.
Molly and Joel Davis's six-month-old daughter Ally needs constant monitoring, but they were initially denied access to any respite care, being told all children that age are high needs.
Advocates say many Australians with a disability struggle to access the NDIS and families are often told their children's needs are parental responsibility.
Central Victorian body Rights, Information and Advocacy Centre chief executive Karryn Goode being denied NDIS access, or being given an insufficient plan was a frequent experience for families, even with supporting evidence.
Ms Goode said for families such as the Davises, providing round-the-clock care could be difficult enough without the stress of being denied support.
"Financially, emotionally, this poor family, and lots of families like them, are just going around in circles," she said.
"The NDIS was never supposed to be this complex. Because we're doing appeals, we see this time and time again.
"The recommendations that come out from reviews, a more streamlined service, a more customer-centred approach, it's still not happening."
National representative organisation Children and Young People chief executive Mary Sayers said stories like that of Mr and Mrs Davis were common.
She called for a more family-centred approach from the National Disability Insurance Agency, saying she wanted staff to understand the importance of families in giving children the best start in life.
Ms Sayers said families struggled to navigate the information they were given, or the necessary diagnostic criteria for eligibility.
She said families in a low socio-economic position often struggled the most with access.
Victorian Public Advocate Colleen Pearce said Mr and Mrs Davis' story showed families were still having trouble to access the supports they needed to help their children flourish.
Dr Pearce said the Early Childhood Intervention approach needed to improve.
She encouraged families with a child with a disability to share their experience with the NDIA, as part of a review of the early childhood approach.
Dr Pearce said lack of access to proper supports for families meant children with a disability were more likely to become involved in the child protection system.
"Families also need access to respite services and the approach to families where there is a child with disability needs to be holistic because families also need support," Dr Pearce said.
"Families can buckle under pressure, and the child can be left behind if they do not access the right supports early."
Every Australian Counts campaign manager Kirsten Deane said it was unclear what the NDIA were looking for in applications, even from medical professionals providing certification.
Ms Deane said many applicants gave up, because they were told they were not eligible, or struggled to navigate the difficult system, or couldn't afford to pay for the evidence they needed to get onto the scheme.
She said people were being knocked back - and going through grief - purely because of problems with paperwork.
Ms Deane said better guidance for applicants and their families, as well as medical professionals was critical to helping people navigate the system.
The NDIA has announced it will review its early childhood prevention approach, to find out what is working well and where the gaps are.
The National Disability Insurance Agency was contacted for comment.
Consultation information available online at: bit.ly/34gfCHN
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