​Labor calls for accountability from Turnbull on NDIS payment blunder

In the wake of IT disruptions plaguing the National Disability Insurance Scheme payments portal, the federal opposition has called for the government to take responsibility and fix the debacle that has left many inconvenienced.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The federal opposition has called for the Australian government to take responsibility for the continued delays to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) payments system, which it said has left those with a disability medically inconvenienced.

The MyPlace portal is where those enrolled in the NDIS arrange bookings and services with providers and it is also the location for submitting payment requests, previously known as claims. A payment request is submitted by the end user, and if approved, the funds allocated to them within the portal allows them to pay for services, such as medical appointments.

Jenny Macklin, Shadow Minister for Families and Payments and Shadow Minister for Disability Reform, said on Thursday that people with disability and their families have been forced to cancel appointments as a result of an unreliable system.

"[It has] seen providers left unpaid and participants unable to get appropriate services," she said.

The NDIS began its national rollout on July 1, 2016, and in the seven weeks since, the NDIS claims it has processed over AU$65 million worth of payment requests, which included approximately AU$4 million on Tuesday and AU$2.6 million on Wednesday this week.

Earlier this month, the government announced an independent review into the MyPlace portal to ensure it was "meeting the agreed expectations" of NDIS participants and providers.

Minister for Social Services Christian Porter and Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services Jane Prentice said in a joint statement the review was called following disruptions the IT system had faced over recent weeks.

Such disruptions included the inability to upload provider data to the portal, which Porter said resulted in delays to payments being issued by the agency, and multiple concerns being expressed by providers and participants.

"The agency has now advised that the main issues have been rectified and outstanding payment requests are being prioritised," Porter said at the time.

"However, while the government has now been assured the central issues have been resolved, it is now appropriate that a full review is conducted to determine how and why the problems arose so we can be confident that they will not reoccur."

Prentice said the review was expected to be complete by the end of the month, noting it was the government's intention to have it finished quickly to ensure the issues do not resurface in the future.

At the time, National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) CEO David Bowen said he welcomed the review, noting the agency would continue to rollout the scheme to the 460,000 Australians with a disability, their families, and carers.

The Shadow Minister is not content however, saying on Thursday that as the Department of Human Services -- and not the NDIA -- is the one given the responsibility for designing the new IT system, the Australian government should take responsibility for the "mess that has been created".

"Christian Porter must take responsibility for the Turnbull Government's handling of the NDIS payments system," she said.

"The NDIS is the biggest social policy reform since Medicare -- it's too important for buck passing.

"People with disability have waited their whole lives for the National Disability Insurance Scheme."

It was revealed last week that MyPortal was not working on Macs, nor was it compatible with Safari browsers, the native browser on all iPhones. At the time, the NDIA said after performing tests it could confirm there were no issues found in either the provider portal or the participant portal. It did, however, remind users that Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, Chrome, and Firefox were the most compatible browsers.

Department of Human Services is also in the midst of updating its own ageing welfare payments system, which is currently responsible for processing over AU$100 billion in Centrelink payments annually.

It is speculated that the upgrade is set to cost the Australian government billions.

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