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Dominique McGovern Q & A on accessing the disability scheme

Dominique McGovern providing Q & A on 2GB discussing NDIS and accessing the scheme


Tuesday, 13 August 2019


SP – Steve Price / DM – Dominique McGovern/C1,2,3, etc – Callers



SP          We are very happy to have you in the studio with us today from Turner Freeman, solicitor Dominique McGovern. Thank you for coming.

DM        Thank you for having me.

SP          Great to see you. We are taking calls today on 131873 if you have been trying to access the NDIS, the National Disability Scheme which was launched of course by the Rudd Gillard Governments and has been fully funded as we understand it by the Morrison Government and state governments around the country. Dominique, you do a lot of work in this area, and it is quite complicated isn’t it?

DM        It is, it is very complicated. So today we are talking about accessing the scheme, some people do find it difficult to access the scheme because they have to fill out a particular application form and they need a lot of medical evidence to prove why they deserve NDIS funding.

SP          And as always folks, a $100 Westfield voucher to give away to the caller who asks the best question of Dominique this afternoon. Now the NDIS is run by the federal government.

DM        Yes well it is jointly approved by the states and the federal government.  

SP          So the federal government funds it….. 

DM        It’s overseen, no no the federal government runs it, it’s overseen by the federal government but all the states had to basically agree to put in money towards this initiative. 

SP          I know you’ve been in before and have talked about who and who may not be eligible, what we would like to hear from today on 131873, have you applied for NDIS, has it been a difficult process, have you got the help you’ve needed to access the scheme. Who qualifies? 

DM        Well you need to have some form of disability, it could be psychiatric, it could be cognitive, it could be physical, it could be multiple disabilities but you also need to be able to prove that you have some form of functional issue so you know, can you carry out your activities of daily living, do you need support with that, and some people do find it difficult because you need to fill out an application form and that usually needs to be completed by a medical professional and you actually need to have a lot of evidence to prove that you fulfil the access requirements under the NDIS Act which is Section 24 or the early intervention requirements which is under Section 25. 

SP          Average people couldn’t do that? 

DM        Well they try their best, I mean in my view it is a right to be able to access the community and partake in daily life and people with a disability have that right and the scheme has been set up for that purpose but you know there are lawyers and there are disability advocacy groups that are really trying to educate people about how they can get on the scheme. So if people are unsure they should definitely go and see an advocate or if it’s a legal issue, so if they have been denied access to the scheme then they can see an advocate and/or a lawyer, so I help people who have been denied access from the scheme. 

SP          Dominique’s in the studio from Turner Freeman and John’s online from Bribie Island. How are you John? 

DM        Good afternoon Steve, how are you mate? 

SP          Good thank you. Dominique is here to help you out. 

C1          Good afternoon Dominique. My name is John, anyway I received a letter first of all last year saying that the NDIS was moving, taking out the ? from this area, they sent me all the relevant paperwork, I went and saw my specialist, I have a disability called cerebellar ataxia which affects my balance and my walking. I walk with walking frames and I have a mobility scooter and I live on my own. I also have an indwelling catheter in through my belly which Bluecare come and change every 5 weeks. I’ve got letters from my GP, my specialist, I have had letters of support from Bluecare and this was last October. Every time I ring up the NDIS they say we need more information and I said what information do you want and they say, we need more information, well what is it that you want? 

SP          Okay John, let’s see if Dominique can help you out. 

DM        Thank you. So John what I would recommend you do, you need to get an application form, you can call the agency up on the NDIS toll free number, you can ask them to email you a copy or send one out in the post, you need to complete that with your general practitioner. 

C1          I’ve done that. 

DM        Ok, you’ve done that. So when you, did you send it in with all your information attached? 

C1          Yes and they have received it. 

DM        Did they send you a letter back saying it’s been denied, your access has been denied? 

C1          No, they sent me a letter back with a number on it and saying that they would give me an answer within 28 days. That’s was on the 21st or 28th of November last year. 

DM        Ok so what you need, you need a letter from the agency, it’s basically a letter saying you’ve basically been denied access, that’s how you can appeal it. You need legal advice about that but basically you need to lodge an internal review form within 28 days of receiving that letter. Now you need to basically file a complaint with the agency, you can also go to the Commonwealth Ombudsman to lodge your complaint about the fact that they haven’t made a decision in adequate timing, you do need a decision to be made by the agency about your access in order to take it further legally if they deny your access. But in the time being you need to make complaints both to the agency and to an external body called the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

SP          Have a crack at doing that John. If you get no success give us a call back. More calls for Dominique straight after this.

SP          Talking NDIS with Dominique McGovern. A $100 Westfield voucher for our best caller, Greg thank you for being patient and Dominique is listening.

C2          Yeh hi Steve look I just wanted to delay a situation I’ve had, the NDIS to me is just frustration to no end. We put a plan in for 200 hours for 12 months for my little boy who has got Prader-Willi syndrome. We put it in with a third party that then put it into the NDIS. The problem is you don’t get to see any of that plan that gets put forward to the NDIS. We had the NDIS come back to us, we had backup from all of our physio’s and speech therapists and they said no you are allowed to have 81 hours from 200.

DM        Ok. I can help you with that. Sorry to interrupt. So basically what you will need to do is when you receive the decision from the agency in the form of a plan, basically any reviewable decision be it about an access request or for reasonable and necessary supports which is in the plan, they are classified as reviewable decisions under the legislation so you have three months to lodge an internal review application, you can get that from the agency, it is called a review of a reviewable decision document.

SP          Is the agency going to be compliant in helping him do that?

DM        Well they are compliant in releasing the form but it’s up to participants or people or are like John who called before, who are applying to put all of the supportive documentation so for you Greg, thank you for that Greg, um your son has Prader-Willi so basically you will need to speak to his specialist and you will need to attach those reports now when the …….sorry to interrupt Ill just tell you what happens, once you put that internal review document in so within that 3 months’ time frame of receiving the plan the agency have to make a decision now if you are unhappy with the decision you might decide to change the plan or keep it the same you can then go to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for external review and you know I’m a solicitor and advise clients and can run those matters and there are other lawyers out there that do the same.

SP          It sounds like they are making it very difficult.

DM        It is very complicated, it’s…

SP          Greg, do you feel that you need to go through the secondary process, I mean…

C2          We are in the review process at the moment…

DM        So you’ve lodged an internal review?

C2          Yes we have. The problem is with Prader-Willi early intervention is the key now….

DM        I agree, definitely.

C2          We are just being told look that’s not really going to happen and the whole process of the NDIS is just a fight, it’s honestly a fight from day one and you just feel that you are just always trying to argue especially when they’ve got a middle party between the NDIS and us.

DM        So who is the middle party in your situation?

C2          Northcott.

DM        Ok so they are a disability service provider, so you can actually, are they your plan manager? Is that the situation?

C2          Yes.

DM        Ok you can, even if you have a plan manager you can still get external advice so you can see a solicitor, I can talk to you about it and there is also disability advocates out there that help people with the structure of it all but you know generally speaking if somebody doesn’t want a plan manager they can request that from the agency, you know you don’t have to have a plan manager.

SP          Ill tell you what we are going to do Greg, we will get your contact details and pass those onto Dominique if that is ok with you, you just let us know off air and we can see what we can do to help to rush that scheme along a little bit. Sarah is on the line in Penrith. Hello Sarah.

C3          Hi guys how are?

SP          Good.

DM        Good thank you.

C3          I have just started my NDIS process with my 17 month old son and I just want to give you a bit of…how they have dealt with me. Ever since 6 weeks old he has been under some form of therapy, they have assumed that he has cerebral palsy, that has been ruled out as far as early as a couple of weeks ago but neurologists and specialists still want him to continue his therapy which is occupational physiotherapy and speech. He is delayed in all three and he is not even walking yet. The second thing is I was dealing with an agency for NDIS, sorry I am very frustrated, I was on the phone to them this morning, um they don’t even want to touch me, they don’t take my calls, they never return my calls….

DM        Sorry to interrupt, is this the service provider or is it an advocacy group?

C3          It is the service provider for the Penrith area. I have contacted NDIS and they have told me that unfortunately I do have to speak to them and this was their answer as far as this morning goes, I actually have to go into their office to get the forms for the plan and second of all the reason why they don’t want to deal with me is because they are not getting paid to deal with me or my son because they don’t have a plan yet and they don’t have a diagnosis.

DM        Ok, so you know, you don’t have to go through the service provider, you can put in the access request form yourself.

C3          I actually have to go get it from the provider.

DM        You can call the toll free line and you can ask the agency to email or post you out a document……

SP          What is the number?

DM        I’m so sorry, I don’t have it in front of me but it’s on the NDIS website. If you go onto google.

C3          Sorry because my son is under 7 years of age and it is an early prevention..

DM        It’s an early intervention.

C3          It is a bit different to access the form.

DM        I understand you do sometimes have to go through providers but if that provider isn’t necessarily being all that helpful you know you do have rights to go through another body. It depends whether they’ve, that provider is working alongside the agency, you know because sometimes the agency outsource, I just don’t know what the circumstances are but what I would recommend, well you do need those documents so you could ask that particular provider to send you the documents if it’s too difficult for you to go there but when you fill out the forms it’s very important that you have the medical evidence attached, it’s not, just because you don’t have a diagnosis doesn’t mean you won’t get NDIS funding, there is lots of children out there that just have general global development delay, they haven’t had specific diagnoses because they are so young, so definitely a report from the paediatrician would be helpful.

SP          That number is 1800 800 110. Give that a number a call and get them to send you documents if you have any difficulties trying to fill them out, feel free to contact Turner Freeman and they will be able to try and sort you out there if they possibly can. Robert’s in Melbourne, G’day Robert.

C4          Thanks. At 64 I was granted a disability pension because I am bipolar and at 65 I was advised by my financial adviser that they were overpaying me, I report this to Centrelink twice and they kept paying me. Finally last week they stopped my pension, I would just like to know what rights do I have about the overpayment and if they are going to ask for the money back or what’s going to happen?

SP          That’s quite a complicated legal issue.

DM        Yes you need to seek legal advice, you need to see somebody who specialises in Centrelink um, unfortunately this doesn’t have anything to do with the NDIS….

SP          That’s in Melbourne so there would be some advocacy groups there Dominique that Robert could contact.

DM        With regards to Centrelink, yes definitely.

SP          Karen is online, hello Karen.

C5          Hello Steve and Dominique, just a question. A couple of years ago I had surgery and there was complications which left me with spinal damage. I am taking legal action against the hospital but I’ve also been told to apply for the NDIS. I’ve started filling out the forms however someone from Centrelink told me that because I am taking legal action I can’t apply for the NDIS even though I am struggling 24/7. Is that correct or what can I do?

DM        If you have some form of disability or impairment that affects your functional capacity, you can apply for the NDIS. It just means that if you are successful in that negligence claim against the hospital, you just need to be aware that the agency, if you have a participant plan and the agency give you funding, they might request for some of that money to be paid back because you can’t double dip so you can’t get compensation through the scheme and through a settlement, compensation for an injury.

C5          Could I use the reports from the specialist for the lawyers or not?

DM        Um actually you need to speak to your lawyers about that because those reports might be confidential um it’s very important you don’t release any information about your case until you speak to your solicitors but most definitely you can apply for the NDIS, it’s a right, you can do that you just need to let your lawyers know that you are doing that and the evidence that you attach if it’s related to your other claim you need to seek advice about.

CP         Talk to your lawyer first. Dominique in general do you think this scheme’s working.

DM        Look I think it is working to an extent, you know there are a lot of people out there that are getting a lot of benefit out of the NDIS. There is people with disabilities going into open employment, there is a lot of children with autism and lots of different conditions that are getting early intervention, it’s just that we are not saying that it’s not working, we are just trying to educate people that they have rights and if the agency make a decision that they are not happy with they have the right to actually appeal that decision so the first step is internal review, so within 3 months of receiving a decision you lodge an internal review and when you get that decision back within 28 days you’ve got to lodge an application to the AAT.  The Tribunal.

SP          A quick one from Sam. G’day Sam.

C6          G’day Steve and Dominique, how are you?

SP          Good

DM        Good thank you.

C6          I am a cleaner, I have a cleaning company which has around 15-21 staff, the moment that the current rate that the NDIS benchmark is $49.16 for a home and maintenance, now I pay myself nearly $41.20 an hour, with driving and tolls and petrol and wear and tear now we can claim back $52 per hour, so from a provider point of view 1, I am not making money out of it at all and the participants are basically asking us to be there for one hour…

SP          Are you thinking about pulling your enrolment?

C6          The other question I wanted to ask the lawyer is that the safeguard commission say that if you want to renew your licence you have to go and pick up one of those hoisters which are……

SP          I think that’s a provider issue.

DM        Yeh I think the quality and safeguards commission has been setup obviously to improve the scheme but there is a lot of movement in the sector at the moment in terms of pressure being placed on the agency to increase those hourly rates for the support providers.

SP          One thing I might do is actually get the minister on in the next couple weeks and have a chat about it. Thank you very much Dominique McGovern from Turner Freeman, thanks for coming in. We are going to give that voucher today to Greg from Sydney, if you can call us back we will sort that out for you.