how and why the NDIS roll-out stopped in the ACT

Subject: how and why the NDIS roll-out stopped in the ACT
Date: Thu, 10 Nov 2016 13:56:12 +1100
From: Bob Buckley (SOfASD Chair) <>
Organization: Speaking Out for Autism Spectrum Disorder (SOfASD) in the ACT
CC: Rachel Stephen-Smith <>

Ms Rachel Stephen-Smith MLA
Minister for Disability, Children and Youth
GPO Box 1020,
Canberra, ACT 2601



Dear Ms Rachel Stephen-Smith MLA,

Congratulations on winning your seat in the ACT Legislative Assembly and on your appointment to several Ministerial roles, including Minister for Disability, Children and Youth.

As Chair of Speaking Out for Autism Spectrum Disorder (SOfASD) in the ACT, I write to you about the NDIA’s recent NDIS intake shut down in the ACT. SOfASD wants to know why this NDIS shut-down happened and what will be done to ensure the NDIS does not shut down again.

Before the NDIS trials started, several stakeholders expressed strong concerns to bureaucrats and politicians that the Productivity Commission and the NDIA had seriously underestimated the number of eligible NDIS participants (e.g. here, here, here and here). Stakeholders expressed specific concerns that, the number of trial participants in South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the overall total number for the NDIS were too low.

Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia, known as A4, also expressed concern that the NDIA’s planning and budgeting did not recognise the on-going substantial growth in the number of children (or people generally) being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) … most of whom have severe or profound disability (rather than over-diagnosis, or mild & moderate disability as bureaucrats and some academics believe).

Government and NDIA officials responded by

  1. raising slightly the estimated number of participants for the final scheme from 410,000 to 460,000 … which stakeholders said was still far too low; and

  2. stating/promising that the Commonwealth Government would itself fund any extra NDIS participants (in any of the jurisdictions) … so there should not be a problem as any extra costs due to any under-estimate would be covered.

Clearly, the stakeholders were right about NDIS participant numbers: the number of NDIS participants, first in South Australia and then in the ACT, exceeded the NDIA’s estimate substantially. The NDIA has yet to provide any revised projections based on additional data from the various trial regions.

We were also rightly concerned about what would actually happen when the number of NDIS clients in a region/state/territory such as the ACT exceeded the NDIA’s estimate. The Commonwealth did not fund NDIS participants above the initial estimate in South Australia or the ACT … once the estimate was achieved, the NDIA shut out many more eligible participants. Commonwealth and NDIA officials broke their promise (or lied from the outset) to the disability sector.

Please provide a comprehensive explanation of how and why the NDIA stopped its NDIS participant intake when the ACT reached its estimated number of 5,075 NDIS participants. SOfASD is particularly interested to know:

  1. whether officials reviewed the estimated number of NDIS participants in the ACT at any time;

  2. what discussion/communication occurred between ACT officials, Commonwealth officials and the NDIA about as the numbers approached the NDIA’s ACT cut-off of 5,075 participants;

  3. what, after NDIS intake stopped in South Australia, ACT Government officials did to ensure the NDIA would not stop NDIS participant intake in the ACT once the estimated number was reached.

The disability sector deserves comprehensive explanations of why and how the NDIS shut down its intake in the ACT, and why the ACT Government did not prepare adequately for reaching and exceeding 5,075 NDIS participants.

Stakeholders would also like to know what is being done to ensure NDIS intake in the ACT does not stop again.

The NDIA keeps insisting that it is “on time and on budget” (e.g. page iii, NDIS Annual Report 2016) Clearly, this is another on-going lie: the NDIS in South Australia and the ACT are both well behind schedule and they have exceeded the estimated number of participants. In the ACT, the NDIS was meant to have completed its entire intake by June 2016. The NDIA did not meet its target. The NDIS is not on time in the ACT.

The average cost per participant is on target but the number of participants has increased so it is fantastic/erroneous to claim the NDIS is on budget.

We recognise that getting the NDIS up and running in a short time-frame is a challenge. We acknowledge that the NDIA is having considerable success.

However, for many it is falling well short of its promises and potential. Rejecting crucial information and advice from the disability stakeholders made the NDIS roll-out more difficult and diminishes outcomes. Many of the NDIA’s problems and issues would be minimised or avoided completely if politicians and bureaucrats respected stakeholders and stakeholder representatives in the disability sector.

There are no real consequences for politicians and bureaucrats from poorly designed or implemented policy. However, consequences for the most vulnerable people in the community can be dire. People with disability may be murdered or die when services and supports do not meet their needs. For example:

  1. recent murders include:

    1. Davidson deaths: Family gassed in suspected murder suicide and The murder of disabled children can never be justified

    2. Magician pleads guilty to unlawful death of autistic boy left to freeze in shed and A mother chained up her autistic son. And I understand why.

  2. The Gallop Inquiry in the ACT investigated the deaths of several people with disability in the ACT; after legal games and lengthy delays considering the recommendations, there was no discernible outcome from the recommendations – lessons were not learned (I can no longer find this report on any ACT Government website);

  3. locally autistic men, Stephen Moon and Jack Sullivan, died through inadequate services and support.

  4. Michael Ormsby, the boy who died because we didn't do enough

Conduct like this NDIS shut-down justify and exacerbate community contempt for the wheels of government and for those involved.

Regrettably, many people in the disability sector cannot now trust explanations and assurances from politicians and bureaucrats. Officials squandered the trust and respect of many people living with or affected by disability. Their trust and respect will be difficult to earn back.

We would welcome opportunities to discuss the issues above … and other issues affecting autistic people and those living with ASD in the ACT. I can be reached via email or on 04XX XXX XXX.



Bob Buckley
Chair, Speaking Out for Autism Spectrum Disorder (SOfASD)
a voice for people living with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the ACT


Subject: Automatic reply: how and why the NDIS roll-out stopped in the ACT
Date: Thu, 10 Nov 2016 02:56:19 +0000
From: Rachel Stephen-Smith <>
To: Bob Buckley (SOfASD Chair) <>

Thank you for your email. If you are contacting me in my capacity as a Minister, please note that the email address is This inbox remains active and relevant emails will be forwarded to the appropriate address and responded to from there.

Please also note that the mobile phone number used during my campaign is no longer being monitored. To reach my office, please call (02) 6205 2661.

Kind regards,


Rachel Stephen-Smith
MLA for Kurrajong