Doorstop interview regarding appointment of NDIA CEO

STUART ROBERT: 

Good morning. Great to be here to join you. It's my pleasure to announce the Government has signed off on the new Chief Executive Officer for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The Government will appoint Mr Martin Hoffman to the role. He's previously the secretary of the New South Wales Department of Finance Services and Innovation, a prior DepSec within the Federal Government, and prior to that extensive senior leadership roles in private industry. He comes with a wealth of experience and service delivery having overseen Service New South Wales, which is an outstanding example of excellence in service delivery. The appointment of Mr Hoffman builds on the extensive and accelerated work we've been doing right across the NDIS since once again being returned to Government.

Just last week, at the Disability Reform Council, we agreed on the interfaces between all the states and territories and the NDIS for mental health and justice, as well as solving the very complex area of participant transport. Again, this builds on the previous DRC meeting in June where we sold the interface issues for out-of-home care, for hospital discharges and for health supports to participants in out of hospital environments. So there is an accelerated piece of work going on right across the NDIS as we continue to build and go to full scheme. Two thousand participants are coming into the scheme every single week, so there is an extraordinary amount of work as we move forward. It also builds on the early childhood, early intervention changes we made in June, where if participants haven't got a plan in 50 days, they will receive $10,000 and a plan on a page, if you will. And we've seen participants waiting for a plan reduced from 4700 to 1700 in the last few months, and that'll come down to zero.
 
We've also seen any access or any backlog of access now reduced to zero. Access KPI of course is 21 days and there is no current backlog at all in terms of access into the NDIS.
 
Now cognisant of this extraordinarily increased workload, the Disability Reform Council, as a council of COAG, is now meeting every three months and will continue to meet every three months until we resolve any outstanding issues. The NDIS is 80 per cent complete, and we intend to have the last 20 per cent complete over the next 12 months, working collaboratively with the States and Territories. Now because of that extra workload, the Government made a decision a number of months ago to surge the resources within the NDIA. In the last three months alone, 300 extra public servants have been employed within the NDIA. The workforce now- and I ask the NDIA exactly what they need - their statement was they need a workforce of 4000 public servants leaning into 1 July and beyond 2020, and that's being signed off. Every single number of resource that the NDIA have asked for, the Government has provided. This will now take the workforce next year for the entire NDIS into 12,000. And remember, the Productivity Commission recommended a workforce of 10,000. We're now looking at a combined public service, local area coordinated and partner workforce of around 12,000. So there's an enormous amount that's happening. I'm pleased to see Martin Hoffman come on board. Can I say thank you to the acting CEO Vicki Rundle, PSM who has done an outstanding job in the interim, and I'm looking forward to her continuing as a senior executive within the organisation going forward.

QUESTION: 

Minister, the NDIS annual report says there's been delays in transitioning people to the scheme. Why has that happened?

STUART ROBERT: 

One of the challenges is there's 100,000 records that have come from block funded from the states and territories that are unactionable, that people have unfortunately either passed away, don't exist, or have been double counted. So that's 100,000 participants the Productivity Commission believed would be there, aren't there.
 
Having said that, the PC recommended that 67,000 new participants will come through, and that number is surge to 117,000, which is pleasing; 100,000 participants receiving support the very first time. But that is the great challenge, 100,000 participants who we were told would come into the scheme, those records are not actionable.

QUESTION: 

Some of those people are alive and they have applied for [indistinct]. I've spoken to quite a few people who claim their plans have been pulled up. So if delays is a point of complaint, how do you explain that?

STUART ROBERT: 

Well as I said, there's no access backlog at all. People who are seeking access are getting access, the average time from access to plan give or take around 80 days. Remember, we're talking about up to 500,000 participants, all individual, individual conditions, individual requirements, and individual plans. It's not a cookie cutter approach. It is a personalised individual process and many of these are very complex.

QUESTION: 

What kind of priorities are you getting the new boss to look at? Will they include looking at the huge amount of external contractors that the Department hires?

STUART ROBERT: 

The Department doesn't have a huge amount of contractors. In fact, the number of contractors is actually decreasing. At present, as we continue to build a world first scheme that no one has done before, there's absolutely a need for external expertise. There is a substantial plan Government has got which will be announced in coming weeks, and I'll expect the CEO to action that expeditiously.

QUESTION: 

The last CEO resigned in April. Why has it taken so long to get a new CEO?

STUART ROBERT: 

We've gone for a nationwide search for the very best person who is available and I think we've found that in Martin Hoffman.

QUESTION: 

Are you open to uncapping the staffing numbers? I know you're bolstering staffing numbers. Are you open to uncapping?

STUART ROBERT: 

The Government will provide the staffing numbers that the agency needs. The agency has made it clear that it needs numbers of 4000 public servants staff, building on the 8000 contract and other provider staff. The Department has been given every single resource that it has asked for.

QUESTION: 

I think it was taking children on average 127 days in June to get access to a plan. What's that number up to now?

STUART ROBERT: 

The number now is 50 days.

QUESTION: 

It is 50 days for all children?

STUART ROBERT: 

It is 50 days. If, within 50 days, a child has not got a plan from access, their provider they plan on a page to the value of $10,000. There were 4700 children in June that had breached that 50 day. That number is down to 1700, zero by the end of the year.

QUESTION: 

Is there a requirement that people assessing these applications have experience in disability or have medical backgrounds?

STUART ROBERT: 

Ideally we'd want people who have got experience, but keeping in mind we're building a scheme that has never been built before - the Productivity Commission believes that over the next five years an extra 90,000 therapists, attendant care, assistant therapists will be needed, which is a huge increase in workload.
 
So we'd always love to see more and more people with lived experience or actual experience with disability, including experience across a whole raft of medical areas, to be involved. And I'd encourage, as we continue to recruit right across the board, that people with those expertise put their hand up and come forward.

QUESTION: 

How can you expect these people to understand the needs of the people who are applying if they don't have that experience?

STUART ROBERT: 

I think every Australian knows someone, has experience with someone, has either lived experience, family experience, or community experience with people with disability. And just because someone doesn't have direct experience doesn't mean they're not actually able to make an active contribution. Twelve per cent of the NDIA are people with disability and a large tonne more are people with lived experience through a brother, a sister, a child or an aunt or an uncle. But I think it's disingenuous to say that someone who does not have lived experience is not able to make a real contribution to the lives of Australians with disability.

QUESTION: 

There's 94 executives within the NDIA who are paid a combined $23 million in salary and benefits. Is there a danger of the organisation becoming too bureaucratic to [indistinct]?

STUART ROBERT: 

No.

QUESTION: 

[Indistinct] emphasised [indistinct]

STUART ROBERT: 

Every organisation needs experience executives. We're talking about a world first national endeavour that hasn't been tried at this scale ever before, with 500,000 participants, all unique, all individual - individual experiences, individual lives, individual plans. We're talking about building a massive workforce. We're talking about a budget now of $18 billion this year, moving to $22 billion and beyond. This is an extraordinary national enterprise and it needs an extraordinary group of executives to run it.

QUESTION: 

I just wanted to follow up - what priorities have you given Mr Hoffman? What are the three key issues that you want fixed that he's going to be in charge of?

STUART ROBERT: 

In the coming weeks we'll launch the full plan that Government has got, and you'll have to wait till then.

QUESTION: 

What does that mean, the full plan?

STUART ROBERT: 

There's an extensive plan that has been signed off by Cabinet on how we're bringing the scheme into full scheme. How we'll move from the current rapid build of getting participants through, rising from the current numbers above 300,000 through the expected of 460,000, through to 500,000. And then how do we move the scheme into a business as usual, including employment strategies and wider issues. And that's a discussion for another day.

QUESTION: 

Minister, have you worked with Mr Hoffman personally before?

STUART ROBERT: 

I have extensively. He did a lot of the sprint work for Services Australia, developing the strategy for that. He is an extraordinary executive.

QUESTION: 

On that, this is the second position you've appointed Mr Hoffman to in the time you've been Minister. I guess, what's so special about him?

STUART ROBERT: 

Well, you'll see when he hits the ground running. He's an extraordinary executive. Services New South Wales, in terms of providing an innovative service to citizens, is probably one of the world leading schemes. I would argue they are further advanced than USA, than Norway, than Canada, heaven forbid even further advanced than Estonia. He's led the last three years and that was an extraordinary piece of work. I've seen Mr Hoffman firsthand working in a high pressure environment building the Government's strategy for Services Australia. There'll be greater discussion of that in coming weeks and months.
 
He's an impressive individual, a delightful family man. A real sense of compassion as well as drive. I think the nation is going be proud of the selection the Government's made.

QUESTION: 

Sorry, just to clarify - so you haven't asked him to address the amount of external contractors in the Department?

STUART ROBERT: 

I've actually said that the Government will make its more fulsome plan of exactly what we've asked Mr Hoffman to do in the coming days.

And on that note, I'm going to launch Parliamentary Friends of Autism, which I think's pretty exciting because it's autism spectrum disorder and the number of people with autism in the NDIS is the largest cohort of Australians, and of course one of the largest group of children coming through. And I'm pretty excited about getting there and launching it. Thanks all.