Bill Shorten says NDIS defrauded by criminal organisations

One of the designers of the National Disability Insurance Scheme said it is now a “bureaucratic nightmare” being exploited by criminal organisations.

Criminal organisations are exploiting the “maze of red tape” around the National Disability Insurance Scheme to access personal information of vulnerable people, the responsible minister claims.

Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Bill Shorten, told ABC’s Insider program intelligence reports show criminal organisations are “opportunistically” defrauding the scheme.

The former Labor leader claimed crime syndicates were accessing people’s personal information to scam the NDIS by creating falsified bookings, inflated invoices, or for unperformed services.

“I think there are very few things more despicable in life than crooks taking money which is due to go to disabled people,” he said.

Reports from the Australian Crime and Intelligence Commission warn the NDIS loses as much as $1.45 billion to criminals and fraudsters each year.

Mr Shorten blamed the former government for not putting adequate processes in place to prevent the loss of taxpayer money.

“They basically put a padlock on coming into the scheme and they would argue with a person about their wheelchair … but they left the welcome mat at the back door,” he said.

The Minister for the NDIS said he was very concerned about the “disturbing reports” and signalled he would be assessing “all the options on the table” to fight the illegal fraud.

While exploitation of the scheme is a focus for the government, Mr Shorten said it was one of many issues plaguing the NDIS.

He said the scheme has become a bloated “bureaucratic nightmare” and a “maze of red tape” for people trying to access the essential services.

The former Labor leader said the government will be fast-tracking a review of the NDIS earmarked for next year.

As well as an investigation into criminal exploitation of the scheme, he said he wanted to implement a more transparent pricing model for service providers.

“I’ve only just looked under the hood, but I am putting it on notice that we want to have a pricing system which makes sense to everyday people,” he said.

Mr Shorten said it was time to restore trust in the NDIS, which now looks after 580,000 people and employs 250,000 workers in disability.

“The only way the NDIS can fulfil its potential is by involving people with disability in the co-design of the scheme,” he said.

The Minister for the NDIS, who was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the scheme in 2010, said it was time to reassess the implementation of the nationwide program. He said a possible solution would be to expand secondary disability services to meet the needs of a wider variety of disabilities.

“This scheme is the only lifeboat in the ocean for Australians with disabilities,” he said.

“We have to create trust, talk to the people using the services, talk to the people delivering the services and say this scheme can‘t subsidise everyone in Australia.”

With the cost of the scheme estimated to reach $60 billion a year by 2030, Mr Shorten said he would consult with the states to curtail the escalating costs of the NDIS and better meet the needs of Australians with disabilities.

“All levels of government have a responsibility to make sure that all Australians, if they have an impairment, get a fair crack at things,” he said.

He also noted that each dollar spent on the NDIS returns $2.25 in economic outcome.

The former Labor leader said he would review the accreditation and registration requirements for disability service providers, which he said can be onerous. Currently, an estimated 90 per cent of providers are unregistered.

Mr Shorten said the government is committed to assessing and improving the NDIS.

“We will run the scheme more efficiently and empathically,” Mr Shorten said.

“I want us to have the world’s best scheme which is consistent with taxpayer value, but even more importantly, disability could be any of us at any time, why not give people a fair go in life?”

Originally published as Bill Shorten calls $1.45 billion NDIS frauds “despicable”

Place of originBill Shorten says NDIS defrauded by criminal organisations

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