Monday, 3 December 2018
National Disability Insurance Scheme
Today is the International Day of People with a Disability, and this evening I rise to speak on the state of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in 2018. The legislation for the National Disability Insurance Scheme was introduced with the nation's hope for a better way for people living with a disability behind it. Yet today, five years later, the NDIS is falling devastatingly short of the promises it was founded upon. I think back to the passionate, proud and driven sentiments of my colleagues in this place around the NDIS in 2013. I think back and contrast these to the sad realities of the NDIS for my constituents in Werriwa, who every day face navigating the scheme. I think back and wonder where we've gone wrong.
We said that disability care would be here when you need it—election after election, decade after decade. The reality is that the NDIS is there for Australians only at an annual review date—if that. Many of many constituents have been left waiting for months for plan reviews, only to be told that, when they are finally assigned a planner within 100 days of an annual review, they must wait until this occurs for anything to change. We said that disability care provided support for certainty and provides choice and control to differently-abled Australians. The reality is that Australians with disability, and their carers, are left for months waiting for funding decisions from the NDIA. One of my constituents was left with a wheelchair he cannot use at home, because car modifications have been waiting months for approval. His family have resorted to community fundraising instead. Where is the 'choice and control' in this?
We said that disability care will ensure people with disability will have the security and dignity that each Australian deserves. The reality is that the wait times of the NDIS do little to improve the security and dignity for vulnerable Australians. One of my constituents put in a request for an electric wheelchair in May. Her existing one was meant to be only temporary. It had a fabric back and was a manual, so she had to push herself off the wall to get around the house. She needed the wheelchair to be more independent and be able to go out. She can't walk, has kidney failure and is on dialysis several times a week. This constituent contacted us in September because there were still no updates from the NDIA. The wheelchair was ordered in mid-November—seven months later.
We said that disability care would end the primitive time where people with disabilities and their carers need to shoulder the burden and fill in the gaps. In reality, disability care means disabled Australians and their carers must instead shoulder the burden of messy, complex bureaucracy that is difficult to navigate. The NDIA shrouds the positive measures of the NDIS plan in layers of forms, phone calls and plan approvals.
A lot of policy around differently-abled Australians has historically looked at disability as a problem or a deficit that policy solutions could fix. The NDIS was meant to change this. The NDIS was introduced through a largely pro-disabled political consensus between the two parties. However, the policy has been implemented in a way that makes disability a problem to solve. The stories of my constituents make this clear. This needs to change. The NDIS must evolve as a tool to empower Australians with disabilities and address the structural inequalities faced by people with a disability.
Last week, while I was standing out in the sun at a mobile office, a young woman stopped by. She came to tell me that, as a nurse and a social worker, she found the NDIS really difficult to get through, but she stopped to thank me because my office was able to help her navigate through the system. This shouldn't happen. It shouldn't be that they need the help of a local member to mitigate unreasonable waiting times. It should not happen that there are webs of bureaucracy. It will not happen in a scheme that is associated with a government that looks at it as welfare and administration rather than simplicity, choice and empowerment. Former Prime Minister and member for Werriwa, Gough Whitlam, once said:
Australians should not have to live in doubt or anxiety lest injury or sickness reduce them to poverty.
Let today, the International Day of People with a Disability, serve as a call to action. We must get the NDIS back on track as a tool that empowers differently-abled Australians to live the lives they want.