Thursday, 1 August 2019
National Disability Insurance Scheme
I was proud to campaign for the creation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It's Australia's most important social policy reform since the introduction of Medicare. When it was rolled out under Labor, it promised to revolutionise disability services and give people living with disability and their carers greater choice and more control over their lives.
Sadly, the coalition government's handling of the scheme has fatal flaws which mean it's not living up to its promise. Failures to fund staff properly, capping of staff, the outsourcing of core functions and funding problems have nobbled the NDIS in its infancy. I was horrified when the government announced it had underspent $1.6 billion on the NDIS and that this money would be diverted to prop up the flaky promise of a budget surplus. How could a government underspend on the NDIS when constituents in my electorate couldn't get the basic care and the basic equipment that they need and were promised?
This NDIS-funded windfall may help prop up the government, but it comes at the expense of young people in my electorate like Clara Bates. Clara is 16 years of age, and she lives with severe quadriplegic cerebral palsy. In July 2018 an application, along with an occupational therapist report, was submitted to the NDIA for a standing power chair. While standing power chairs are a costly piece of equipment, they enable the user to work towards independence, reduce the risk of injury and reduce long-term care costs. Clara's NDIS plan required funding for a standing power chair. After many follow-ups with the NDIA, the family were still waiting to hear back and simply wanted to hear a 'yes' or 'no' so that they could take their next steps.
Clara's mother contacted my office in mid-April 2019, and the issue was immediately raised with the NDIA. During the first week of May, my office was advised that the standing power chair had been approved. Her chair was delivered in mid-July, but the problem here is that it took over 12 months for her to get this vital piece of equipment. The avenue for resolving these disputes shouldn't have to be contacting your local member of parliament, as willing as we are—all of us—to assist our constituents in resolving these complaints. The problem is the staffing and funding arrangements for the NDIS. This government have got a lot of work to do if they're going to regain the trust of the clients and their carers in the NDIS.