Thursday, 13 February 2020
Statements by Members
National Disability Insurance Scheme
This summer has been a season of grief, loss and hardship for many Australians. The unprecedented bushfire crisis, followed so quickly by floods, has changed Australia. Sadly, this government may yet be remembered for its failure to respond properly to what one New South Wales Liberal minister has called 'a humanitarian crisis'. In the middle of so much suffering, it was difficult to hear the National Disability Insurance Agency confirm that more than 1,200 people have died while waiting for a National Disability Insurance Scheme plan. How is it possible in a wealthy country like Australia that over 1,200 vulnerable people have lost their lives while waiting for the government to help? How can the Minister for the NDIS and Minister for Government Services—the minister responsible for the NDIS—claim that no-one has died waiting? Why didn't the minister tell the public about this crisis? The Prime Minister at least admitted that the deaths were unacceptable. Australians with disability are dying while waiting for basic aids and treatment. The NDIS is meant to be a path to independence, yet, in some cases, loved ones believe delays have led to and hastened deaths.
Nicole, a mother in my electorate, has been fighting to get her daughter Rebecca access to NDIS for at least six months. Each time I hear from Nicole, I hope I won't hear the worst. Rebecca was born with a genetic syndrome, hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and a long list of associated impairments. She is now 21 and weighs only 41 kilos. Her first application for the NDIS was rejected because it didn't say she lived with a permanent impairment. Rebecca needs to be lifted out of bed and can't shower herself, but the NDIA assessed her as not being impaired. She was born with a genetic syndrome, yet the NDIA says her condition isn't permanent. An occupational therapist has reported that Rebecca is in desperate need of a new bed, an electric wheelchair, a shower chair and assistance with self-care. With the help of a local area coordinator, Rebecca submitted a fresh NDIS application, which was, again, rejected. This time the NDIA informed Rebecca that she hadn't exhausted all treatment avenues. Her mother said she's ready to start picketing government offices.
This is what happens when you rip $4.6 billion out of the NDIS and you outsource and continue to understaff the scheme. The NDIS can change lives, and it does. But the neglect and indifference of this government is nothing short of cruelty to Australians living with disability. In April, the government's Carer Gateway will go live. It is supposed to make the lives of carers easier. One of its stated objectives is to assist carers—like Rebecca's mum—to navigate the NDIS. Bill Shorten, shadow minister for NDIS, and I are meeting with carers, NDIS participants, advocacy groups and support services to make sure no-one is worse off as a result of these changes. When will the Prime Minister and the Minister for the NDIS properly fund the NDIA so that those needing access, like Rebecca, will get help when they need it?