House debates

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Constituency Statements

National Disability Insurance Scheme

10:13 am

Photo of Andrew WilkieAndrew Wilkie (Clark, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

Having a disability makes life hard enough, but if you're 65 or older it can be a disaster, because older Australians are not allowed to enter the National Disability Insurance Scheme. If this sounds like blatant age discrimination, it's because it is. In fact, in 2013 the federal Labor government had to exempt the NDIS from the operation of the Age Discrimination Act, just to get it through the parliament. Let's not kid ourselves. Excluding older people from the NDIS was driven by concern for the budget bottom line, not the public interest. This has caused great disadvantage for people with disabilities. Indeed, my office was recently approached by a constituent who missed out on joining the NDIS because she was 66 years old, but, bizarrely, her sister, who is a couple of years younger and has the same disability, is entitled to the NDIS. In other words, the sister has access to assistive devices and the allied health and disability support providers of her choice, but the constituent doesn't.

I have also been approached by a constituent who runs a social enterprise in Hobart, employing people with a disability. Unsurprisingly, he's concerned too that his older staff are being denied the same level of support for household tasks and social activities as their younger colleagues, and he wants to know what's being done to help them.

Then there's the case of Chris English, who became a quadriplegic at 69. Because Chris was too old for the NDIS, he entered the aged care system and was assessed as requiring the highest level of care. However, this is only worth around $50,000 a year, which doesn't come close to covering his needs. If he'd been eligible for the NDIS, he'd have received around $300,000. Chris and his family were behind the petition the member nor Warringah tabled in the House recently which called on the government to allow older people with a disability to access the NDIS. In response, the minister argued the NDIS is not intended to replace services already provided through the health or aged-care systems. But this is obviously nonsense because the aged-care system simply isn't designed to care for people with a disability and doesn't offer anywhere near enough support, such as access to technology and activities that allow people to stay at home, to be employed and to enjoy a social life.

We're all just a moment away from relying on disability care, and it's only fair that we all should receive the same level of support. Frankly it's shameful and avoidable that a young person with a disability is eligible for the NDIS while an older person is condemned to a poorer quality of life.