Disability Services (NDIS)

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The Federal Labor Party introduced the National Disability Insurance Scheme [NDIS] in 2013. This is good Labor policy. The official rollout of the NDIS supposedly commenced on 1 July across the Nepean-Blue Mountains area for young people under 18 years of age living with a disability. There is currently a great deal of concern and confusion from both carers and service providers in my area at the lack of information about the implementation of the NDIS, given the expectation that families are due to receive packages from September 2015 onwards. There appear to be major delays surrounding the rollout. New services promised in media releases and on the website are not being delivered in a timely fashion. The Minister needs to urgently address a range of issues, raised by some of the most vulnerable people in society.

On Tuesday 21 July I hosted a roundtable discussion in Springwood and was joined by more than 60 people from my electorate and including 30 service organisations. The shadow Minister for Disability, Sophie Cotsis, MLC, also joined us. I will provide some feedback about this roundtable—the purpose of it—to provide an opportunity for those currently providing and receiving disability services to speak and be heard. We were privileged to hear people talk of how and when the NDIS would be implemented—their hopes, dreams, wishes, concerns, doubts, questions—as well as learn about people's ideas and opportunities to roll out best practice services for people living with disability. 

Many people commented that they had very little information about how the rollout would occur in a practical sense in our area and were keen to learn more. They are concerned about the impacts of the NDIS on access to housing, transport, education and other services currently provided by the New South Wales Government. Many service providers and carers are well aware of the importance of the person-centred plan; however, they had questions about the quality of the planning process and the need to employ skilled planners with experience in working with people with disabilities. In the transition from block funding to a structure that is based on unit costing or fee-for-service, participants are concerned about continuing access to current services and service providers. A big question remains about service viability and continuity during this massive change to the funding landscape.

Service providers have specifically requested the implementation of appropriate transitional arrangements so that people with disabilities and their families receive adequate support during this period of enormous change. Particular attention needs to be paid to the most vulnerable groups in our community and those who currently experience difficulty accessing disability services due to language and cultural barriers and social isolation. As the member for Blue Mountains I am keen to ensure that there are opportunities for my constituents to provide feedback about gaps and barriers and to evaluate quality issues during the rollout in the Blue Mountains. The NDIS presents a once in a generation opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of people with disability and their families. I am committed to ensuring that the NDIS is the best it can be and that people with disabilities and their families have access to quality services that enhance their lives.

On three occasions I have written to the Minister seeking a briefing, and I have yet to receive a reply. I would appreciate an opportunity to meet and discuss questions raised by people in my electorate. Some of these following questions will be formally submitted to the Minister, but I also want to put them on the record in this place. How will the Minister ensure that the needs are met of those people with immediate problems—families in crisis, children at risk and those most vulnerable in the community? How will people who are not included in the first round of funding survive until the next round which is due in July 2016? What will happen to people who are excluded from the NDIS once the Ageing, Disability and Home Care [ADHC] services have been disbanded?

Will the Minister explain the process and the time frame for recruitment of NDIS planners? Can the Minister clarify the job security situation of current ADHC staff, and what will happen to those skilled workers whose roles are not funded? What is the status of the current ADHC group homes and the future supply of housing? Disability advocate, analyst and Blue Mountains resident El Gibb, in her bluntshovels blog post, "Whose NDIS is it anyway?", poses some hard questions and comments. I encourage all members of this place and anyone committed to the NDIS to read this article. El asks:

"What is really changing, with NDIS?"

"The shut down of all New South Wales public disability services didn't rate a mention, nor the proposed sale of Home Care", says El. 

"The lack of housing options for disabled people was not part of the roll-out celebration."

At the NDIS forum I hosted, people appreciated El's contribution and the contributions of others. It is critical that we get this right. How many service providers in Australia are led by disabled people? How many put the rights of disabled people first; the right to live somewhere they choose, to be safe in their home, to not be seen as mistakes or broken? Asking some of those questions, rather than just accepting the hype about the NDIS, should be the norm rather than the exception. With a social reform as big as this, and on which so many hopes rest, is it not worth making sure that this is an NDIS that works for everyone?

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