THE state government has begun to pave the way for disability staff, 580 group homes and six residential centres, including Stockton, to be transferred to the private sector by 2018, as part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Legislation to enable the transfer of public assets and employees, as part of the roll out of the national scheme across the state from 2016 to 2018, has been introduced to the Parliament’s upper house this week.
Under the bill, industrial conditions and pay of public sector workers would continue and entitlements such as sick leave would follow workers transferring to the non-government sector.
The government could also vest assets, such as residential centres and therapy equipment to new owners, or ‘‘sever’’ assets from government land to enable organisations to borrow against them to pay for new homes.
Non-government service providers may take operational responsibility of some assets as part of the transition to NDIS, Minister for Disability Services John Ajaka said.
‘‘It is a key priority of the government that, where possible, staff continue to work with the same people and maintain those relationships beyond 2018 and into the future,’’ he told Parliament.
He said the movement of services would be carefully investigated and was not about making money for the government.
But the Public Service Association says the national scheme is being used as cover by the state government to privatise services, and some families of those at centres have expressed concern about the adequacy of replacement services.
However, disability advocates were quick to praise the bill yesterday.
Every Australian Counts campaign director John Della Bosca said the scheme was designed to shift choice and control over services to people with a disability and their families.
But that could not happen while the government dominated the market.
‘‘All the evidence and on-ground experience demonstrates that community-run disability services deliver the most innovative and dynamic support to people with a disability,’’ Mr Della Bosca said.
Greens spokeswoman Jan Barham said it was critical the government detailed how the changes would be rolled out and how those in care would be affected.
‘‘But there have been complaints about group homes and the condition of those for a long time – this new system is about giving people more options,’’ she said.
Quizzed by Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper on how the government would ensure diverse needs of those in residential care would be protected, Premier Barry O’Farrell told Parliament yesterday the transfer of public sector staff was ‘‘always part of the design of the scheme’’.
‘‘By 2018, the number of people receiving support will grow to 140,000 up from 90,000 now,’’ he said.
The legislation would help provide services that were ‘‘so desperately needed’’.
Critics irked by privatisation
By IAN KIRKWOOD
THE launch of legislation covering the state government’s privatisation of disability services has not satisfied critics who fear for the clients and the people who work in the system.
Public Service Association organiser Paul James said that while the state government cited the examples of Queensland and Western Australia as also privatising disability services, it omitted South Australia, which was not.
The South Australian Minister for Disability, Tony Piccolo, confirmed this yesterday, saying: ‘‘While people seek our services, the government will continue to provide them – and we have no intention to cease being a disability service provider.’’
Also, a new study of disability organisation directors has found governments are feared to be under-playing the long-term impacts of the NDIS.
Families with members at the Stockton Centre and other state-run facilities have contacted the Herald to slam the government’s decision to privatise disability services, saying it denied them the choice to retain their existing service.
●The Stockton Centre Welfare Association’s annual fete is on at the centre tomorrow from 9.30am to 2.30pm and organisers say they are hoping for a big turnout.