EARLIER this month, the Newcastle Herald spoke with Medowie’s Kellie Wall about the impact that a substantial reduction in an NDIS package has had on the care received by her 10-year-old son Braith.
In a similar light, Luke and Katrina Horn have spoken about the difficulties that a 22 per cent cut in NDIS funding has had on their ability to care for the 18-year-old son Dillon, who is non-verbal with autism and epilepsy. While the circumstances, and the amounts of money involved, are different for both families, they both say they are dealing with an NDIS bureaucracy that is either unwilling or unable to meaningfully engage with them over their concerns.
Unfortunately for the disability community, it’s an increasingly familiar tale as more and more people come forward to express their disquiet over the shortcomings of a system that has quite literally turned disability funding in this country on its head.
At one level, the NDIS has indeed been the revolution that its initial proponents had hoped it would be.
The focus of the system has shifted completely from the agencies providing the services to the people needing them. But the magnitude of the change is so great that turning theory into practice has proved less than straightforward. To start with, the system itself has created an explosion in demand for disability services that an admittedly expanding disability sector has struggled to keep up with. This is far more than a theoretical problem when it means an agency contracted to provide an essential service rings up at the last minute to say it is short-staffed and so unable to attend. On top of this, the philosophical switch from agency funding to individual funding means that it’s the system users themselves – families like the Horns and the Walls – who must negotiate an apparently cumbersome online NDIS portal, or spend hours on the phone waiting to speak to someone whenever a problem arises.
Then there’s the variations in funding granted to each applicant, which seem less than fair but which may be unavoidable in a system built around “case by case” presentations. And finally, the need to keep some sort of a lid on the overall cost of the NDIS must put downward pressure on individual packages, regardless of what the agency says. Having created such great expectations, the NDIS still needs to prove it can deliver them.
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