This week I did something I don’t normally do. I attended a community presentation/discussion forum about the Australian legislation relating to a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Basically this is about a nationalised system of funding to provide care, supports and services to people with disability across the country. To date the disability ‘system’ in this nation is described by our own Prime Minister as ‘piecemeal, fragmented and underfunded.’ I believe a significant change is a good thing, and I share the PM’s view about the state of disability in this nation. I did however need someone to unpack the fine print in the NDIS for me.
Well, attending the forum did this. The presenters were from DDC and PWDWA (see links below for info on these organisations) and did a really good job at ‘unpacking’ and opening up key areas for discussion, as well as keeping the whole afternoon ‘moving’ along at a nice pace. Key areas discussed included criteria for eligibility, early intervention, and the nature of the so-called ‘Agency’ appointed to oversee what has been termed ‘care plans’ (basically what support, services and funding will be allocated for each person eligible) . There was discussion about the principles relating to these ‘care plans’, whether the role of advocacy needed to be included in the legislation, and what constitutes ‘reasonable and necessary supports’ for people with disability. See these links for an outline on the key parts of the legislation: http://ddc.org.au/news-ndis/ and http://www.pwdwa.org/.
From the comments and discussions it was evident where people’s passions and concerns lay…There were those with disabilities themselves, some had a special interest in advocating for adults with an intellectual disability, others wanted to advocate for the needs of their own children after they had passed away. I (one of the younger ones in attendance!) wanted to know about early intervention, possible funding for those children ‘at risk’ of autism, and how the NDIS and the Education sector would interface. On this point I got ‘fired up’ when outlining my concerns…don’t even get me started…it’s seriously like winding up a jack in the box!
The presenter did a good job with all of us ‘fired up and vocal ones’ and I was told that in relation to Education and the NDIS the ‘interface’ was not clear…but she said she would follow it up and let me know on this point.
One small remark made by the presenter stuck with me more than any other…it was that ‘we are putting a lot of faith in this legislation.’
Then I had a flashback to my days as an undergraduate studying politics at University. The Founding Fathers of the Australian Constitution intended for that document to reflect their desire to keep the power with the States and keep a check on having a powerful centralised government. Would those men ever be shocked now at how the Australian Constitution has been interpreted by the High Court over the past two centuries. This, along with a number of other factors, has seen the power shift over time from the states to what is now a powerful centralised federal government.
I wonder what history will reveal about this disability legislation? Will successive governments remain true to the intentions of giving people with disability the support and care they need to live their lives …or will there be cost cutting, scrimping during tough economic times, hand balling, exclusions and excuses. Ultimately, will people with disability and their loved ones be left better off or worse off? In my cynical moments I wonder how Australia’s care and provision for people with disability could honestly get any worse. I get the feeling with this NDIS legislation that the ‘train has left the station’.
Maybe our job now is to take a leap of faith . Maybe only the passing of the decades will reveal if Australia remains true to the original intentions of the legislation. How will the High Court rule when the legislation is challenged? How will the NDIS ‘Agency’ and ‘CEO’ outlined within the legislation decide what each person needs? Will people with disability and their loved ones truly experience a better quality of life? Who will speak for and advocate for the many, many people with disabilities who literally cannot speak for themselves? Who will decide what is in their best interests? I’m trusting that agencies like DDC and PWDWA and the countless others will do their best work and ensure that good outcomes come from this legislation, from this government and from the governments to come.
A complete roll out of the scheme is not scheduled until 2018. The ‘little baby in mummy’s tummy’ (as my son says!) will be getting ready for school in 2018. My first born will be on the cusp of high school. Its a little while off but in this NDIS legislation lies the hope for a better future for ALL Australians. In it lies the hope of a global disability community…one that looks to prosperous, developed counties like Australia to give people their basic human rights and be responsible on the world stage.
I’m hopeful that things will BE better because I KNOW this nation can DO better…
And on that note…I hope you all had (or are still having) a Happy Australia Day folks!