Needs still not met

LOCAL carers have backed claims the Federal Government is misleading the public over its National Disability Insurance Scheme at a time when the urgent needs of thousands of Gippslanders with disabilities remain unmet.

This week, as Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester called on the Federal Government to start funding the scheme in its May budget, a legal alliance said the NDIS would not insure all Australians “for the cost of care and support in the event of significant and permanent disability”, as the government has claimed.

Australian Lawyers Alliance spokesperson Anthony Kerin said the NDIS Productivity Commission report outlined around 410,000 people would receive funding support from the NDIS, but there were about four million people with a disability and 2.6 million carers in the country.

“There needs to be honesty on the part of the government about who will receive support under such a scheme and who will not,” Mr Kerin said.

Gippsland Carers Association president Jean Tops said the ALA’s claims were “absolutely true and no-one could construe them as being anything else.”

She said the government’s comments were “misleading” and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Research, coupled with “all other government research”, indicated there were at least 720,000 Australians with a severe or profound disability, so the NDIS “doesn’t even cover them”.

Ms Tops said Gippsland was home to 26,000 family carers and 11,500 people with severe or profound disabilities, some currently on urgent waiting lists for support who could not “wait while the NDIS rolls out”.

“The Department of Human Services only keeps a waiting list for those in critical need of accommodation support now…the last look at these figures, and there is no reason to believe there would be a decrease – there has probably been an increase – showed there were 2500 people in Gippsland whose needs are not being met in supported accommodation or in home help,” she said.

“Those with families might be able to stay in the home if there was more home support to the carers, so they are being placed at risk every day by virtue of the fact that they are not having their needs supported – it is placing these families under severe stress.”

Ms Tops said she welcomed the NDIS but predicated “there will necessarily be reviews and increased funding as it is clearly identified that the needs of Australians with a disability will require more funding than is currently projected to be made available.”

Mr Chester said he welcomed recent calls by Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott for “all political parties to work together on this national reform that will change lives”.

He said the Productivity Commission report recommended the reform would take seven years to implement fully and could cost an additional $6.5 billion a year “but it would be nothing short of a new deal for people with disabilities and their carers.”

Ms Tops said carers contributed $42 billion annually to the national economy by caring for people with a disability, “so a six to eight billion dollar increase in funding is in no way going to provide the support needs of all Australians with a disability.”

Mr Chester said the Coalition would do “whatever we reasonably can to make (the NDIS) happen as soon as possible”.