An anxious wait

LOCAL carers must wait for tomorrow’s Federal Budget to see if they will benefit from an early, small-scale rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Last week the Federal Government announced it would start the NDIS about 12 months ahead of schedule, initially covering about 10,000 people spread over four locations.

The NDIS Productive Commission report outlined about 410,000 people/carers would receive funding support from the NDIS, though the Gippsland Carers Association has since claimed there are about four million people with a disability and 2.6 million carers in the country.

GCA president Jean Tops said Gippsland was home to 26,000 family carers and 11,500 people with severe or profound disabilities. Whether any of them could look forward to early assistance through the NDIS would not be revealed until budget night, Ms Tops said.

More than 15,000 people with disabilities and their families rallied around Australia last week to push for an early start to the NDIS. Ms Tops said Gippsland was “very well represented” at the Melbourne rally.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard used the day to announce the scheme would commence in July 2013 – ahead of schedule, albeit on a small scale and in limited locations.

She also claimed a further 20,000 people would be covered from July 2014.

Ms Tops said the announcement indicated “some grandstanding on the day, knowing so many people would be there” but she anticipated a “dog-fight” would ensue between the federal and state governments over funding, “even though the Productivity Commission said funding (the scheme) should be the core business of the Federal Government”.

“The Federal Government still want to see the states contribute more, and I think whichever states put up their hands and say they will give it, that’s where it (the scheme) might start,” she said.

Ms Tops claimed Victoria had been “at the forefront on this issue” so she was “confident” the early NDIS rollout might happen here.

“So if 25 per cent of that 10,000 were here (in Victoria), that would be about 2500 people so there is a possibility of some of that (coverage) coming to Gippsland.”

A spokesperson for State Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge said he hoped Ms Tops was right and that Victoria was “well positioned to be an NDIS trial site”.

“We have been acknowledged by the Federal Government as a leader in working towards the implementation of the NDIS…and we put aside specific funding in the budget of $900,000 to support the preparation work needed to launch it,” he said.

“We have also put in money for 400 new Individual Support Packages, amounting to $38 million, and that will also help get more people ready for when the NDIS comes in,” he said.

“The biggest issue we have at present is getting the Commonwealth to discuss how an NDIS would be funded on an ongoing basis.” The spokesperson agreed the Federal Government would need to provide the “extra funding” required to implement a broad NDIS but said “the State Government already funds 80 per cent of disability funding in Victoria”.

He said it was unknown whether the Federal Government would expect the states to help fund NDIS coverage for the 10,000 it had already announced would be covered. “We are waiting to see,” he added.