Carers ready to fight

AS bickering governments threaten to derail the implementation of a full National Disability Insurance Scheme, local carers have cautioned federal members of parliament who fail to get behind them will cop a backlash.

Warning carer families in Gippsland were “going to the wall on a weekly basis” and “something needs to be done”, Gippsland Carers Association president Jean Tops sent a strong message to MPs and future candidates, saying “we are determined to ensure they understand if they don’t support us, we won’t play anymore and there will be trouble with their NDIS budgeting”.

Maintaining a full NDIS should be “core Federal Government business” with states left to administer and implement, rather than fund, the scheme – in line with Productivity Commission recommendations – Ms Tops said the Federal Government’s insistence the Victorian State Government was “stuck in neutral” over NDIS plans, was deflecting attention from its own responsibilities.

GCA has sought an urgent meeting with Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield, Shadow Minister for Disabilities, Carers and the Voluntary Sector, in an attempt to secure an undertaking from the Coalition, if elected, it would implement PC recommendations on a national scheme, Ms Tops said.

She said Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester had “made it quite plain he is fully supportive of families getting the support they deserve”. “At a party level, though, Tony Abbott says he is ‘Dr Yes’ regarding the NDIS but then Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey is still saying ‘we have to wait and see what the budget position is first’.

“There are 2.6 million family carers (in Australia) and people need to understand we are at the forefront of the success of the NDIS and if they are not going to stand up for our rights, there will be a backlash.”

Among CGA’s key concerns over current NDIS proposals was the State Government’s refusal to allow families moving interstate to take their insurance scheme funding packages with them – further validating CGA’s push for core Federal funding, Ms Tops said.

“The bill also fails to recognise the irreplaceable role of family carers… and that carers should be eligible for assessment of their needs at the same time as assessments are made of disabilities… which puts carers’ right back into having to beg for support, and that must not be allowed to happen.”

Ms Tops said the proposed assessment process made it “perfectly clear the pressure will continue to be on families without them having any entitlement whatsoever and we are aghast at that”. From July this year Victoria has a trial site for the NDIS, in the Barwon region, for 5000 people.

While Federal Disability Reform Minister Jenny Macklin said the NDIS represented “an entirely new approach to the way disability supports are accessed” in Barwon, and $1 billion had been invested in five nation-wide launch sites, Ms Tops warned the “quick fix” approach outlined by the government would “fail”.