Local carers overlooked

DESPITE the Federal Government celebrating the passage of a National Disability Insurance Scheme bill through parliament, local carers warn they have been overlooked in the legislation.

Gippsland Carers Network president Jean Tops told The Express the bill did not recognise the “critical issue” of the role of unpaid family carers “and the dependence the NDIS will have on their ongoing role”.

GCN plans to raise its concerns with Federal Shadow Minister for Disabilities, Carers and the Voluntary Sector Senator Mitch Fifield when he visits its Morwell-based Carers Place centre this month.

Ongoing debate over how an NDIS would be funded, past its initial demonstration phase, was another key issue yet to be resolved, Ms Tops said.

“Unless the Federal Government is prepared to put billions forward in upcoming federal budgets for the implementation of this scheme from 1 July 2014, there will be no growth of the NDIS.

“The clear understanding at this point of the sticking point is that the (Federal Government) now wants the states to provide 50 percent and the only state at this point to come on board is New South Wales,” Ms Tops said.

“The media from this (federal) government is saying there will be up to 140,000 (people) in NSW to receive support services as a result of the agreement there, but nothing for everybody else.”

Ms Tops said State Disability Services and Reform Minister Mary Wooldridge was seeking further “clarification on agreements before Victoria will put its hand up”.

“Our overarching concern, still, is the Productivity Commission stated its preference was that funding be the core business of Federal Government… so caring families now fear that the rabble and fighting over who will provide funding will continue to be a yearly squabble between the states and Commonwealth, with both digging their toes in to get more funding from one another,” Ms Tops said.

“This leaves carers, who are doing the hard yards, as the meat in the sandwich again.”

GCN will also lobby Senator Fifield to consider funding a local proposal for a Regional Carers Network, with Ms Tops saying “in the absence of support coming to carers from anywhere else, this is even more imperative now.”

NDIS, now branded as DisabilityCare, has been tipped by the Federal Government to cover 410,000 Australians with disabilities, once fully operational, at a cost of $15 billion.

To date the Federal Government has allocated $1 billion over four years for the first phase of launch sites in four states, including Victoria, covering 26,000 people.

Meanwhile Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said the Coalition had “strongly supported” the NDIS legislation and while its passage was “a significant milestone”, there was “still a long way to go in terms of the full implementation and delivery of the scheme.”