NDIS leaves black hole of abolished care services

NDIS leaves black hole of abolished care services

Source: theaustralian.com.au

Social Affairs reporter
Julie Hermans, 51, at Murwillumbah District Hospital.
Julie Hermans, 51, at Murwillumbah District Hospital.

The $22 billion National Disability Insurance Scheme is on a collision course with state and federal agencies over “interface” problems with other systems such as health and aged care after revelations that a woman has spent 15 months in a hospital bed due to inaction.

The case of Julie Hermans, who has been left in Murwillumbah District Hospital in northern NSW since October 2016 after contracting atypical ­Guillain-Barre Syndrome and becoming a quadriplegic, has highlighted the unfinished work of NDIS design and how it fits with other services.

The Productivity Commission last year warned state and federal governments to keep services that do not fit into the disability scheme, though there is little that any level of government can do to enforce this. “The interface between the NDIS and other disability and mainstream services is critical for participant outcomes and the ­financial sustainability of the scheme,” it said. “Some disability supports are not being provided because of unclear boundaries about the responsibilities of the different levels of government. Governments must set clearer boundaries at the operational level around ‘who supplies what’ … and only withdraw services when ­continuity of service is assured.”

Ms Hermans is forced to pay $60 a day to stay in hospital after the NDIS ignored a request for accommodation support. While she is only 51, an aged care home might have been an option of last resort, although none in her area could support her high-care needs. Daughter Vinamali “Mali” Hermans, a 19-year-old university student, says it is “heartbreaking”.

“It has been so hard, a lot of times I have wondered if I have been pushing hard enough,” she said. “It (the NDIS) is almost designed so you cannot understand.”

One of the key issues in the border dispute between the NDIS and other programs is the loss of advocacy funding, particularly in NSW where almost $11m is due to expire in July. Advocacy under the new NDIS regime is crucial because these independent voices act as ­intermediaries for disabled people yet the NDIS itself was never ­intended to fund such services.

About $40 million in advocacy funding across states and territories will disappear by 2020.

“This area of interface issues is very problematic for the NDIS and there are going to be more and more opportunities for arguments about which system pays for what,” Disability Advocacy Network Australia chief executive Mary Mallett said.

“We have heard from our network that interface problems are occurring in housing, transport, health, justice — and we are only in the middle of the NDIS rollout.”

Writer and disability activist El Gibbs received home care support under the old NSW system for a chronic condition but no longer does. “The government sold that and now it is only available for people with an aged care or an NDIS package, which means people who used to receive support for chronic illness no longer do,” she said.

The NSW community justice program, which helps prisoners and people attending court who happen to have intellectual disabilities, is also due to expire this year. “State governments and ­system changes are profoundly disadvantaging people on the fringes of disability far more than even the old system,” Ms Gibbs said.

A National Disability Insurance Agency spokeswoman said the supply of disability accommodation “is in short supply and there are many people seeking ­appropriate accommodation in this area. The NDIA will follow up on the specific participant circumstance quoted however … cannot disclose private information.”

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