Disability support system helping just a quarter of those in need

THE last snapshot of the fragmented support system in place before the National Disability Insurance Scheme was introduced shows less than one-quarter of ­eligible people were being helped with accommodation, employment services and community ­access.

The 2015 Report on Government Services, released in part by the Productivity Commission today, shows governments spent $7.5 billion on specialist disability services in 2013-14, up from $7.2bn the year before. Crucially, 70.2 per cent of this was provided by state and territory governments. Under the first full year of the NDIS, the commonwealth will pay for 53 per cent of the scheme, which will cost $22bn in total.

Agreements on precisely how the states and territories will begin the transition from 30,000 NDIS clients to more than 400,000 in the three years to 2019 have begun and will be formalised this year.

There is no agreement yet as to whether Western Australia will sign on to the full national project. The state is trialling its own similar scheme, My Way, alongside the NDIS.

Luther Frost-Barnes feels liberated from the tight purse strings of an outmoded  disability funding system. As he dangles from ropes at his local rock-climbing gym near Busselton, south of Perth, he says he feels grateful for the $40,000 package he  receives via the WA My Way trial.

Unlike the NDIS trial, he is paired up with a personal co-­ordinator to work  regularly with him and help map out his planned  activities and aims.

Frost-Barnes has no doubt about the success of the local trial after only three  months. “It helps me get my dreams,” he says.

The $40,000-a-year package of care is used to purchase hours of carer attendance each week to help Frost-Barnes continue his studies, attend a public speaking course and even go on holiday with a support carer.

“Under previous funding schemes, you couldn’t have control over the funds and you never actually saw the money,” his mother, Lorraine, said. “We were given a list of places he could ­attend to work or do activities, but My Way has given  him the ability to customise, to pick and choose who he wants.”

Her son, who has quadriplegic cerebral palsy, was a junior Paralympian at 18, and won 11 records in his category.

In 2012-13, according to the ­Report on Government Services, just 6.5 per cent of all eligible ­people were receiving accommodation support, 25.3 per cent were receiving community support, 8.7 per cent community access and 16.4 per cent of carers were able to use respite services. Just 7.3 per cent of people aged 15-64 years with disability were ­accessing employment support services. The federal government spent a total of $23.2bn on welfare payments to people with disabilities and their carers in 2013-14.

This included $16.1bn for the Disability Support Pension, $4.2bn for carer payments, $2bn for the carer allowance and almost another billion for supplements and other allowances.

The report does not cover the introduction of the NDIS in detail, although data will be made available next year on how it is meeting its targets. The report does mention that 2 per cent of NDIS clients are indigenous and 3 per cent from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, but cautions against the data collected by the NDIS agency: “Indigenous status is not known for 58 per cent of participants (and) CALD status is known for most participants, with 13 per cent of records not stated.”

Rick Morton – The Australian – Jan 28, 2014

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