Monday, 14 May 2012

The National Disability

Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is apparently under threat before it even hits the ground.  There was supposed to be funding for a start to this in the Federal Budget last week. Now the Finance Minister says it could go if there are further cuts needed and the states and territories do not contribute to the funding of it. She also accused the Opposition of failing to support the idea.
The states and territories already underfund disability services. My home state is the worst of the lot. The "unmet need" list is growing at an alarming rate. The government claims to be funding well and to be spending as much as it can.
The Opposition does support the idea. Indeed it was the Opposition's idea to investigate the possibility of introducing such a scheme. The leader of the Opposition has approached the government with offers of bi-partisan support. These have, no doubt for political reasons, been ignored.
The government is now saying it willl take another tax to introduce such a scheme. Perhaps it will.
An NDIS will be expensive. Nobody doubts that. Most people in the disability sector also believe it is long overdue. The Productivity Commission recommended it five years ago - after another lengthy and costly investigation. Like a good many other people I had my say.
No new tax is popular and the government no doubt sees this as something that will lose votes.The government cannot afford to lose more votes. I am now wondering whether, once again, it will be a matter of "Good idea...but too expensive...let's leave it for the moment..." and so on.
I belong to an organisation which attempts to provide assistance to people with severe and profound communication disabilities through augmentative and alternative communication systems. It gets no government funding at all. The professional staff who work in the area are among some of the lowest paid professional staff in the country. They should not be but they are.
I have my doubts about the highly technical nature of some of the aids being provided to people who need an alternative means of communication - simply because, when they break down, the individual is often left with no adequate means of communication - but I acknowledge that people have a right to these things if that is what they want. Government funding for this sort of equipment has also been cut still further.
It should not be. It gives people a voice.
That is the problem. As someone reminded me yesterday, "If you cannot communicate, you cannot complain."
Well, I can communicate and I will complain.

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