Saturday, 18 December 2021

Is the NDIS really broken?

The NDIS is Downunder's "National Disability Insurance Scheme". It is there to provide assistance for people with a permanent or significant disability.  Where possible that assistance is also supposed to focus on helping someone become as independent as possible.

It is a very expensive scheme - last financial year it cost around $22bn. I also believe it is a very important scheme...when it does the job it is supposed to do.

Someone I know has finally managed to get a new wheelchair through the scheme. He is sitting comfortably for the first time in some years. It has made all the difference to the number of hours he can work. Now he is gradually building up his business with the aim of paying tax at some time in the future. It is not something many people actually aim to do.

A young man I helped to tutor this last year was provided with an expanded keyboard and can now type his own assignments. 

A mother with a disability has had some adaptations made to her home which now allow her to do a number of household tasks that she previously relied on her children to do. It has made an enormous difference to the household dynamics.

Someone else uses it to get help with basic activities of daily living and that means they can go on living in their own small unit and going to work each day.

 There are many other ways that help can be provided if you have the patience to go through the complex application process. That's the good sort of support.

But there are other people being given help because they know how to work the system. They are getting services and equipment they don't genuinely need.  Sometimes this has happened because someone else has suggested it and it sounded like a good idea. Often the person who has suggested it is well meaning. On other occasions someone has seen an opportunity to get something or some service without having to pay for it. 

I don't know how to answer the mother who says to me, "My child has grown out of his wheelchair and we have been told it will be at least a year before he gets another one." Not only is it wrong for a child who needs a highly specialised wheelchair to have to wait so long but the mother says this as she watches a child who has the mildest of disabilities playing games on a new i-pad - an i-pad which is kept for just that purpose but has been provided by the NDIS. What is more the first family would be more than happy to contribute towards the cost of a new wheelchair and, despite the need to do everything for their child, have not asked for any other assistance.

We need the NDIS. It is not right that some individuals and their families are always financially struggling because of disabilities that are no fault of their own. 

It is equally wrong that some people who don't really need help are getting it but when there is talk about "cuts" then it is worth looking at what is being cut. The Opposition spokesman's claims of cuts apparently relate largely to support for child recipients with "autism". That is surely an umbrella word for a very wide range of behaviours. There are children with mild behaviour issues who are said to be "on the autism spectrum" and there are children with extremely challenging behaviours who need constant care and attention. 

There is a child who lives close by. He definitely has some serious issues with social interaction. He is eleven, almost twelve. He barely speaks. He doesn't make eye-contact.  He is starting high school next year and he is going there with a range of other behaviours which are going to make him a target. He has not been officially diagnosed as "austistic" but my observations lead me to believe he is. His parents know he has some serious issues. His mother never went back to work because of his issues. They have not sought NDIS funding for as much as an assessment. His father told me recently, "If we can't handle the situation next year then we will ask the doctor for a referral to some sort of psychologist I suppose." When I suggested that they might get some help from the NDIS his response was, "No, that's for people who can't afford to get help - or should be."

I don't know whether to hope they can handle the situation or whether they get some help they would obviously appreciate.


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