As final negotiations are occurring between the States and the Federal Government around the timing of the rollout of the NDIS, we are approaching a critical time for people with disabilities. It is concerning that a number of prominent voices have been calling for a delay to the full roll-out when they do not represent people with disabilities and may have vested interests.
The president of the Health Services Union, Lloyd Williams urged in his press release for the States not to sign onto full rollout agreements citing his concerns about an influx of untrained and unqualified workers. He claims that this would lead to increases in the abuse and neglect of people with disabilities.
Mr Williams fails to recognise that you do not need a certificate in disability to understand that abusing people with disabilities is wrong. As advocates for people with disabilities, we know that abuse and neglect occurs when people with disabilities are reliant on scarce services, when we are locked in institutions and when we do not have access to advocacy and social connections. All of these things will continue and worsen for as long as the NDIS is delayed.
Unions and their officials, undertake important advocacy work for the rights and conditions of disability service workers. When listening to their advice, we must remember who they represent and not be misled into thinking that they represent the interests of people with disability. Their advocacy against the closure of disability institutions, such as the Stockton Centre is one example.
It is understandable that the intention of the NDIS sits uncomfortably with some in the union movement. Under the promised NDIS, people with a disability receive funding for individualised support in the community. People with disabilities and their families are the decision-makers when it comes to who provides the support and where it is provided. For some people, this may be a friend, or neighbour, someone who may not have an official qualification, but who is considered by the person with a disability as suitable for the role. Under the NDIS, workers are more likely to provide this support in a person’s home, in the community and not in a congregate setting, places where workers are less likely to join unions.
Unions are not alone in wanting to delay the NDIS. David Gilchrist, a researcher at Curtin University stated in his opinion piece in The Conversation that “the best thing we can do is to stop the NDIS roll-out so we can undertake much-needed research to clearly see what its costs and demand levels are…”
David Gilchrist’s disclosure statement says he receives funding from governments and peak bodies to carry out research aimed at increasing our understanding of the NDIS. It is not surprising that a researcher, someone who receives additional funding to undertake research is advocating for more research. Of course the scheme will benefit from additional research, particularly as the rollout occurs and more people with disabilities can be increasingly take part in an ongoing evaluation of what works and what can be improved. However, the NDIS should not be delayed for the sake of this research, instead the research should occur alongside the rollout.
The Productivity Commission undertook extensive research into the costs and benefits of a National Disability Insurance Scheme as well as providing recommendations about how it should be rolled out. This research included an Inquiry which spanned over 2 years and included thousands of submissions from a range of experts. It found that the benefits of the scheme would significantly outweigh the costs. The commission also recommended a staged rollout of the scheme with the NDIS covering all regions of Australia for the highest priority groups by 2015-16, followed by progressive expansion until the scheme covered everyone eligible by the end of 2018-19. The bilateral agreements that are currently being negotiated should stay true to these recommendations.
At this critical time, let’s be clear about whose interests we are representing when we speak about the NDIS. As a person with a disability, and as an advocate for people with disabilities, I don’t want to see any further delays in the rollout of the NDIS. People with a disability and their families have already waited far too long for reasonable and necessary support.