At today’s National Press Club Address NDIS Minister Bill Shorten made some important announcements and reminded me why I have such deep respect for this man and gratitude for his commitment to improving the lives of disabled people.
Then it ended with something really scary that freaked me out! Here is a summary of his announcements and my take on what he had to say. You’ll have to read to the end for the scary bit.
1. Increase the NDIA Workforce and its specialisation. Reduce the staff churn and improve the capability of the NDIA.
Nice one Bill. Make sure there are specialisations focused on getting young people out of nursing homes, hospitals and other unsuitable institutional settings. Make the agency responsible for planning so that the Local Area Coordinators can focus on community development work and supporting people who aren’t eligible for the scheme. Remember Bill, that was what the Productivity Commission recommended back in the day.
2. Move to long term planning so that plans don’t have to be reviewed every 6 to 12 months. Instead move to a multi-year plan system.
That’s great Bill, but three-year plans have been a thing for the last couple of years. What’s new about this Bill? Also, it’s important that the agency does regular check-ins with participants. That could have avoided the tragic death of Anne-Marie Smith. And on that, we desperately need a National Community Visitor Program.
3. Prevent overcharging by providers.
Yes please Bill! And here’s another way to save money, scrap the ridiculous 7 day cancellation notice requirements for service providers. If I reschedule my appointment within 7 days, my provider can easily do paperwork or see another client. They do not need to charge me and the government $200 for doing nothing to assist me. No other customer needs to provide 7 days notice to reschedule an appointment, so why should NDIS participants have to do so?
4. Review Supported Independent Living (SIL) in institutional settings
Thank you Bill, this is long overdue. We know that institutional settings lead to bad outcomes so please give us choice and control over where we live, who we live with and how we are supported.
5. Target the misuse of NDIS funds to eliminate unethical practices.
This is important and will require investment in capacity building for people with disabilities and families to make informed choices. I did a podcast to help people understand and avoid unethical providers, please share this video widely.
6. Increase mainstream supports and ensure they deliver on commitments. This will involve the states “stepping up”.
We need a whole-of-government approach Bill when it comes to addressing the needs of people with disability. If housing, education, health and all public services were more accessible and inclusive of our needs, there would be less reliance on the NDIS.
And now, the scary bit…
Before I go Bill, you said something today that scared me. Something about mandatory qualifications for people providing personal care. I fully support efforts to increase the skill and capability of the workforce, but mandatory qualifications are not the answer – they would devastate the sector and the lives of many disabled people.
There are thousands of incredibly capable, hard-working people who provide high-quality personal care every day who do not hold disability qualifications but who have the values, skills and attitudes that we desperately need in our sector. Many disabled people like myself depend on these people for our basic needs and it would be devastating and catastrophic if you prevented them from working with us.
Please go ahead and encourage more people to take on certificates in disability and ensure providers invest in training and development. But do not make qualifications mandatory and take away our rights to decide who provides our personal care. You promised us an NDIS where disabled people have choice and control over who provides our support, who comes into our homes and who touches our bodies.
That’s what we fought for Bill, and we won’t be giving that up.
Please don’t make us fight all over again.
Dr George Taleporos is a disability rights advocate. He has over 20 years of experience in the disability field, focussed predominantly on advocacy, human rights policy and practice, service development and governance. He has a PhD in psychology and Honours in sociology. Dr George is the man behind the Summer Foundation’s Reasonable & Necessary podcast. He is also a member of the NDIS Independent Advisory Council. You can follow him on Twitter @drgeorgethecrip.