CATHY McGOWAN (Indi) (17:17): I would like to address my comments this evening to the National Disability Insurance Scheme and its rollout in Indi. I strongly support the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme; it is a groundbreaking change to the way disability services are funded and delivered. However, as I move around the electorate, many constituents ask me questions about the NDIS, and they are keen to find out much more about the rollout and its impact on them as carers, families or users.
The NDIS will become available in the Ovens-Murray area from 1 October 2017 and it will cover the local government areas of Alpine, Benalla, Indigo, Mansfield, Towong, Wangaratta and Wodonga. It will join the Goulburn area and cover off Murrindindi from 1 January 2019, including parts of Moira as well as Murrindindi.
On 5 April I held three forums in Wodonga, meeting with staff and organisations who were on the frontline in delivering disability services. I met with key staff who have a particular interest in how the introduction of the NDIS will affect their services and clients. These service providers covered Aware Industries, employment services groups, the personnel group Central Victorian Group Training Company and the Disability Advocacy and Information Service. Tonight, I would like to address my remarks to the findings of those forums and some of the recommendations that came out of them.
Aware Industries has being working for over 30 years, covering New South Wales—Albury—and Wodonga. It operates as a community based social enterprise. It is directed by a volunteer board of management and operates two large industrial sites at Wodonga. The experienced management team understand the needs of the up-to-115-strong workforce, and has 20 separate business units. Aware is a member of the Australian Disability Enterprises group. On the day, I had particular delight in working with the CEO, Sharon Muggivan, and also Tom Drum, the chair, and Vin O'Neill. They asked me to bring a number of issues to the attention of the parliament. They are particularly interested in how employment agencies such as Aware fit into the NDIS. What are the arrangements for the NDIS for particular organisations that work with disability? What processes will be in place to manage outcomes for clients who are in disability employment services? And how will the NDIS funding expenditure of service providers be reviewed to ensure outcomes occur that are measurable for clients, rather than activity by the providers?
Will AWARE Industries' and other providers' funding change once the NDIS is introduced in 2017? AWARE Industries request a government services and product procurement policy that will enable them to provide services, particularly stationery or health-related services, back to the government.
The second group that I had the pleasure of meeting was The Personnel Group and representatives from Central Victorian Group Training, CVGT. These two services work in the Disability Employment Services program and are designed to give support to workers with a disability or mental health condition in finding and maintaining employment. Participants are given assistance to prepare for work by addressing barriers such as education, licences, ticketing, interview preparation and general work preparedness, and they can be assisted with referrals to appropriate service providers. I was particularly pleased to meet with staff from these organisations and would like to thank Tracey Fraser, Acting CEO for The Personnel Group, and Mark and Craig from CVGT.
One of the issues that came out of that meeting was that funding levels 1 and 2 for disability employment services are significantly different—$3,000 and $10,000 per client at these respective levels. The providers note that midway during the current five-year service contract the previously consistent 50 per cent breakdown of clients falling into these two funding levels has now slipped, such that only one-third of clients are now funded at level 2, which is the $10,000 level, creating financial difficulty for providers. Providers request clarification of how the Job Seeker Classification Index is now being applied, causing this unexpected change in funding outcomes. Providers expressed concern and confusion on how Star Ratings are implemented and said that wage subsidies for disability service clients have been stagnant since 2005 and need to be increased to be a relevant and effective incentive.
The third group that I met with was the Disability Advocacy and Information Service, DAIS. DAIS is a non-profit organisation governed by a board of management. DAIS provides free advocacy support and information to anyone with a disability to ensure equity of rights and increased integration into the community. Thank you to the many people who participated in this meeting, but particularly to Martin Butcher, the Executive Officer; Jenny Tait, Chair of the Board; and the other participants in that roundtable. I would particularly like to call attention to Toni Reeves from Gateway Health.
The issues that they raised include the cross-border anomalies that exist in regard to how NDIS funding is applied by states. New South Wales has placed the majority of existing disability funding into supporting NDIS, which results in less money now being available for advocacy. DAIS received $180,000 to provide advocacy services in New South Wales. What will happen as a result of these changes? How do clients find out about NDIS and how it works? This organisation is able to provide all this information—how will they be funded? What special grants may be available to support DAIS in its ongoing service provision? They also mentioned some of the problems they are having with myGov, particularly for clients. They also talked about a holistic approach to disability service provision and how useful it will be in bringing the housing and education sectors into the whole discussion. DAIS have 30 percent, and increasing, of their clients with mental health concerns. That increasingly overlays on their ability to provide advocacy service. They particularly ask that a workshop be funded to bring these players together with government representatives to look at how we can deliver these services in our community in creative, innovative and much more effective ways. Gateway Health in particular agreed to take a role in facilitating that.
I want to bring to the House the words of Jenny Tait. Jenny is a mother and a member of the board of DAIS. She has since written to me, and I would like to put her words into the Hansard. Jenny writes:
As a parent of a child with a significant disability, and as a person actively involved in pursuing innovation and community inclusion based on true person-centred practice, this is what I want for people on the Autism Spectrum, other neurological and complex conditions, and with cognitive impairments:
- That services and organisations are held accountable for the words they use. If they advertise person-centred practice then they should prove in word and deed that they understand what that is, and actually practice it, along with the terms "community inclusion", and "human rights".
She also hoped that:
Segregation in all of its forms, including the hidden forms, is eradicated for good.
She has other comments around those but I do not have time to read them tonight.
I would like to focus on some of the other points she makes. She hopes:
That people with disabilities are assisted and encouraged to live in a home of their own where supports come and go when appropriate or required. This will be far more cost effective and will foster true interdependence, choice and control.
She hoped that the NDIS would facilitate that. She also hopes:
That services and organisations are not allowed to frighten families into staying in a cradle to grave model in order to ensure the survival of the organisation. Families and individuals need advocates and supports that empower, encourage and teach them to advocate for themselves …
That employment for people with a disability becomes a community responsibility and that everyone understands the benefits for people, for employers, co-workers, and community of having people with a disability included in the workforce in a meaningful way.
That people with disability are respected and valued, and not derided, abused, or disregarded because they were born with or have acquired a disability. This seems pretty basic, but it is yet to be a reality, even in this country. It's pretty sad that Australia is not one of the better countries in the world for protecting the rights of the most vulnerable in society.
And most importantly of all, that people have the opportunity to choose and create a good life in community free of control by services and organisations, able to live interdependently, with quality links in community where they are known, seen, valued, and have meaningful relationships with people outside of the service system.
She says that she is hopeful that with the NDIS and people like me and also Minister Jane Prentice 'who are in a position to champion and create an uplifting social environment for people with disabilities, that the future will be brighter, and that people with disabilities can achieve a good life for themselves in the same way that non-disabled people work to achieve a good life.'
In closing, I bring the grievances of this community to this House. I look forward to working with the Minister and the department to host a forum in Wodonga where these people can speak with their own words, have their own voices heard so that, together with government, we can make sure that in the future we have the innovation and the creativity that we know the NDIS can bring to our border area.