By Joe Montero
Learning that a document mistakenly put on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) website, shows that many Autistic children are going to be denied direct access to NDIS support, made me angry.
I even felt I had to wait a little while, before putting these words to paper.
Having brought up an autistic child, I have first-hand insight into what this condition means to the person who has it and the person’s family. I know that it involves round the clock care, that the person you are caring for cannot cope with basic communication and other needs. Autistic people may have all four limbs, but they have enormous difficulty with basic living skills. Few will ever have the chance of ever landing a real job. Many will never be able to properly care for themselves, be truly independent, or form personal relationships. And the condition lasts for life.
I also spent years being one of the volunteers, active in organisations providing services to these children, and was in constant contact with other families going through this experience. I know what we went through, is no different from what thousands of other families are going through.
Over the years, we fought for the improvement of painfully inadequate services. We had some victories. But the situation has never been good enough, and the incidence of autism is rising. So what is the government’s response today? It doesn’t care less. The boot is in to wind back past gains.
The “mistake” in the NDIS operational guidelines, which sets out the conditions qualifying people for access to the scheme. The document leaves out that level three autism will still qualify. It is not that the large number of what is termed level two autism, that is, “severe enough to require substantial support,”are going to be excluded. Apologising for an error and not explaining clearly this error, is deceitful and meant t throw sand in people’s eyes. Th cut is not going to be scrapped.
Such arbitrary definitions are grossly inaccurate. There are no border lines and insisting on them turns a blind eye to the reality that this is a complex syndrome, where strengths and deficits are intermingled and are different in each case. Even highly functioning individuals have serious disabilities that prevent them from interacting properly in society.
To maximise positive outcomes, that is, the ability of the person to reach their potential, a massive amount of early intervention is needed.
Not recognising this and providing for it, guarantees that many autistic people will be denied the help they need to grow and survive in this world. They are being denied the support network they need and the right to have a decent life, simply because they and their families cannot afford to pay private providers.
The news has sent a shock wave through the autism community, and it is outraged by the uncaring attitude of our political leaders, who are showing they are more concerned about making a balance sheet look good for them, than they are about people.
A clue to why this is being done, is that more than half of applications to the NDIS relating to early intervention involve autism. This is purely an insensitive cost cutting exercise.
It hurts even more, when an attempt had been made to bring in the change through the back door. There has been no consultation. You can’t be more disrespectful than that.
The document has now been removed from the website.
Advocates are pressing for this not to go ahead. They have approached the NDIS and talked to the shadow social services minister Jenny Macklin.
Social services minister Dan Tehan has said that “Any person with autism eligible for the NDIS will receive the reasonable and necessary supports they need.” Either he’s lying, or he doesn’t know what is going in his portfolio.
Many other Australians are seeing this attack as a new low for Australian government, and it’s coming back to bite them on the backside.