By Ben Wilson
Disability groups are angry about changes that threaten to make help from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) even harder to get.
The leaking of a staff memo that summarises research by the agency that runs the scheme shows that the fear is well placed. It reveals that staff at NDIS are “struggling” and that they feel they “cannot adequately support participants”.
What is wrong? Changes are “. down what can be funded, and the system made increasingly unworkable. There is a lack of transparency.
Other documents reveal the establishment of a secretive agency to slow the growth in the number of people applying for NDIS help. This implies a push to accuse disabled people of rorting the scheme, which in turn will justify providing less.
An external research company has been used, not to consult and find ways to improve service, but to come up with slogans to help a public relations strategy. The idea is to sell the cut in service as a good thing. This will be sold as “a better NDIS” and “together, let’s build a better NDIS”.
A big part of the intended change is to do away with evidence provided by the applicant’s own doctors and replace this with a three-hour interview by an NDIS provided doctor. The problem is that this doctor would be employed to cut down the number of successful applications, rather than serve the needs of the applicant.
These mandatory assessments are to start in the middle of the year. They are to be sold as ‘making the NDIS fairer”.
The strategy calls forma a great deal of putting out in the public that the present rate of growth of the scheme is unsustainable, and that this must be checked to ensure it is maintained over the long term.
There is no mention of the fat that the NDIS has been inadequate all along. Nor any attempt to explain how excluding more people leads to good service.
The priorities are cost cutting and maximising the profit potential of the private providers of services. And there is the government’s obsession with pushing the maximum number of disabled onto relying on unemployment benefits. This provides considerably less income, and the cost of medical services and difficulties of negotiating the system , sets the disabled to be exploited by employers seeking cheap labour.
No wonder that those defending this vulnerable section of Australian society are angry.