Finally, a victory for disabled families
Sam Paior is a parent of two kids with disabilities. She is a staunch advocate for people with a disability and their families, and is a board member of IDASA (Intellectual Disability Association of SA) and founder of Parents Helping Parents.
As one of the two in five Australians who have a disability, care for someone who does, or both, the NDIS, the National Disability Insurance Scheme has been, to date the opposite of a death by a thousand cuts for me.
The Scheme is kinda like a Medicare for services and equipment related to disability. A scheme where people who need a disability related service, equipment or support can get what they need. With Medicare, you might see a doctor (of your choice) and then pick up your antibiotic prescription (at a pharmacy of your choice), and when a blind person needs a white cane, or an intellectually disabled person needs someone to feed them, it should be just as simple, but it’s not.
Medicare is funded with a levy, but the Productivity Commission, who state that such a scheme for the disabled will self fund within five years, say the funds should come from general revenue.
Those funds are what it is all about. It is estimated to cost an extra $8 Billion (with a B) per year. That’s a great deal of moola, but given the desperation of disabled folk and carers, and Australia’s bottom ranking among all OECD nations in terms of disability support, I reckon we’ve got room for substantial improvement.
Don’t confuse this with the DSP (Disability Support Pension). DSP is income support – it is supposed to keep people fed with a roof over their head and preferably running water and electricity (though this is becoming increasingly out of reach for many).
The NDIS is supposed to fund stuff like wheelchairs, and personal care so that people get the assistance they need to have a shower. It would also fund all the extra support needed by people with multiple disabilities, or those with some intellectual disabilities who need round the clock care and supervision, for example.
Before I had a kid with disability (my twelve year old son has Down syndrome) I assumed that in a country as rich as Australia, that people with disability would be relatively well cared for. The truth is a little more muddled than that. In most states, if you are lucky enough to sever your spine and smash your brain in a car crash, your rego fees include insurance that will fund decent equipment and supports.
If however, you fall off a ladder, or hit a log water-skiing you are in for a world of pain – physical, emotional, and financial – even your average $2M self funded TPD insurance won’t provide you a lifetime of care – and let’s face it – how many uni students/low income/children have TPD insurance? You can’t insure against a kid born early with cerebral palsy, or near drowning.
It’s been a long running non-joke that if someone you love has a near drowning at a lake, you’d be best off driving a car into said lake and say your loved one was driving.
So, today Julia Gillard announced that her Government will be funding 10,000 people with disability in four “select sites” to be supported through a newly established NDIS from July next year – a full year earlier than the productivity commission recommendation. She also announced that 20,000 people will be funded in 2014.
People with disabilities and their families are excited. I am excited.
But it feels a little like the life of a thousand band-aids. It’s the opposite of creeping normalcy, with each little announcement giving us more and more hope for the future, but none of the announcements actually achieving anything.
There are 20,000 people with disability who need services in South Australia alone. Nearly a thousand of them were at a rally in Adelaide this morning, one of a series held around the country. After I heard Kate Ellis speak on the PM’s behalf, announcing the roll-out of the scheme, I asked the Federal Member for Adelaide “How much money is the Government actually committing?” She let me know the answer would be in the budget on May 8th. I will be one of hundreds of thousands of Australians awaiting those federal budget figures.
I am eager to hear exactly how much money our country is willing, and more pertinently, able, to commit? Then, finally, if the numbers look good, I might consider our wounds healed, rather than just covered over with yet another band-aid.
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