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Issue #1799      October 18, 2017

Concerns over costs of NDIS

More than a year after the roll out of the trial National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) on Palm Island, the local community is still bearing the costs of caring for people with disability. According to Palm Island Community Company (PICC) chief executive Rachel Atkinson, the “hidden costs” of establishing the NDIS have “not been accounted for by the government.”

Artwork: Micheline Lee

“There was a three-month gap between when the block-funding model ended and the money from the new NDIS packages came through,” she said. “Our organisation had to keep paying the salaries of the disability support staff out of our working capital. We had a moral and ethical responsibility to deliver services to people. We can’t rely on the families to do all the work.

“Then when the NDIS funding came through, the costs of training staff, as well as management and support costs, were not funded by the NDIS.

“The total cost so far has been nearly $200,000, which is a lot of money for an Aboriginal community service.” Atkinson said the biggest cost was getting skilled workers on board and trained to a high level.

“Trained workers need to have a blue and yellow card to work with people with disability,” she said. “We also needed to pay for vehicles and equipment. The on costs of management and the time spent by workers making file notes and reporting were not covered.

“If a worker works with a client for two hours, the two hours of salary and fuel costs are all that’s covered.”

Remote areas

Atkinson said she is concerned for other Aboriginal communities in remote areas as the NDIS continues to be rolled out. “Other organisations may not be able to cover these costs,” she said.

“The government didn’t send any consultants to us before the trial began, but a recent report said it spent nearly $30 million on consultants over the last two years.

“Where is the benefit of this consultation? It would have been smarter to have given us some money, I guarantee we would have had a better outcome.”

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has reported that Indigenous people had higher rates of disability than other people across all age groups. And AbSec, the NSW peak body for Aboriginal children and families, is concerned Indigenous people with disability in NSW are missing out on the NDIS.

Atkinson said she was worried that Aboriginal people will again be the ones left out by this new model of funding for people with disability. “Until we put disability into the limelight, we will get second-class services,” she said

“If we don’t get it right, it will perpetuate the status quo, with different standards for Aboriginal people.”

Atkinson said when Medicare was introduced, the ability for Aboriginal people to access services was “abysmal”.

“Then we got smarter and had the Closing the Gap initiative and the Aboriginal Medical Services and Medicare item numbers for Aboriginal patients,” she said.

“The NDIS is going to be a challenge for our communities. The government needs to give seed funding until it becomes a viable business. If it’s difficult then it’s the clients who will miss out.”

Koori Mail

Next article – No basis in evidence

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