ACT News


ACT disability advocates back investigations of NDIS, services after parliamentary inquiries launched

Advocates for the ACT's disability community have backed the creation of three new parliamentary inquiries set up to investigate the National Disability Insurance Scheme roll-out and accessibility of public spaces.

The inquiries launched in the past fortnight include a Senate community affairs committee probe into how accessible public spaces are for people with a disability, and separate joint standing committee on the NDIS inquiries into the effects of the roll-out on, and provision of services to, people with hearing or mental health issues.

Mental Health Community Coalition ACT executive officer Simon Viereck and the ACT Disability, Aged and Carer Advocacy Service's Fiona May welcomed the inquiry and said their organisations would be putting in or contributing to national submissions.

Mr Viereck said the coalition would be sending a submission to the inquiry, given concerns there had been a "lack of focus" on mental health issues.

"We certainly think that there isn't a recognition at this stage of the particular challenges of delivering support to people with a psychosocial disability and those with more cyclical needs in the NDIS framework," he said.

"We'll want them to investigate the complexity of delivering supports to people with complex psychosocial disability, to look into delivering psychosocial rehabilitation supports under the scheme and the challenges of delivering support under the current pricing regime."


The Canberra Times has previously reported on the gaps created in disability service delivery as ACT-funded services were dismantled to make way for the national scheme.

Mr Viereck said it was "very important" that the committee examine the gaps that had been created.

"Not only for people currently receiving a service who will be found ineligible, but also the future cohorts of people with a need for a service who will find that programs are no longer available," he said.

"There is also a need to consider how we can support people who are declining to engage with the NDIS, for them to continue to receive the supports they need as many of them would be eligible if they would go through the process but they are not currently.

"They are either objecting to the idea of signing [up] to having permanent disability or they may simply not be well enough to do so."

Mr Viereck said some services were also finding that those potential participants in the scheme who had not signed up were "often not ready to recognise that they have an ongoing disability, much less an illness" and a lack of trust in government services was hampering take-up of the scheme in the ACT.

"We are excited to see this inquiry, we think it's a great opportunity to put the spotlight on some of the challenges that people have experienced and try to better facilitate this transition," he said.

"We hope it offers an opportunity to recognise the experience from trial sites to better suit the needs of people with a psychosocial disability around the country."

Those who care for people with a disability in Canberra are also experiencing positive and negatives under the system.

A recent Carers ACT survey has shown 49 per cent of 160 carers questioned about the scheme felt the level of support for carers under the NDIS had increased.

But Carers ACT's Lisa Kelly said 57 per cent also believed the support plans did not provide carers with enough of a break from caring, 29 per cent thought it did, and 14 per cent were unsure.

"Carers ACT is concerned that our initial analysis indicated that without an adequate level of good and consistent replacement care built into an individual's NDIS package the capacity of carers to continue to care is reduced, especially as carers age and have poorer health," she said.

"More analysis of how the impact of caring has changed under the NDIS is needed, particularly the economic benefits to the ACT workforce of carers of people with disability entering or increasing their hours of work due to the implementation of the NDIS.

"This is unlikely to occur unless there is more clarity about how to support carers through consistent replacement care, flexible employment and appropriate training."