ACT News

ACT government won't slow NDIS withdrawal

Families of children participating in early intervention disability programs have called for the ACT government to delay its withdrawal from the services by a year.

As part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme roll-out, the government will hand over services currently delivered by the Education Directorate for pre-preschool children, allowing private providers to establish in Canberra.

Services delivered by Therapy ACT staff will continue.

Canberra is set to become the first jurisdiction in Australia to accept all eligible people into the National Disability Insurance Scheme from July 1.

Opposition disability spokesman Andrew Wall has backed calls for a delay, as more than 100 people signed an ACT Legislative Assembly e-petition calling for the playgroups and other services to be maintained until private providers are established. 

Families of about 300 children have also called for more information to made available about which private providers will offer services under the new arrangements. 

"A large number of parents affected are concerned about what these changes are going to mean and what the future holds," Mr Wall said. 

"There's been very small amount of information released to date, with the first services being closed at the end of the calendar year." 

Mr Wall will host a community meeting at the Assembly on Monday to discuss the changes with the event to consider changes to Therapy ACT and the wider NDIS roll-out. 

A spokeswoman for Disability Minister Joy Burch said the government was speaking to private and community sector providers and was confident families would know what services will be available for their children by term 4 this year.

She said there was no need for a delay in implementing the changes. 

“The vast majority of children in early intervention programs this year will transition to preschool or school for the start of 2015.

“Disability support programs in schools will remain unchanged, and families of these children will be offered support to work with the National Disability Insurance Agency as they transition to the NDIS.

“The government will work directly with families and carers of the small number of children who are not due to transition to the NDIS until later in 2015 to ensure services are maintained.

Parents and carers of children with autism or Aspergers are invited to attend a forum on June 2 with representatives of KPMG, Disability ACT and the National Disability Insurance Agency.

Australian Education Union ACT Branch secretary Glenn Fowler said he was concerned about the ability of private providers to deliver high-quality outcomes. 

Staff employed by the Education Directorate for early intervention services will be transitioned into mainstream roles under the changes. 

"We know there will be an employment impact on our people who work as teachers or support staff in those early intervention units," Mr Fowler said. 

"We understand their employment is not at risk. The question that the ACT community needs to be considering is what are we going to lose by doing this differently?"

He called for strict quality control measures for private services caring for children. 

"What controls will there be to ensure children transition to pre-school with the same success that has been occuring for a long time?" 

Mr Fowler said it was too early to tell how many staff with specialist skills would move to private employment under the new arrangements. 

About 27 teachers and 23 support staff will be affected by the government's withdrawal.