ACT News

Parent warns private providers not ready for disability scheme changes

A Canberra carer says private providers are not prepared enough to take over the ACT government's early intervention programs for children with disabilities in January.

In April, the ACT government announced it would be withdrawing from early intervention programs in Canberra at the end of 2014 as part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, leaving some parents concerned that children with disabilities could be left in limbo.

WORRIED: Tracey Trewhella hopes there will be enough private providers to cover programs for children  like her ...
WORRIED: Tracey Trewhella hopes there will be enough private providers to cover programs for children like her three-year-old daughter, Hailey, who have development disabilities. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

Canberra mother Tracey Trewhella, whose three-year-old daughter, Hailey, suffered from global development delay, said she didn't believe there would be enough private providers to cover the ACT government's withdrawal from the sector.

At the Early Intervention and Therapy Services Expo on September 13, Ms Trewhella said she believed out of the 50 staff holders who attended, only five intended to run an early intervention program in the ACT, two of whom didn't currently have a presence in the territory.

But Disability minister Joy Burch said non-government providers were already indicating they would be providing early intervention and therapy services, adding there would be no child left without service or support.

With just over three months left until the government phases out its early intervention services and with more than 300 children relying on them, Ms Trewhella said she believed parents and the private sector needed more time.


"[If] these programs ran for another 12 months, I believe that would give private providers the opportunity to come into Canberra, to be ready, to find suitable premises and to be established," she said.

"We have only another 11 weeks of school left ... it's not like having a child leave one school and start another [one]. For them, the transition program is weeks, if not months. They don't adapt easily."

Ms Trewhella said early intervention programs for children with disabilities aged two to six were vital to the social, physical and intellectual development of children like Hailey.

"[There are] things my daughter can do now she would not have been able to do without the early intervention program and if these programs are withdrawn and there is no comparable private provider, her learning ability and her ability to be placed in a situation with her normal peers will stagnate," she said.

Opposition disability spokesman Andrew Wall wrote a letter to Disability Minister Joy Burch on September 19, asking her to extend the government's early intervention programs into 2015.

He said the private industry was not ready to take over from the ACT government and children with disabilities would be left without important services.

"All we're asking for, is [for] the government to provide some peace of mind and some . . . [surety] to the parents that rely on these services, that there will be a service for their children to access in 2015, regardless of how prepared the industry is," he said.

Ms Burch said there was good interest from non-government providers, and the government would not be extending the transition deadline.

"I would like to again reassure families that no child will be left without service or support as we transition to the NDIS," she said.

"We have been working on the implementation of the NDIS in the ACT for two years and a key part of this has been developing the market so that there are sufficient non-government providers in the ACT to deliver the services required."

Ms Burch said almost 70 service providers had registered to operate under the NDIS in the ACT, while a spokesperson for Ms Burch's office said 34 who presented at the Early Intervention and Therapy Services Expo already were operating in Canberra.