concerning stories

Alan Jones assesses one of the ‘concerning stories’ to arise from federal budget

Look, one of the concerning stories with last week’s budget relates to the hastily cobbled together National Disability Insurance Scheme. This was never properly funded by the Gillard government. How could it be when there was never any definition of which Australians who are disabled qualify for the scheme? The budget’s now forecasting that the NDIS will cost more than thirty three billion a year by 2020 for twenty five almost ten billion more than the Productivity Commission estimated the full cost would be. The scheme’s costs will rise by 12 percent this year, next year by ten point five per cent and then over the three years after that, jointly funded by the Commonwealth and the states.

But by twenty twenty four, twenty five, the Commonwealth will pick up sixty one percent of the tab and the figures are staggering. The number of people are supported by the NDIS is expected to grow to five hundred and thirty thousand within a few years. The average payment per NDIS participant increased by almost 48 per cent between 2017 and 2020. Just prior to the last election, Prime Minister Morris was being asked a raft of questions in Parliament about the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

And he said this, and I quote, The National Disability Insurance Scheme is fully funded under the budget. It’s fully funded. And if the estimates of demand contained in that budget are increased and there is greater demand, then every single claim, every single package and every single payment will be made to support that program, he said. If the estimates of the demand for that program are greater than what was in the budget. Then there will be a variation to reflect that and the funding will flow.

There is no impediment whatsoever, he said, to the individual flow of funds to the NDIS, unquote. Now, of course, there are those as fortunate enough not to have a disability or not to have to care for someone with a disability. But some of the cases coming across my desk are unbelievable, diabolical and disgraceful. You might recall a couple of years ago on this program, I highlighted some of these in relation to so-called plans which relate to the disabled.

One mother then told me each time a therapist was required to do anything for her severely disabled daughter. The one hundred and seventy dollars an hour came out of her daughter’s plan when that money could have been used to provide a severely disabled person with care. Many of you say the communication of the NDIS is either nil. Or you’re treated like a big dog. They understand what the prime minister said, that there would be, quote, no impediment to the funding.

But one distressed mother with the 52 year old mentally disabled daughter told me she had to sit on the phone for hours to simply ask for essential services. These people are saying to me, what about disabled people who don’t have parents to go into bat for them? This mother was 76. She said the system had driven a mad. Recently, the former defense minister, Senator Linda Reynolds, has had a very rough time. She’s no longer defense minister, but the minister for disabilities responsible now for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

I wrote to her in detail about a dreadful case that was referred to me. The mother was given being given a God awful runaround by the Queensland authorities. Linda Reynolds turned everything upside down and responded to me in the most personal way, aware of every detail and personally solve the problem. Sometimes our judgments about some of these politicians can be too swift. Linda Reynolds may yet prove the hope of the side, remembering that the prime minister did say every single claim, every single package and every single payment will be made to support the program.

It’s an awful lot of money, but which of us would swap places with some of our disabled brothers and sisters? We must always focus on their ability while ministering to their disability. They’re all sons and daughters and husbands and wives of someone. The decency of any society, I’ve said many times, derives from how it treats those most in need. It’s to be hope. There are no disabled people out there who feel they’re missing out because the bureaucracy behaves in a manner inconsistent with my experience of the new minister, Linda Reynolds.

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