Problems with disability services in Australia

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Despite the growing National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) providing more coverage to people with disabilities than ever before, there are still major problems with disability services in Australia.

Service providers are chosen by price

Disabled people need specialised support, and those who aren’t from wealthy families need this support to be government funded. The problem is that the main criterion for the government in deciding which support providers it will pay for is “which is the cheapest?”

This encourages providers to try and cut costs as much as possible, often at the expense of actual care. As an example, in Griffith the community transport bus (which is a state funded but privately operated service) no longer caters to the disabled, as the NDIS does not cover the charge for individuals to use it.

Professional carers are underpaid and overworked

Part of the obsession with lowering costs in order to gain government contracts is that the people who actually help people by providing disability services in Australia are paid as little as their employer can get away with.

While there are some very dedicated people out there who are doing their best for the disabled, they are doing so for very little reward. Many companies that provide carers and routine support for the severely disabled pay their staff minimum wage.

An industry with such demanding jobs that pays minimum wage is not attractive to the majority of Australian workers, meaning that hiring standards are very low. The staff who are genuinely in it to provide the best disability services in Australia that they can are mixed with the almost unemployable, meaning standards of care can vary wildly.

Contracts are not being fulfilled

This one is not a result of hiring the cheapest bidder, nor is it the fault of service providers. Despite government contracts being awarded based on finding the lowest price, the companies who are providing supports are not being paid on time by the government.

It is estimated that the Australian government could owe up to $300 million to disability support providers, leaving them to operate with virtually no funds. This is another reason why disability services in Australia are cutting costs, including on staff.

The NDIA, the agency that administers the NDIS, also withdraws funding if it is deemed “excessive”, which has left severely disabled children who need round the clock supervision without care – unless they happen to have very wealthy parents.

Criteria for being allocated funding are too strict

Unless a person meets the very strict criteria for joining the NDIS, they do not receive any government funding to help them. This can leave people who are too sick to work without any form of income support, if they don’t meet the textbook definition of disabled.

The NDIS also does not cover any costs that are met by fully able people as well as the disabled, including public transport and food. If someone is too disabled to work, they are therefore left to struggle on basic income support payments – only direct disability services in Australia are funded.

As Centrelink is cutting off its payments to the disabled as the NDIS is rolled out, people who need help but do not fit under the NDIS remit are being left to struggle along on the dole – which is barely enough money for a fully able person to live on.

Disability services in Australia need to meet such a strict definition to be able to use government funding to help people that the seriously ill are excluded. There have been cases of people who are awaiting a double lung transplant being refused disability payments because their only costs are transport, food and housing – although at least they have been spared being forced to work for the dole.

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