Bendigo MP Lisa Chesters and Noela Foreman.

A MOTHER with an intellectually disabled adult son has described how difficult she has found it to gain funding through the National Disability Insurance Scheme, particularly when it came to housing.
“It is very frustrating and most of the people in our group are worse off than they were under the previous system,” Noela Foreman, president of Quality Living Options, a group of older carers, said.
“That is not just the case in Bendigo, this is a national problem,” she said.
“Most of our members are in their 60s, 70s and 80s… where will our kids live when we can no longer look after them?”
Ms Foreman said to qualify for the disability support for housing that is available, the information for it is very hard to find.
“Our local people don’t seem to have that information and we have had to really research it and there is not much at all. The unnecessary complexity is the biggest problem we face as parents,” she said.
Bendigo MP Lisa Chesters said the problem would be exacerbated by shifting NDIS call centre work to contractor Serco, which paid minimum wages to its staff and therefore had a high turnover of workers.
“The person answering the phones supporting the families should be someone who has the skills and qualifications but also knows that this information is private,” Ms Chesters said.
“There are no guarantees about training when you outsource services, we have learnt from families they are already upset and frustrated with the level of skill and expertise with NDIS currently.
“Outsourcing it is just going to make it that much harder.”
Ms Chesters said the fix would be to reverse the decision to outsource and directly employ call centre staff with the National Disability Insurance Agency which is delivering the insurance scheme.
She also pointed to a recent report by the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales which found the NDIS pricing system did not cover the full costs of disability support.
“This report confirms the inadequate pricing structures of the NDIS do not allow for employment conditions that will attract and retain the necessary NDIS workforce,” Ms Chesters said.
But she conceded the scheme was working for many people
with a disability.
“What we have learned talking to people here in Bendigo is that if you are someone with a physical disability, a mobility issue then accessing the NDIS has been easy,” she said.
Improving experiences and interaction with the NDIS was a matter of high priority, a spokesperson for the NDIA said.
“While 83 per cent of surveyed participants recently rated their experience either good or very good, the NDIA acknowledges that this is not reflective of everyone’s experience with the NDIS,” the spokesperson said.

– Sharon Kemp