Ability Inc manager Douglas Hollingworth explains it is not all smooth sailing for for local residents applying for the NDIS.
Ability Inc manager Douglas Hollingworth explains it is not all smooth sailing for for local residents applying for the NDIS. Marc Stapelberg

Why the NDIS should matter to all Northern Rivers locals

EXPERTS fear Northern Rivers residents with disabilities will miss out on the NDIS.

There are concerns some locals will not sign up because they do not consider themselves disabled, they have not heard of the NDIS, they do not know how to access the scheme or they will find the application process overly complex.

The NDIS is available to any Australian under the age of 65 who has a physical, intellectual, psychiatric or other disability, including those who become incapacitated after the Australia-wide rollout ends in mid-2019.

When it is fully operational, the NDIS will provide funding packages for 460,000 Australians.

There are more than 9000 people with disabilities living in the Northern Rivers, many of whom began applying for the scheme when it arrived in the region in July of this year.

The application process requires clients to document every form of support they currently receive, the equipment they use and even the things family members do for them.

Disability advocates report some consumers are struggling to complete the application process while others have ended up with packages that provide less support than the old system.

There are also fears disability advocate numbers will be slashed as federal and state governments transition to the new funding model.

Ability Inc disability advocates are supporting 90 Northern NSW residents.

"We are finding a lot of people are being caught unawares that pre-planning for the scheme was necessary,” manager Doug Hollingworth said.

"A lot of people don't have the proper medical documentation to register in the first place so some people have been rejected to get onto the NDIS,” Mr Hollingworth said.

"And there is a problem with people being told they can access their plan on the online portal but not everyone has the ability to do so.”

Mr Hollingworth said those residents who had their plans done were "in the main happy with it”.

Disability advocates report some consumers are struggling to complete the NDIS application process while others have ended up with packages that provide less support than the old system.
Disability advocates report some consumers are struggling to complete the NDIS application process while others have ended up with packages that provide less support than the old system. Thinkstock/ Den Kuvaiev

Disability Advocacy NSW chief executive officer Mark Grierson said a lack of services also affected people living outside of cities.

"You have less choice about who can be your carer, who can do the therapy you need,” Mr Grierson said.

"It's really difficult to find a way of fixing this - it's just an inherent thing in regional and rural areas.

"We struggle to find people who will work in those areas.”

Despite the issues, official complaints about the scheme are low with just 429 people contacting the Commonwealth Ombudsman last financial year.

However, this was a 700% increase from the 62 complaints lodged in 2015-16.

An NDIS spokesperson said: "The National Disability Insurance Agency will continue working with people with disability, their families and carers to resolve any issues during this unique period of transition and remains committed to getting the balance right between participant intake, plan quality and the sustainability of the scheme.” - NewsRegional

When it is fully operational, the NDIS will provide funding packages for 460,000 Australians with intellectual, cognitive, neurological, sensory, physical and/or psychological impairments.
When it is fully operational, the NDIS will provide funding packages for 460,000 Australians with intellectual, cognitive, neurological, sensory, physical and/or psychological impairments. Thinkstock/Jaren Wicklund

DON'T MISS OUT

You may be eligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme if:

  • You are under 65.
  • You are an Australia citizen, a permanent resident, or New Zealand citizen who is a Protected Special Category Visa holder.
  • You have a permanent or significant disability that requires help from others to do things or you need special equipment or assistive technology.
  • Your child is aged under 6 and has a developmental delay.
  • You or your child have a disability that is likely to be permanent or early supports would reduce how much help you or your child need to do things in the future.

Source: Australian Government



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