Changes to disability support are making me anxious about the future

By Gretta Serov, 13 July 2016 , Comments

As the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) starts to be delivered, it is an exciting time for our disability community.

However, for some of us, the transition to the new scheme is causing a significant amount of concern.

I fear some of the freedoms, we have worked so hard to secure in preparation for the future, will suddenly be stripped away.

For the last three-and-a half years I have been lucky enough to self-manage my own Life Skills program and I have absolutely loved it.

I am now even considering moving my community support funding to Northcott so it can co-exist and in combination with my Life Skills funding.

This would allow me to self-manage my morning and evening care in exactly the same way, which would hopefully allow me to move out on my own one day.

Unfortunately I am rapidly considering other options for the future of both my funding packages because of changes that have been introduced by Family and Community Services (FACS) to fall inline with National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) guidelines.

As part of the changes I am now not allowed to hire friends or relatives as carers. I am not very comfortable with this because I like hiring my friends and relatives.

Being able to do this has also offered my friends – some who have known me for 21 years – a kick start in a career of disability caring.

I am also unable to spend my funding on recreational expenses like accommodation on holidays, which I mainly used with my friends and siblings in exchange for free care while I was away with them*.

I am unable to transfer leftover funding, which could have been spent on equipment, onto the new financial year.

I am also not able to manage my carers’ timesheets, which I saw as a key feature of independently managing my own funding**.

I am also now required to use my funding on a monthly basis. I find this literally impossible when I need to be flexible around things such as my uni semesters and breaks, as well as my parent’s work.

Although by writing this I do feel somewhat like I am just a complainer now, I still think back to our initial vision of the NDIS.

I remember all of our dreams of complete independence and freedom. They looked so vivid at the time and now I do feel let down a little.

When I say this, I feel it’s fair to acknowledge that as of yet I’m technically not receiving services funded under the NDIS.

But as I, and some of my other friends in the disability community have been saying, the new stricter guidelines that have left us feeling worried about the NDIS being just another form of the nanny state we all thought was far away in our history.

Although I can acknowledge there are obvious fair reasons for these changes to our funding, I also find myself wondering if there are other ways to solve these problems instead of defaulting to again putting us back into one basket.

* Northcott will pay for the support worker and their related expenses like accommodation, but not customer’s expenses.

** Under the NDIS, Northcott will no longer oversee Self-Managed arrangements where customers manage their own staff. This is a Northcott decision. However, should a customer wish to go Self-Managed with the NDIA, and are approved, they may manage their own staff and their timesheets.

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