Assistant Treasurer Shorten admits that the current system is shameful. The Productivity Commission report notes that the "current disability support system is underfunded, unfair, fragmented, and inefficient". We must do better for people with a disability and their carers, one of the most vulnerable sectors of the community.
Cost to families
Associate Commissioner John Walsh says "We have a `death spiral' in the current system, with ageing carers unable to cope, giving up their adult children to expensive taxpayer-funded care, leading to reduced respite support and putting more strain on the remaining carers. Not providing adequate support now requires increased dollars later." Disability already costs $6.3 billion. Those paying the price are those with a disability and their families. The cost can be a form of destitution that carries on for generations, preventing individuals and families from achieving their potential, and being a productive force in our community. People are literally 'shut out' of the community we live in. As the Productivity Report states: "people would know that if they or their family acquired a significant disability, they would have a properly financed and cohesive system to support them. " Carers have one of the lowest levels of wellbeing of all Australians.
Doctors and documentation
Doctors currently spend a significant proportion of their time filling in forms for numerous organisations and agencies, to 'prove' a disability exists, and an individual is eligible for assistance. I have never heard of someone applying for catheters if they don't need them. What would you use them for? Drinking straws? Centralising and streamlining the process would allow doctors to get back to what they do best – provide medical advice.
The health system
As the report notes, under-servicing of disability results in additional costs in the health system. There are numerous examples of people being hospitalised for months because they can not safely return home in the absence of modifications. This places unnecessary pressure on the health system in a time hospital when waiting lists are already unduly long.
Right to choose
The scheme as recommended by the Commission would provide people with a disability with a right other Australians take for granted – the right to choose with whom they will conduct business. Who will make their wheelchair, who will provide therapy, who will assist them in assembling their package.
Work and workers
Any instance where an individual is unable to work due to lack of accessibility support, we lose one worker from the economy, shifts one person onto welfare dependency, places considerable strain on those around them attempting to remain in the workplace, and potentially moves a whole family to welfare dependency. It is so simple to improve this situation by providing appropriate supports on a timely basis.
Children and education
A system that is slow and inefficient, and where a parent must spend their productive years chasing to ensure supports for their child is wasted time for both the child and their parent. We need to ensure every child is able to learn, to get the best start they can, and be as independent as possible in future years. Where possible, parents of children with a disability should be allowed to return to work.
Having one tier of government own this process will strip away the layers of confusion, and allow people with disability and their families to find the information they need. It will also allow the market to begin to regulate itself – as people can choose the services that meet their needs. Inefficient services would lose customers.
Centralised funding and accountability leads to improved quality. Quality assurance is long overdue in the disability sector. A fragmented and complex industry will never have the administrative capacity to ensure QA.
Improving the System
The NDIS would not fix everything. It will not fix the inaccessible transport, buildings, community prejudices, workplace discrimination. But a centralised system with a single body paying to make accommodations for individuals will be better placed to begin to understand where the community could make the adjustment instead. It would be cheaper to make buses accessible than to pay for every disabled passenger to catch a cab. Only when we have one body seeing the entire cost of disability will they assist people with a disability to request the reasonable accommodations that would reduce the cost of disability for everyone.
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.
7 posts so far.