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The Federal Government has announced that it will take the first steps to establish a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). A NDIS would transform the provision of support services to Australians with significant disability including people living with motor neurone disease (MND).
In its 18 month inquiry into the disability services system, the Productivity Commission found the current system to be fragmented, underfunded, inequitable and providing little choice to people with disability and their carers. The Government accepts that simply patching up the existing system would not be enough to fix these problems.
Although the Government has yet to endorse the Productivity Commission’s recommendations it has allocated $10 million to establish a technical advisory group. At its meeting last Friday COAG agreed on the need for major reform through a NDIS and accepted the Prime Minister's proposal to establish a Select Council on Disability Reform. The involvement of State and Territory governments is essential to the successful implementation of a NDIS. The support of the Federal Coalition is also critical and so far there appears to be bi-partisan support for the establishment of a NDIS.
But what about people over 65?
Carol Birks, MND Australia Executive Director, congratulates and acknowledges the incredible efforts of the disability community in coming together to campaign for the NDIS and a better deal for people with a disability and their families in this country. However she is concerned for those people who acquire MND or a disability after pension age. Over half of people currently living with MND are over 65.
“The Productivity Commission proposes that upon reaching the pension age a person with a disability could elect either to stay with the NDIS or move to the aged care system, but states that the needs of those who acquire a disability after the pension age would be best met by the aged care system. Separating these services isn’t the best approach. In fact, older people with progressive neurological diseases will need services from both systems to meet their care and support needs,” she says.
In the Productivity Commission’s Caring for Older Australians Inquiry, the Commission notes that the Australian Government has agreed to fund specialist disability services provided under the National Disability Agreement for people aged 65 years and over. Whether these and other improvements would be sufficient to meet the disability needs of older people diagnosed with MND is yet to be seen.
MND Australia will continue to urge governments to provide adequate access to planning options and services no matter which system they are funded by or how old a person is. A seamless coordinated response from aged, disability and health care services to ensure needs based care should be integral to the implementation of the recommendations of these Productivity Commission inquiries.
Ms Birks says there is still a long journey ahead and the MND community will keep campaigning, as long as it takes, to establish the NDIS and ensure that care and support is provided based on a person’s identified needs – not their age.