Will Valley residents miss out on NDIS?

20th September 2017 9:00 AM
Ability Inc manager Douglas Hollingworth explains it is not all smooth sailing for local residents applying for the NDIS. Ability Inc manager Douglas Hollingworth explains it is not all smooth sailing for local residents applying for the NDIS. Marc Stapelberg

EXPERTS fear Clarence Valley 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 4200 people with disabilities living in the Clarence Valley, many of whom began applying for the scheme when it arrived in the region in July 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 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.

"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,” a NDIS spokesperson said. - NewsRegional