Over the past six years the Liberals and Nationals have undermined the National Disability Scheme (NDIS) and as a result Australians living with a disability, their families and carers are being short changed.
For Federal Member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon, the Morrison Government’s decision to deliver a Budget surplus partly underpinned by underspending on the NDIS is a shocking disgrace.
Mr Fitzgibbon has heard first-hand about the pain, frustration and disadvantage experienced by thousands of people in the Hunter desperately seeking assistance with access to the care and support they deserve under the NDIS.
“Very sadly, the most common source of complaint to my busy electorate office is the National Disability Insurance Scheme. People with disability, their carers, their families and their loved ones are usually at their wits end when they come to us,” he said in Parliament on Thursday.
“These typically self-sufficient people don't really want to come to their member of parliament but are forced to do so out of sheer frustration and their inability to get the service, care and equipment that they need for their loved one or for themselves.”
The equivalent of more than 77,000 people are missing out on support from the NDIS, with the latest quarterly report showing that the scheme has only reached 76 per cent of the projected number of participants.
“Scott Morrison funded his surplus by underspending on the NDIS. The Treasurer and the Prime Minister say, 'but it's demand driven.' Yes, it is, and 77,000 people aren't placing any demand on the system because they can't get into the system,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
“Where are the government's priorities? Does it have no conscience, heart or care for these people? It's very disappointing.
“Are we that concerned about people getting a tax rebate when they don't pay tax? Or are we more concerned about the people in this country, their carers, families and their service providers, who are as frustrated as those with disabilities themselves?
“Our priorities should be with those with disability and all those other people suffering disadvantage in our communities.”
Mr Fitzgibbon acknowledges it will be difficult and it will take time to get the scheme back on track but says Labor is determined to ensure the scheme, services and support are made available to eligible participants, no matter where they live.
That begins with lifting the cap on National Disability Agency Scheme (NDIA) staff numbers.
“NDIA staff are copping much of the brunt of people's frustration, and they shouldn't be. I have the highest regard for the Agency’s staff. They are doing their best in very difficult circumstances, circumstances driven in large part by the staffing cap that this government has placed on the agency,” he said.
“We make the commitment that we will remove that cap. That in itself will make a big difference. We will work as hard as we can for these people to fix their problems.
“Labor built the NDIS and we will make getting the rollout back on track a priority. Nobody should have to wait any longer than absolutely necessary to get the supports they need.”
How Labor will get the NDIS back on track:
- Labor will abolish the Morrison Government’s arbitrary staffing cap on the National Disability Insurance Agency, which will free the agency to address the backlog in plans.
- Create a more interactive planning process which more comprehensively considers the unique and individual needs of participants and their families.
Joel Fitzgibbon is passionate about improving the lives of people with disability, their families and carers and speaks regularly to NDIS participants in his office and at NDIS information sessions he hosts throughout the Hunter electorate.“Surely there's no greater responsibility for us than to take care of those less advantaged than we are. Certainly there's no group of people in our community more worthy of support than those who are finding themselves frustrated by the National Disability Insurance Scheme,” he said.
Watch the full speech HERE.