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The Hon. Jane Prentice MP
Assistant Minister for Disability Services
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Dear Minister Prentice,
Re: Seeking equality of support for older people with disability
As you will be aware, people with disability who are over the age of 65 are ineligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and must instead seek to access services through My Aged Care. The Australian Government has continued to reassure older people with disability that they will receive an equivalent level of support through My Aged Care, but we are fast finding out that this is not the case.
Where is the system failing?
- Lack of information
Federal and state governments continue to inject significant amounts of money into projects that are designed to inform people with disability about the NDIS. But there has been absolutely no information provided to people with disability who are over the age of 65 to inform them about My Aged Care as it relates to the specialist support needs of people with disability.
- Lack of empathy and disability awareness
As disability is the core business of the NDIS, staff at the National Disability Insurance Agency typically have a high level of empathy and disability awareness. The same cannot necessarily be said for the staff at My Aged Care, who are used to dealing with older people and not people with permanent and profound disability.
- Lack of equality
The current arrangements under My Aged Care, unlike those of the NDIS, require older people with disability to make co-payments towards any services or supports they wish to access. While these co-payments were originally designed to be dependent on an individual’s income and assets, it appears that this policy is not being honoured. Furthermore, services and supports that are required by people with disability can be far more cost-prohibitive than those of the average older person, meaning that their co-payments would also be significantly higher.
As a matter of interest, I draw your attention to the following policy directives outlined in the National Disability Strategy 2010-2020; which originally underpinned the introduction of a National Disability Insurance Scheme:
“Policy Direction 2: A disability support system which is responsive to the particular needs and circumstances of people with complex and high needs for support.
Policy Direction 3: Universal personal and community support services are available to meet the needs of people with disability, their families and carers.”
In order for Australia to be considered to be meeting its international human rights obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, these policy directives must be implemented in a way that meets the needs of all people with disability – not just those who are under the age of 65. It is also worth considering that many older people with disability, if provided with an adequate level of support, would continue to make a valuable contribution to their local communities. Failing to address these problems will therefore result in a loss to the economy, as well as a loss to the individual.
In closing, I urge you not to disregard this matter, but to give it the attention that it truly deserves and ensure that it is investigated at the next meeting of the Disability Reform Council.