Disability services amendment bill speech 2014

HON LYNN MacLAREN (South Metropolitan) [8.37 pm]: The Greens support the Disability Services Amendment Bill 2014. It is a bill that will help get the ball rolling for the NDIS—which is now called DisabilityCare Australia—and My Way trials to begin in July this year in different trial sites across the state. The trial sites for the NDIS trial, as Hon Stephen Dawson has just mentioned, include the local government areas of Swan, Kalamunda and Mundaring, along with two My Way trial sites in the lower south west and, from July 2015, in the Kwinana and Cockburn areas in my electorate. The objective of the NDIS is to provide a National Disability Insurance Scheme to support people with permanent disability, and their families and carers. The Greens support this scheme, and we have actively lobbied at a national level for it. It gives people with a disability great choice and control over their support needs. We also support the focus on early intervention, which will hopefully minimise the long-term impacts of disability.

I have a few concerns about the slow rollout of the trials, and those dependent on their postcodes in the trial sites potentially waiting until the fourth quarter of 2015–16 for the rollout of those services. I acknowledge that this is better than the situation for people who live outside the trial areas, who have to wait seemingly endlessly for access to the combined application process. Having spoken to several stakeholders, as has Hon Stephen Dawson, including People with Disabilities WA, it was of course sad to hear that there are people waiting on assistance for very long periods, especially when they are relentlessly pushed back because those with more urgent need can jump the queue in front of them. The point is that there should not be such scarce resources; we understand that they are prioritised according to the most urgent need. I note that New South Wales has provided $500 million in new funding for disability support services, bringing their total to $2.9 billion; it is a great achievement by the people of New South Wales to make that investment in services.
Several members interjected.

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: But $2.9 billion is quite considerable. It would be interesting to see how the unmet need in New South Wales compares with the unmet need here; I do not have those details with me today. The concern is that because we have limited resources some people wait an unwarranted amount of time before they get their fair share. I will mention this a bit later. I will not make a very long contribution to this debate because, as the previous Acting President mentioned, it is a short bill so I have a short speech. The NDIS–MyWay trials address the point I was just making about long waiting lists, which is a good thing because we are implementing an improved model. They have a deadline on waiting as well, which is another good thing. People must receive some help by a certain time. The Greens support providing assistance when it is needed rather than once a person is in crisis. Early intervention and getting people help once they have been identified as needing help is an important principle. Under the current supported accommodation system in the Western Australian disability sector people have to be in a major crisis before they can be awarded funding for accommodation. We have advocated over successive budgets for greater funding for supported accommodation services.

I congratulate the Disability Services Commission for what I imagine would have been a difficult arm wrestle with the commonwealth in reaching an agreement on state and national trials happening consecutively in this state. Disability stakeholders have a positive view of the state MyWay initiative, which moves away from stagnant institutionalised models, which make people with disabilities feel powerless, to a system that ensures people with a disability, their carers and their families have a genuine choice and control and they stand at the centre of the decision-making process. At my time working for the Western Australian Council of Social Service I witnessed some of the early implementation modelling and I can say there has been a considerable step forward in disability services—hats off to the Disability Services Commission for its tremendous work in that area. We do not want to throw away the great work that has been achieved with the MyWay initiatives.

It is good that by the sound of things the two-year trial will end in the best possible version of the NDIS in our state. One thing the state government did not want to sacrifice is the Disability Services Commission’s local area coordination network. LACs have been around since 1988 and they are the foundation of the My Way initiative. I think it is a good thing that we are not forsaking LACs, which aid in advocating, planning, organising and accessing support and services. I want briefly to mention a couple of things that the local area coordination networks do to acknowledge how fantastic they have been in assisting people with disability. For the benefit of members who are not too closely related to this topic, I refer to a leaflet from the government of Western Australia and Disability Services Commission on local area coordination, and I want to focus on three points. The leaflet states —
• An LAC regularly visits the family home to discuss issues of importance to the person with disability and their family.
• Spending time at the community centre, an LAC with local people and groups to facilitate inclusion of people with disability in initiatives and events held in and around the community.
• LACs provide the Commission with information about trends and issues of importance for people with disability in their area. Private details are not provided.

That gives members a taste of what LACs do in the disability services realm, if I can use that word. I for one would not like to see that lost as we go to a national scheme. I understand that the Western Australian delegates on that national coordination committee have been able to implement some of the great features of the Western Australian system.

I was in the previous Parliament and there was quite a bit of lobbying going on for acceptance of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and I want to say that it is very welcome that we have got to this point at a time when it looked like WA was going to make things very difficult. The fact that DSC has managed to get through this level of complex negotiation and has managed to refine a quality framework process shows that it has done very well to work with other states and systems that are quite different, and the commonwealth, for the higher good, so hopefully, at the end of this trial, we will have something that is even better than it could have been had they not negotiated so hard.

There are some negative things as well. Currently there are issues with the combined application process, and I would like to talk further about those for people with disability who live outside the trial sites. After speaking with stakeholders it is evident that if they live outside the trial sites that start rolling out in July this year, they can be left receiving support by a patchy network of service providers or on a long waiting list, as I have described, for a combined application process. It is “business as usual” for people outside of the trial sites, which
means they are potentially waiting six years for improved services. We need to invest more in those people who are outside those trial sites in the meantime. No doubt all of us will be tracking that as this rolls out over the next 24 months.

Stakeholders have ongoing concerns about the limited pool of funding for those who may be seeking funding for accommodation support or for intensive family support. Due to the fact that this is based on a system of those with highest need receiving first preference, many may feel that they have to ramp up their condition to heighten their eligibility and to jump to the front of the queue. I have been in meetings where that jokingly has been suggested. It is tragic to think that they might consider doing that.

A recent inquiry by the Community Development and Justice Standing Committee into accommodation and intensive family support and funding for people with disability outlines those problems with the combined application process. In doing the research for this I noted that former member Hon Alison Xamon contributed to this inquiry. I want to mention four key aspects of the inquiry. The reports states —
… the Committee was concerned by a number of issues highlighted publicly in relation to the CAP, including but not limited to:
• Anecdotal evidence that people have applied repeatedly for CAP funding without success.
• Uncertainty about funding criteria and the perception that applicants must embellish their applications to have a better chance of success.
• Lack of transparency regarding the process.
• Insufficient funds, which means that many people with disability miss out even though they urgently need support.
Those people with disability who may feel they need to exaggerate their condition and those who are left endlessly waiting for assistance are both being put under tremendous stress by the system. I understand that we are moving away from this model, but 2020 is a very long way away for people with disability, their families and carers and the government really should be moving faster.

I want to make some comments about young people with disability in aged-care facilities, which is an issue that came in the estimates hearings. I again want to make the point that the state government is not moving fast enough to remove young people from residential age care in this state. Youngcare, which is a national organisation that advocates for young people with disabilities, focuses on providing choice and care and accommodation options for young Australians with full-time care needs. In 2010 a submission to the Productivity Commission by Youngcare articulated the issue in Western Australia. I draw members’ attention to this submission for their research. Youngcare’s report is titled “Disability Care Support Public Inquiry” August 2010 and it talks about young people with disability. This is something that hopefully we will see some action on by this government, because I believe there is $9 million somewhere in the budget for this. I could not find it, but I believe that $3 million appears in three years to assist in this. Youngcare’s submission reads —
For many Australians with high care needs, aged care can often be the only option available to receive the level of care they require. It is simply inappropriate that young people with full-time care needs are limited to this option.

While some families and friends are able to care for their children and loved ones at home, other people simply don’t have the support networks and are faced with the prospect of putting their loved one into aged care. An even more concerning trend is the crisis occurring for those Australian families who are being housed in hospital wards or cared for at home with little funding support and medical assistance. Youngcare works with people who have been stuck in hospital wards for excessive periods of time, in some cases costing $5,000 a day simply because they cannot get funding to be cared for at home.

People with high care needs have complex and long term issues that need to be addressed in a much more wholistic manner rather than simply as a disability issue. Unless the housing, aged care and most importantly, health systems work together with the disability sector, we are not going to find sustainable and meaningful answers.

For those young people living in aged care, statistics suggest that:
• 44% will receive a visit from friends less than once a year
• 34% will almost never participate in community based activities such as shopping
• 21% will go outside the home less than once a month

That is a picture of social isolation not befitting a society such as Western Australia. We can do something about it, and we should do something about it, soon.
I acknowledge that young people should not be shoved into residential aged care. They are entitled to adequate services with people their own age. The rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme trials in this state should be closely followed by the no-fault injury compensation scheme. WA does not have a no-fault injury compensation scheme. Although a move to trial the NDIS in WA is good and comes from the ideology that disability could affect anyone at any time, it is a shame that Western Australia lags behind the other states with no-fault insurance. We have had many opportunities to discuss this issue over the past five years. I have yet to see a reasonable proposal on the table that we can pursue. It is something very worthy of pursuing.

Do we need this bill? According to the Minister for Disability Services, signing an agreement for disability reform in WA will see approximately 8 400 Western Australians directly benefit from additional resources made available as part of the NDIS. During my briefing on this bill it was unclear whether those 8 400 people were already accessing services or whether they are brand-new clients. It would be nice to see some research into whether the trials increase accessibility to services in WA for people with disability.

It has been guaranteed that this bill makes only minimal changes to the Disability Services Act and does not alter or weaken the current principles and safeguards of the act. The report of the Standing Committee on Uniform Legislation and Statutes Review states that the bill was not needed as matters appear to be administratively dealt with or provided for in the arrangements. It was clear to me following the briefing that it was. I would like the minister to detail why it is essential that we pass this bill for the rollout to occur. It would be nice to get this explanation in Hansard.

Hon Helen Morton: Sorry, can you say that again because I was writing something down?

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: I would like the minister’s response to the committee’s question about whether we need this bill.

Another question remains: once we hit 2020 and the decided model is rolled out—whether it be NDIS, My Way, or a combination of the two—how will people apply and subsequently wait for the service? It was unclear whether it would be rolled out based on location or need. We do not want to stay on the same track of endless waiting lists and people being pushed to the back of the queue because their disability is deemed less serious than others. I hope during the two-year trial we quickly identify that services should be systematically delivered based on location. I look forward to the minister’s comment on that.

It would be of benefit if the minister could identify how many jobs will come out of this growth sector and also whether the localised nature of MyWay will be maintained with the NDIS. Although the national system has the benefits of consistency across the states, we do not want already exhausted and frustrated carers and families having to contact an interstate office—Geelong was the example—to receive information and assistance. I hope this does not eventually become the model that we adopt. I understand that NDIS is a great model that will enable control to be maintained for people with disability but we have to ensure that it remains as localised as possible. That is a lesson that WA has learned over the years in dealing with clients in WA, and that is one that we should share with the rest of Australia.

I conclude by saying despite the fact we believe that disability reform needs to move quicker and across a broader spectrum, the Greens support this bill that will help implement the NDIS and the NDIS–MyWay trials in this state. I look forward to seeing the positive impact this will have on the disability sector, and people with disabilities, their families and carers.