An adequately resourced disability support system has taken nearly 50 years to establish and will probably take even more time to fully implement, writes Helen Burt. Source: Eureka Street.
Introduced on July 1, 2013, the National Disability Insurance Scheme is a major social reform that offers people with disabilities the chance to move forward, claim their rightful place in society and live out their potential.
Prior to the NDIS, formal supports for people with disabilities were fragmented, poorly funded, and inequitable, based firmly on an outdated welfare model.
The NDIS as proposed turned this on its head, promising a national, universal system allowing people with disabilities themselves choice and control over their services — what is needed, and how, when and where it is provided. This vision is clearly alive, even while the reality is very much a mixed bag.
My personal experience during the first 18 months of involvement with the NDIS was frustrating and particularly deflating for someone who had written submissions, emailed politicians and understood the potential of the scheme. My only contact seemed to be with an immovable, impossible-to-navigate bureaucracy determined to stand in the way of me receiving any support I was promised.
I’m now in my second year as a part of the scheme, and the NDIS is beginning to offer me the sort of transformative support originally envisaged. "Small" things, such as access to the support services I need for a few days' holiday; and "big" things, which will change my life by giving me the opportunity to live in an apartment adapted for my needs.
Even while I celebrate these changes for my life, I am acutely aware that I am one of the lucky ones. Not everyone will enjoy such life-changing opportunities. Benefitting from the scheme depends on who and where you are, and where you started from in the system.
Unfortunately, many people are unable to get access to the NDIS at all. There is also great inequality among those who become NDIS participants.
I remain hopeful that a proactive focus on access and equity, along with a determination to rid the organisation of unnecessary regulations and bureaucracy will see the NDIS take its place among the great Australian social reforms.
Helen Burt will present the "Advancing Dignity and Equality within the Framework of the NDIS" workshop, together with CatholicCare Canberra and Goulburn's Anne Kirwan, at the National Catholic Social Services Conference in Melbourne from 26-28 February.
Hopeful vision for a better NDIS (Eureka Street)