Sunday, January 21, 2018
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RE: Is the NDIS actually taking choice away from people with disabilities?

Although the NDIS is about improving control and choice for people with diabilities by introducing individualised funding, some people are upset with the changes. Recently Todd Winther wrote for ABC about his very positive experience living at Youngcare Appartments. He criticised the NDIS for threatening his arrangement by phasing out block funding (where a number of people share a pool of disability support funds):

‘Quite rightly, the government has expressed reservations about giving those with high care needs (and/or their advocates) access to large buckets of money to use at their discretion. Block funding provides the ideal solution to this problem, as long as individuals agree to this choice… the individualised funding model proposed under the NDIS won't work for us.’

 I couldn’t agree more with Mr Winther on the fact that his own living arrangements ought to be his own choice. But in my view, people shouldn’t have to ‘agree’ to a ‘choice’; they should be able to make choice from options on an equal basis with non-disabled people. This is what real choice is about and this is what individualised funding will help achieve.

 Mr Winther implies that it’s not ideal for people with ‘high care needs’ to have individual funds. As Dr George Taleporos has also pointed out, these criticisms might hinder the much needed change happening with the NDIS. It also unnecessarily feeds community fears surrounding the NDIS and reinforces the all too common belief that people with ‘high care needs’ are burdensome and not worthy of the money it might cost to maximise their independence and quality of life.

 I wonder if Mr Winther spoke to each person individually at Youngcare (not ‘or their advocates’, who sound a bit like substitute decision makers in his article) to find out what they actually want? Just because they might want to stay at Youngcare now it doesn’t mean they don’t want autonomy over their support packages or that they won’t change their minds in the future. Regardless of disability support needs, everyone has the right to choose their living arrangements on an equal basis (Article 19 of the UN CRPD).

 The NDIS legislation specifically says that each consumer’s existing networks and supports should be considered. This offers the capacity for individuals transitioning from a block funded arrangement to draw up their own plan with consideration for how their existing living arrangement might enable the continued sharing of supports, if this is indeed what they want to do. The NDIS creates the opportunity for people with disabilities to make these choices. It provides the long overdue alternative to being forced to ‘agree’ with the only option available, which is what happens under the block funded system.

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