Disability (National Disability Insurance Scheme Transition) Amendment Bill 2019 | Second Reading

Ms SULEYMAN (St Albans) (15:11:44): Thank you, Acting Speaker. I rise to speak on the Disability (National Disability Insurance Scheme Transition) Amendment Bill 2019. This bill will amend the existing legislation to reduce red tape and of course provide for a smooth transition to the NDIS without reducing the safeguards. We all know that our government’s commitment to creating a fairer NDIS system for all Victorians is the first and utmost of our considerations. The NDIS system must be fair for all. You have got to make these amendments, and that is exactly what we are doing today. This amendment gives effect to the national quality and safeguarding arrangements for the NDIS in Victoria starting on 1 July 2019. Reducing the duplication in requirements of a full-scheme NDIS scheme for the disability service providers is important, and helping to reduce the amount of red tape for these service providers is critical. Also we are establishing a process to authorise the use of restrictive practices by registered NDIS providers, and we are going to align the rights of the specialist disability accommodation residents with those of mainstream housing. Our government needs to do this because there is clearly, in particular in my electorate of St Albans, a lot of confusion in our community when it comes to the NDIS. Despite how critical the services are, there are many who do not know much about the NDIS, let alone how to actually access the NDIS. My electorate office, and I know a lot of offices on this side of the house, has a constant flow of inquiries in relation to NDIS as to how they can receive assistance and where they can make the first call. A particular issue that is raised is that there is insufficient funding of the services to meet their needs. There are questions such as why the NDIS has significant delays and waiting lists that are totally unacceptable, and how to actually approved for an NDIS plan. There is also, again particularly in my electorate, the barrier of language. I have a high population of residents for whom English is a second language. There is also too much paperwork. All of this has contributed to confusion. The most simple questions, such as ‘How do I actually apply for the NDIS?’, ‘Am I eligible?’ and ‘How am I covered by the NDIS?’, are some that my office has faced on a regular basis. So we have seen, unfortunately, these issues, and frankly a system that has been really botched by the federal government. We have seen particular data from Victoria’s health services that has revealed that up to 80 patients in public hospitals were ready for discharge but could not be due to the lack of support from the NDIS. We have also seen Victorians with disability stuck in hospitals for more than three months. We have also seen 9000 bed days being used up and unable to be given to other patients because of the fact that they are still waiting for NDIS services. Our hospitals are already busy enough without the added pressures in relation to the NDIS system, having a lack of funding and associated problems. Our government has been calling out the Morrison federal government to fix the gap in the system between the NDIS and the services, but at the moment we have seen limited action when it comes to this area. In Victoria there are 40 000 people with a disability who need to transfer to the NDIS at the end of this month. But so far we have seen the federal government, instead, moving $1.6 billion from the NDIS to prop up other budget bottom lines in the system. So we have not really seen the investment that is required for a smooth transition at the moment. In St Albans in particular there are 713 of my constituents desperately waiting for support and services that they need and deserve. That means that over 700 people are in a position of unnecessary stress and anxiety, not to mention the stress that it causes for their carers, their families. It is a chain reaction of anxiety within the community. This is why this bill will assist in cutting some of that red tape. As we know, our government, the Andrews Labor government, is leading the way. We have stepped up and we have invested $2.5 billion in this year’s state budget towards the NDIS, and now we are waiting on the federal Morrison government to see what their contribution will be. I just want to, in the time that I do have, talk about a particular case that my office and I have been dealing with. It is the story of little Liana. Liana and her mother, Amanda, have had to face some challenging issues head on. Liana has serious issues with a disability, and her mother and father are her carers. So far the NDIS has just caused more issues for this family. Liana’s approved plan is missing critical bathroom renovations, and Amanda is not able to bath her daughter correctly as she is becoming too heavy for the bathtub. They now have to travel all the way to Sydney for intensive therapy because the therapy that she needs is not available in Melbourne, and it is not even actually covered by the NDIS, so that is another challenge. The cover that they have been able to receive from the NDIS does not provide enough hours to support the services that she requires. They receive 33 per cent of the funding that they actually require. So navigating the current NDIS system is extremely traumatic. Liana and her family, and I, have to thank the St Sebastian’s senior citizens group, which has worked tirelessly in its fundraising efforts for Liana. They were able to raise $6000 to assist with some of her equipment costs, in particular a new wheelchair. So these are some of the things that the community is actually stepping in to assist with—Liana’s specialist chair for a vehicle so she can actually go to kinder and be part of an active, healthy community. So again I want to thank the St Sebastian senior citizens group, in particular Monica Caruana‑Smith and her husband, Patrick Caruana‑Smith, for really making a difference in Liana’s life. These are the stories, and I know there are so many other stories, of why we really need to make these amendments—to cut the red tape and to provide service providers the ability to make a smooth transition to the NDIS. This bill is about protecting Victorians, and we have an obligation to protect the most vulnerable in our community and adopt the change and the NDIS. As previously said, this is a historical move for this state and this nation when it comes to the NDIS. I hope that some of these barriers and challenges will be addressed and that we do get our fair share from the Morrison government when it comes to funding appropriate services and investment into the scheme. They are unacceptable, the waiting periods at the moment. This must be fixed. It is not good enough to wait over nine months for approval of your plan. People are anxious, and it is causing much more stress to those who most need this service. On that note I commend the minister for bringing these amendments to the house, and I hope for a smooth transition through this house.

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