Coalition turns its back on the severely disabled    

MPs from all parties want state agencies to keep providing specialist disability services – but the Berejiklian government isn’t interested.

Severely disabled people who can’t get the care they need under the National Disability Support Scheme (NDIS) will have to rely on general hospitals, homeless shelters and prisons.

That’s the NSW Coalition government’s heartless message to hundreds of people with complex care needs – and their carers – who depend on government disability and accommodation services.

The government is privatising all specialist disability services and requiring clients to find non-government alternatives under the NDIS.

However, a parliamentary committee of enquiry described the government’s exit from the disability sector as “fraught with challenges”.

The committee, made up of Liberal, National, Labor and Greens MPs, unanimously called on the government to “reinstate its role as a public sector safety net to capture people with disability, particularly those with complex and challenging needs”.

The committee’s final report said the state government should be “a service provider of last resort” to the NDIS “to ensure crisis situations are managed appropriately”.

The report recommended that the government “address service gaps by investing in services and supports for people with disability, regardless of their eligibility for the NDIS”.

Committee chairperson Greg Donnelly said: “Ultimately, we must look beyond the NDIS and ensure that the support available outside of the scheme is adequate and responsive to the needs of all people with disability in NSW, regardless of their participation in the NDIS.”

“To this end, we look to the NSW government to recognise and fulfil its responsibilities under the Disability Inclusion Act 2014 as a priority.”

The committee’s unanimous recommendations are contained in a 214-page report based on 352 written submissions and public hearings.

However, the state government has effectively rejected the report in a brief letter to the committee.

Minister for Disability Service Ray Williams wrote: “The committee’s recommendations that the NSW government be established as a service provider of the last resort to ensure crisis situations are appropriately managed and reinstate its role in delivering specialist disability supports, particularly for those with complex and challenging needs, are noted.”

“In effect, NSW mainstream services continue to provide both of these roles when there are service gaps for participants, when participants are admitted to hospitals, homeless shelters and prisons.”

NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda said the government had dismissed in a sentence or two the overwhelming evidence gathered by the inquiry and some of its most important recommendations.

“How reassuring for those with profound and complex disability needs or moments of crisis – who simply crave (and deserve) service continuity by a NSW government-operated disability service,” she said.

Judith made the comments in a letter to NSWNMA members transferred from the government’s Family and Community Services (FACS) to NGOs and other members waiting to be transferred from FACS.

Before the NDIS started to roll out in 2017, FACS employed about 1000 nurses who helped to deliver about 40 per cent of disability services in NSW. Private operators supplied about 60 per cent of disability services.

The government is shifting nurses and other public servants from FACS to private providers.