NDIS is also making life harder for disability workers

Public Service Association protest for disability funding in 2014.

I am employed as a disability support worker by a council and, since the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), I will soon lose my job. This is my story.

I am in transition to becoming “self-employed” with an ABN (Australian Business Number), which makes me a small business, and enables me to sign individual contracts with each client.

The other alternative was to become an employee of a private company that has contracts with NDIS clients.

From these two bad choices, I decided to go with the former.

We have been told that NDIS will be much better for hundreds of thousands of Australians. But is it?

Once families receive NDIS funding, it is their responsibility to make the choices for their child or adult family member and manage their finances over a 12-month period.

The idea that they are in control of the life choices of their family member may sound appealing. But the stress levels rise with the amount of bookkeeping required and when it is difficult to clearly define their needs.

Parents are encouraged to employ an advisor, but that person is paid for by the funding for their family member. That NDIS planner will recommend “one of theirs”, someone who will ask many questions and tick many boxes but who doesn’t really know the needs and interests of the person concerned.

I was once supporting a child at home when the NDIS planner was interviewing his parents. One of the questions was “Do you own your home?” I invited the planner to meet the child but she declined, saying it wasn’t necessary.

As much as I agree with giving parents options in choosing a carer for their child, the options being presented are often inadequate to the task at hand.

By privatising the disability sector, many people are obtaining an ABN (which is easy to do online) and presenting themselves as a qualified support worker. They do not need background checks and parents who search online for support workers only see promotional material.

I am qualified and have many years of experience, but l am now in competition with an untrained person who is willing to provide “services” at a cheaper rate. They call it business. I call it a dangerous rort.

NDIS has also meant that our work is now casual: we no longer have permanent employment with leave benefits, superannuation and union support.

A few weeks ago a parent asked me to do a buddy shift with a potential new carer as she lives near the client. Having a carer nearby is appealing for parents who may need to call on you at the last minute.

l agreed to do the shadow shift. I found that the inexperienced carer had no idea about the work responsibilities or the safety measures. She had no knowledge about supporting someone who is non-verbal with behavioural difficulties, who needs support in all aspects of daily life. She appeared to be more interested in the times of shifts, rather than the child’s needs.

It is easy to be blinded by the NDIS marketing, but just as the privatisation of the aged care sector has led to cuts in staff, quality meals and wound management, the same is true for the disAbility sector.

There are also many grey areas concerning the care of people with a disability.

Statistics show that as the number of people being diagnosed with autism (done by general practioners) has increased in the past few years. This adds to the NDIS budget.

As a result, NDIS bureaucrats are thinking of using “their people” to make the diagnosis. If this happens, we can expect a decline in the numbers of people being diagnosed with autism and many who need support will not be eligible for funding for appropriate services.

Another grey area concerns supporting people transitioning from childhood to adulthood, and teaching them to become more independent.

It is sometimes possible to teach a person to take public transport to an activity. However, it becomes a crisis situation when the bus/tram/train is late or cancelled and the person has lost all points of reference and they have to navigate replacement measures.

The NDIS planner may have ticked a box for someone to take public transport to an activity when things are going well, but an unexpected or crisis situation which causes the person anxiety is not factored into the plan.

It is imperative that we continue to support vulnerable people in our community. We must not be blinded by the NDIS hype when the reality is vastly different.

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