Transcript by The Hon Amanda Rishworth MP

Transcript, Interview with Belinda James, ABC Illawarra – Mornings

BELINDA JAMES: But first of all, we know that the NDIS, National Disability Insurance Scheme or DisabilityCare, as it’s now known, is enshrined in legislation. We’ll all be paying a levy to help fund it, but many of us are still a little bit unsure of what it all means. Now, in the region today is Amanda Rishworth who’s the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, and a very good morning to you.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Thank you, and good morning Belinda.

BELINDA JAMES: Now, what are you doing in the Illawarra today, first of all?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, today I’ve got a number of events on. I’m here with Stephen Jones and Sharon Bird to actually have a DisabilityCare forum which allows people from the public that may have questions about what DisabilityCare means for them to come along and answer those questions. I’ll be going through how the scheme is operating, how it’s actually working in the Hunter Region now, and actually going through people’s questions, so that’ll be a good opportunity for people to talk about it.
And then I’m actually going to the Flagstaff Group. They have a number of enterprises which employ people with a disability and support those individuals, and they’re actually opening a new facility which will be drying coffee and blending chocolates and actually packaging it up and actually selling it. So they’ll be really pleased to open their new facility later on today.

BELINDA JAMES: Is that something that’s being done with the help of government funding?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Yes. Look, we support disability enterprises to actually support employees, so we have case-based funding in which those individuals are supporters in their employment, so it helps them with extra support they need to work.

BELINDA JAMES: Now, if you could just explain in the most basic of terms, if you can, how DisabilityCare will differ from how people with disabilities are looked after at the moment?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Look, at the moment what happens if you have a disability is you apply to an organisation. They’re usually funded, whether it’s a government organisation or a private organisation, for a wheelchair or for supporting your home or early intervention. There’s all these different programs that you apply for. Under DisabilityCare, what will happen is you’ll sit down with an individual planner, and that planner will actually say what are your goals and aspirations? For many people with a disability, they’ve been struggling just to get equipment, just to get personal care, just to get support and accommodation.
So the individual planner will sit down with them and look at their whole life, look at all the supports that they need and put a package together of money. Now, that individual can then take that money and spend it on their supports, and so they can choose their physiotherapist, they can choose where they get their prosthetic limb from, they can choose where they get their personal care from. So it’s a huge amount of choice. If they don’t feel they have the confidence to go out and spend that money and find these people, there will be assistance from DisabilityCare Australia about how – where they can get those supports from. So it gives so much more control to people, and it actually meets the individual needs of a person with a disability.

BELINDA JAMES: So individuals will actually be given an amount of money, a budget to spend on disability services for them?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: That’s correct. That is absolutely correct, and what it will include…

BELINDA JAMES: Did the money go direct to the service they’ve chosen, or direct into their….

AMANDA RISHWORTH: No, they can choose a range of services. So they can say, look, I would like to go to a private speech pathologist but I’d like to use organisation X for my supported accommodation, my support at work – I’ve got a job and I need support at work, that’s through a different organisation. So it actually means that individuals have a complete choice about where they go. Now, they might choose for one organisation to broker that money and to provide the majority of services, because there are organisations that can provide a holistic range of services.
So they can choose to – but the important thing is the services aren’t at the centre of the funding scheme, it’s actually individuals. So it gives so much more power and control to people with a disability, because before it was sort of doled out, they got in a queue and the equipment or the support was sort of doled out. Now they have control, and they choose where they spend it.

BELINDA JAMES: It’s obviously not an unlimited bucket of money that will be available to people, so who then makes the decision, okay Sharon, you can have this type of wheelchair but I’m afraid you can’t have that super high-grade wheelchair?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Yeah, so what happens is the individual planners work looking at goals and aspirations and what their life is, and then they work out – there is going to be some price points in early stages. We think in the long term the market will sort the prices out, but in the short term we will have a price of what’s reasonable and necessary, and that money will be given to Sharon, but then Sharon could upgrade. She could put in some of her own money if she would like a super duper wheelchair with, you know, the bells and whistles. She’ll be able to add her money into that.
She won’t be given – what happens now often is the standard wheelchair and you don’t have any choice about it, but we hope that, as I said, that the wheelchair won’t be the basic model, it’ll be what’s reasonable and necessary to get on and participate in life. One of the key aims of this is not just to support people, which of course is critically important, but to support them actually participating economically and socially in our community, because the benefits aren’t just for that individual, but it’s for our whole community.

BELINDA JAMES: So what’s happening in the Hunter at the moment in terms of the trial. Are you finding that there are certain things that need to be ironed out? Are there any issues that were not foreseen, for example?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Look, at the launch site in the Hunter it’s very early days. We believe that the launch sites will help us work through some of these issues. We haven’t – it’s gone very smoothly in the Hunter so far. We have a shop front in the Hunter, so we – DisabilityCare, as it gets rolled out to the whole country, will have offices – sort of Medicare offices that people can walk into but they’re going to be called DisabilityCare, and that’s where there’ll be individual planners which will work with individuals, as well as local area coordinators to actually help people find services, because a lot of people with a disability in their families and carers are used to just going to one place, so we need to have people to help them know what choice is out there and help them facilitate that choice.
So in the Hunter we’ve had probably people sitting down with local planners working through that process, but also about – over 300 actual inquiries, so there’s a lot of interest in this scheme and so it has been going very smoothly, but obviously as we move this out, especially in rural and regional areas, we need to make sure that that is – there is choice available for people, so we’re working through that in the Hunter region.

BELINDA JAMES: Because I suppose you’d be anticipating that with time, the disability service providers would start popping up all over the place because they’d see there’s a buck to be made, wouldn’t they?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Absolutely, and that is exactly what we see will happen is that there will be a lot more people coming into the market, a lot more services coming into the market, but what we’re saying to existing service providers, that’s nothing to be scared of. Number one, there’s a lot more money flowing through into DisabilityCare. I mean, part from all the way we’re…

BELINDA JAMES: But they will have to ensure that they provide the best possible care if they want to maintain customers.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: That’s correct.


AMANDA RISHWORTH: So they are – there will be a big change for service providers in the way that they managed their services. They are going to have to demonstrate that they are a service that does provide high quality service and there’s a lot out there that provide wonderful service. And they’ve also got their foot in the door, so people are already familiar with them. And if they’ve been providing great service and the right support, then they have nothing to fear. But it is a big transition, but we think it’s the right transition because it does put power and control for the person with a disability, their families, and carers. That’s where the control actually lies now and that’s where the choice lies and that’s where it should be.

BELINDA JAMES: So the Hunter site is a trial site at this stage. How will it be rolled out across the country and when can we expect to see it start up here in the Illawarra?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Look, I’m not able to give you a date, unfortunately, but as what we’re seeing in the Hunter region is that the State Government – between the State Government and the Commonwealth – are basically rolling in people on existing support services in to the scheme as well as looking at people who aren’t currently getting support. The full scheme in New South Wales, I have to say the State Government here in New South Wales was a very early – very early signed up to this and by mid 2018 it’s being expected to be rolled out across New South Wales, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be rolling in between that.
So we’ll work through the launch site. There’s about 10,000 people that will benefit in the launch site, and then the State Government and the DisabilityCare will work through how we roll new people into that, into the scheme, so with the full roll out being in 2018. So unfortunately, I can’t tell you when in the Illawarra, but certainly it’s not like every, you know, we’ll be waiting until 2018 for everyone. It’ll be a progressive roll out once the launch site has…

BELINDA JAMES: Because there’s an astonishing amount of work to be done in the next five years. You mentioned the New South Wales Government. I spoke to the Disabilities Minister, Andrew Constance, a couple of weeks back and he anticipated that at least 20,000 worker in the disability sector will be needed for this to work. Twenty thousand new workers in an in… well, an industry, in a sector where, you know, specific training is required and how are you – how on earth are you going to get that people on board?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, look, it is probably the big challenge of the scheme and the reason why we can’t roll it out all at once and so we are working very hard. There is a forum being worked on where we’re getting a lot of people together to look at how we train up a work force and there is a – our minds are all focused on this, but as you said there’s a real incentive for organisations to start up and to train people because people with a disability will have packages. So there is an incentive.
So previously you had to apply for block funding, et cetera, et cetera, so I think we will see a real innovation in this space. Not just the workers, but innovative ways to deliver services, and I think we’ll start to see a whole lot of that coming out, but there is a lot of work force planning to be done, a lot of training, but our focus is absolutely in that area.

BELINDA JAMES: And given that it got bipartisan support and is now enshrined in law, it’s here to stay regardless of the outcome of the election.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Look, absolutely. From our perspective it is. You know, the Liberal Party has said that it’s bipartisan. Obviously can be tinkered around the edges. I would hope that it’s not because a lot of work has actually gone in to ensuring with a lot of stakeholder feedback, a lot of individual feedback, so we believe the scheme is well designs. Obviously we will continue to learn from the launch sites, but we hope that the level of support and the level of commitment would be bipartisan into the future.

BELINDA JAMES: Amanda Rishworth, thanks very much for talking to us this morning.


BELINDA JAMES: That’s Amanda Rishworth, who is the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, who is in the Illawarra today.