Speech by The Hon Amanda Rishworth MP

Address to NDIS Rural and Regional Roundtable

Location: Canberra; 29 April 2013

Good morning everyone.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians on whose land we are meeting today, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present.

Thank you Gordon, and I would also like to thank the National Rural Health Alliance and the National Disability and Carer Alliance for organising this Roundtable on such an important issue and for your all of your work through the ‘Engagement Project’.

I would also like to thank all of you for attending today- I was hearing just before that some of you have made very long travels where you are not even spending the night in Canberra so I would like to thank you for making the effort to get here. It really, I think, highlights how important this is but it also really means a lot to us that you have been willing to make this journey as it will help us as we move forward with the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

I thought what I would do is speak a little bit about DisabilityCare Australia with a rural and regional perspective and then really to open it up to questions directly from you.

DisabilityCare Australia, the national disability insurance scheme, will transform the way people with disability get care and support.

Through DisabilityCare Australia people will get the support they need to live a life they value, rather than current cruel lottery under which the support people receive depends on where they live and how they acquired their disability.

There are some really key important principles in the National Disability Insurance Scheme that really turn on its head, I think, the way disability support is provided to those with a disability, as their families and carers.

I think the first critical important point about DisabilityCare Australia is that it does look beyond immediate need and the crisis care model which now exists with disability, and it will focus on what’s required right across a person’s lifetime- this is lifetime care and support. That’s the first really important principle. The second important principle that dovetails into that is early intervention.

Early intervention will be a critical part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, so that people can get the support when they need it so they can live a better life into the future. The third very important part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme is that the questions being asked will not only be what support do you need but there will be an important question asked about what are your goals and aspirations for the future. For many people with a disability and their families that question has never been asked before but it will now and then the second question will be what supports do you need to get there. I think that is a really important part of the new focus of DisabilityCare Australia.

And finally a very critical point I’ll talk a little bit about now is the importance of choice and control

The National Disability Insurance Scheme will give people greater choice by putting them in control of the support they receive as their needs change over their lifetime.

With the guidance and extraordinary leadership of disability advocates across Australia, Australian governments have come together to turn the language of rights and respect into the reality of choice and control.

People with disability, and their families, know best what they want for their own future and the supports they need now to achieve those goals.

DisabilityCare Australia will enable those choices by providing the financial resources, practical advice and information people need.

DisabilityCare Australia is about to launch. On 1 July 2013 DisabilityCare Australia will be launched in four locations across the country. There will be a launch site in South Australia which will be for small children 0-4 then increasing in age. There will be a launch site in the Tasmanian area which will be looking at young adults.

There will also be a launch site in the Barwon area of Victoria and the Hunter area of New South Wales, so they are two distinct geographical locations-with further sites in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory from July 2014.

In addition while those launch sites have been somewhat limited, it is encouraging that we now have agreements with the Governments of New South Wales and also recently South Australia and the ACT who have agreed to the full roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme by 2018.

If we just look at the launch sites they will benefit around 26,000 people with a permanent and significant disability, and will provide the Australian and state and territory governments with invaluable experience and evidence to inform the rollout of the scheme across Australia.

Having a gradual intake also ensures that scheme participants are properly supported and receive the right services for their individual needs.

The launch experience in South Australia and the Northern Territory in particular, because they will be in South Australia in particular across the whole state, will provide valuable insights into rural and remote issues for full scheme implementation.

The Agency is working closely with people with disability, their families and carers, the local community, including state, territory and local governments, representative organisations, service providers and participating communities to make sure the transition to the new arrangements are smooth and responsive to local needs and experience.

And the question has come up many times to me as I have travelled around the countryside from service providers- where do we fit in? Well to those service providers in the room I have to say that we will not be able to do it without you. We cannot deliver the level of care and support that is envisaged as part of this scheme without engaging very locally with local service providers as well as national service providers and with the broader community.

The lessons learned throughout the first stage will help us decide how to roll out a scheme that is comprehensive, robust and responsive to the needs of people with disability right across Australia.

We are engaging in extensive consultations have, with a particular focus on launch locations, and this will continue to be undertaken on the details of DisabilityCare Australia, before the scheme commences.

I think why this roundtable today is so important though is that listening to the stories of people with lived experience, people with disability, their families and carers is so vital to building a scheme that will truly meet the needs of people with disability.

DisabilityCare Australia will provide people with access to disability support services which will be sensitive to special needs of people with disability, their families and carers living in rural and remote communities.

I am pleased that Phase 2 of the Alliance Engagement project includes targeted consultation with people from rural and remote locations and as I mentioned this roundtable will really contribute to our understanding of rural and remote requirements for DisabilityCare Australia.

By all accounts you’ve had a great start this morning and I am sure that will continue. I think it is really important that we do have representatives from the agency and also from the department listening in to actually hear directly from you as well as the feedback that no doubt you will continually be providing.

This will help to identify their particular needs and inform practical strategies for ensuring equity of access to individualised care and support through DisabilityCare Australia, including experiences in the health sector to support local services; flexible funding arrangements to improve disability service practicality; and opportunities for interfacing with health reforms, including needs-based planning through Medicare Locals.

And we do have to recognise that no one size will fit all. While this is a truly national scheme for the first time, it will have an individual focus.

Every participant has their own story and will have their own individualised goals and aspirations. As I said from the outset the first thing that will be established under this scheme is what are those goals and aspirations, and how do we then develop an individualised plan that helps you meet those goals and aspirations.

Several engagement mechanisms have been established to ensure the views of stakeholders, including those from regional and remote locations, are captured and fed into the design process.

The NDIS Advisory Group has met with state based NDIS and Disability Advisory Groups to discuss design and implementation elements of DisabilityCare Australia.

The Advisory Group has established an online engagement forum called ‘Your Say’ to provide people with disability, their families and carers, with an opportunity to share their thoughts, ideas and opinions about DisabilityCare Australia.

The National Disability and Carer Alliance is undertaking engagement with peak bodies, their members and people with disability, their families and carers at grassroots level from right around the country on key design issues. This will be critically important. I know that you have already visited a whole lot of places and I am sure that you will continue to do so.

It is important to get the message out there though that the Your Say on line forum is a specific avenue where people can directly have their say. I would encourage people to share their thoughts and opinions, and those opinions and ideas will be addressed directly on line and it’s a very important avenue.

The Agency is committed to ensuring that people in rural and remote areas have access to DisabilityCare Australia.

I recognise that there are many challenges associated with delivering services in rural and remote areas, and that needs, current infrastructure and services levels do differ greatly between communities.

The State managers, engagement and service delivery staff are on the ground working with local communities to understand their circumstances and make sure that people have the information they need to engage with DisabilityCare Australia during the launch period.

I think it’s really important to note that each of the launch areas have their own Local Area Coordinator and each of those Local Area Coordinators has a very important outreach role to help people with disability who may not be engaged with services currently to benefit from DisabilityCare Australia.

They’ll also be playing an important role in linking up people that may be in need of service with the local service provision and so for some service providers they have been concerned that if they are not a national body then they won’t be engaged in the process. Well the message is clear that the Local Area Coordinators will be situated within communities and they will be working with local service providers directly, and they don’t have to be national service providers as those local service providers will have a critical role.

The focus of DisabilityCare Australia’s national office and regional leadership teams since January has been on increasing direct engagement with potential participants, providers and communities in each launch location, with the intention of raising awareness of the scheme and reporting on progress with implementation.

Some of the key issues raised during the forums in rural and regional areas in South Australia and Tasmania were lack of access to services in general but particularly respite arrangements; how the Agency might identify and engage with people who are not currently connected to formal services; the importance of the Agency recognising existing service delivery arrangements that are working well, and as I said we can’t do it without you so actually looking at partnerships that are working well that might be in unique to a geographical area is critically important; and also existing lack of resources and facilities such as appropriate housing.

This feedback has been valuable. Please be assured that we are all listening to and taking on these valuable suggestions. That’s part of the reason why I mentioned today that staff are here from the agency and also from the department to actually listen to those suggestions.

But as I mentioned we can’t do it without the existing workforce in regional and remote areas. We need to all work together to make DisabilityCare Australia a success. We are already establishing relationships with a number of organisations including the Ngampana Health Council and the NPY Women’s’ Council in South Australia.

We are also investing resources in innovative solutions to the challenges associated with supporting people with disability living in rural and remote Australia.

In conclusion, and then I’ll open it up to questions, we do believe that this change to the system is critically important. People with disability and their families and carers, as well as service providers, have been saying that there have been huge gaps in the system previously and that there has been a real lottery about how much support you can get. So we this is a really critical change that will improve the lives of so many people around Australia.

We look forward to working with all of you to make this a reality.