Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Transcript of Interview, ABC Newcastle, Breakfast with Aaron Kearney

Program: ABC Newcastle

Subject: DisabilityCare Australia, Kitchen Cabinet

AARON KEARNEY: Amid asylum seeker plans and carbon tax changes and election dates speculation, the political news agenda is in hyper drive at the moment.

So much so it’s very easy to forget that one of the major pieces of legislative and administrative changes to our nation in the past decade I would say, DisabilityCare Australia, still widely known as the NDIS, has been in trial operation for about three and a half weeks. It will bring up its one month anniversary on the 1st of August. It was a huge deal in the lead up. We’ve heard very little since. But care providers here in the Hunter who are in charge of finding out the possibilities and the pitfalls of the new system as the launch or trial site for the program, have been somewhat reluctant to speak. I’m not entirely sure what to make of that. It’s curious, I don’t know whether they’re saying it’s too soon, or whether they are having some problems, or quite what is in play. The Minister in charge of the process however, is more than happy to give us a progress report and joins us now. Jenny Macklin, good morning.

JENNY MACKLIN: Good morning Aaron.

AARON KEARNEY: Almost a month in, what is the report card?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well there’s certainly a lot going on in Newcastle, but also in the other launch sites around Australia. As you know, there is around 26,000 people who’ll come into the first stage of DisabilityCare and 10,000 of those are in Newcastle. So its early days but it’s certainly underway.

AARON KEARNEY: If I was eligible for DisabilityCare, and I realise one of the problems that we have with communicating this concept is that everybody’s circumstance is different, but look, alright let’s imagine a person, somebody in their mid-twenties who is wheelchair bound with cerebral palsy. How different is their life August 1 to June 30?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well maybe just if I give you some examples of how people have already been assisted and obviously for privacy reasons I can’t say their names or where they live.

AARON KEARNEY: Understandable. But this is based on real people?

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, that’s right.


JENNY MACKLIN: So this is a thirteen year old with cerebral palsy. She is, or has already had an assessment done. She and her family will get some bathroom modifications to make sure that she’s able to use the bathroom more safely, get access to improved equipment. Or another example, also of a young person just leaving school, she’s getting an upgrade to her motorised wheelchair, also home modifications to make sure she can safely shower. So just in those two areas, but I could give you other examples if you’re interested.

AARON KEARNEY: No, no those articulate the broader issue. I’m wondering though how that process is, is playing out because the people who are in charge of executing that haven’t traditionally been in the business of bathroom renovations. So how, what, I used the words before possibilities and pitfalls, what are you seeing in terms of possibilities and pitfalls a month in?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, I think you can see the possibilities in those examples, so one of them is a young woman about to leave school, she wants to go to university. She needs to make sure that her wheelchair is up to scratch, you know, so a very practical example. One of the big complaints of the current system is people have had to wait sometimes years to get a decent wheelchair or for a child, a wheelchair that fits. So that’s the practical reality of what this means. Of course, it hasn’t meant that everything’s been able to happen immediately. There are still times when people have to wait for an appointment or they need access to somebody to come and do the home modifications and it might take a little bit of time. That’s all to be expected but people are getting improved services, they are getting their assessments done, they are getting improved equipment and I think that’s all for the good.

AARON KEARNEY: I accept all of that. What do you, what is causing you concern, what are the red flags, what are the difficulties that have been revealed in the first month of the launch?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well it’s not so much the difficulties in the first month that I’m concerned about. It’s really over the six years of the introduction of DisabilityCare. We’re going to need to double the number of people receiving services. So it’s just a huge increase in the number of staff that are going to be needed, whether they’re specialists in speech therapy, for example, whether they’re people with disability qualifications. So we really do need to encourage people to come into this field. We are wanting to significantly expand the level of care and support and that’s going to take a lot of extra people and they’ll need to be trained.

AARON KEARNEY: Are you saying you fear a skill shortage may appear?

JENNY MACKLIN: It’s not so much a fear, it’s just being very aware that this is a big job in front of us, and so we’re already supporting National Disability Services, where they have a care careers program. They go out into senior secondary schools encouraging young people to think about a career in disability care. We’re already active in this area but this gives me an opportunity on your radio to really say to people, this is a great opportunity for the future.

AARON KEARNEY: Are our local providers, who are on this journey of discovery, as a launch site, are they coping, a month in?

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes I think they are. But it is a big challenge to providers. I think that providers have been wonderful the way they’ve really embraced this change and I don’t think we’d be where we are today if we hadn’t had people with disability and their advocates, providers, and of course carers and family members coming together. And that’s been the really great backstory if you like, for the creation of DisabilityCare, the national disability insurance scheme, is people have been prepared to say we have to change the way we do business and providers have really stepped up.

AARON KEARNEY: We appreciate you being available, almost a month in, to provide that report card and we look to liaise with you regularly as a launch site to see how we are progressing. How was the feedback from Kitchen Cabinet last night?

JENNY MACKLIN: Oh people have been very kind. Annabel was a wonderful hostess as always.

AARON KEARNEY: Yes, too often we say that politicians are sprouting lines, and reading from prepared scripts and it’s certainly not that experience. Jenny Macklin, Minister for Disability Reform, thank you for being with us this morning.