Mr HAYES (Fowler—Chief Opposition Whip) (18:10): I have spoken in this place on many occasions about the NDIS and disabilities in general. I hope that when I do I'm reflecting the views of my community, which regrettably is overrepresented when it comes to people that live with disabilities. My family is one of the many that is all too familiar with the financial and emotional toll that is involved in caring for somebody living with a disability. I know this because my grandson Nathaniel is on the autism spectrum. I know that these families don't want lectures and they don't want our sympathy; they just want to know that they will get supported when they need it. I want my grandson and all Australians to grow up in a community that cares, a community that values them and a community that is committed to their inclusion so that they can achieve their full potential in life.
It was under this belief that the National Disability Insurance Scheme was made a reality under the Gillard Labor government. It is an initiative that we are all proud of, as we should be. It is a scheme that will provide about 460,000 Australians under the age of 65 with a permanent and significant disability with reasonable and necessary support they will need to live an ordinary life.
For the first time in history we have a scheme that is needs based and affords individuals living with a disability choice and dignity over their lives. The NDIS, as of September last year, had approximately 133,000 participants registered with an approved plan, with 9,500 children receiving support through the early intervention approach. All these statistics are certainly pleasing, but there is definitely more work that needs to be done. The government must urgently address some of the significant delays and inadequacies in the NDIS operation and rollout, which is occurring under their watch.
Families have approached my office on a regular basis desperate for help. It is clear that we are reaching a tipping point when it comes to providing support to people with disabilities. People with disabilities and their families are simply not receiving the services and support they need—and it is something that was promised to them.
Recently, I had a forum, which the member for Werriwa also attended, in partnership with 'united recovery'. The forum was attended by more than 150 people with disabilities, their family members, carers, local service providers and representatives from the NDIA itself. A number of issues were raised during the forum, with the main areas of concern revolving around accessibility, continuity of services, administrative errors, inadequate training of staff, misuse of funding, and the need for greater choice and control by participants.
Lucy Reggio, the program manager for Catena Programs and Services, provided some insight into the realities of the NDIS both as a mother of a son with a disability and as a professional working in the sector. She captured the heart of the problem faced by many families in my community when she said, 'The local area coordinators lack the time and capacity to adequately address the needs of participants and to coordinate, particularly in times of crisis'. She goes on to say that there is 'clearly no communication between health systems and the disability system'. She put it in perspective by citing an example of an individual who through an accident became a paraplegic and, on being discharged from hospital, was left with no information at all about the workings of the NDIS. These are just some of the alarming issues arising out of the government's mismanagement of the system, causing individuals and families much frustration and anxiety.
The NDIS was designed by Labor to introduce choice and control into the disability system. It was about implementing independence, autonomy and tailored solutions, and this is what must be reflected by the planners of NDIA. The government must address the issue of poor delivery, and provide choice and control that people with disabilities need and were rightly promised. The challenge of our generation is not just about the care that we afford people with disabilities; it is about their genuine inclusion in our modern society. They deserve better, and we can do better.