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Ajaka on the NDIS

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As the National Disability Insurance Scheme is rolled out across the country, the NSW Minister for Ageing and Disability Services John Ajaka – a possible ministerial casualty in the upcoming Baird cabinet reshuffle – and Shadow Minister for Disability Services Linda Burney have spoken about the challenges the behemoth scheme faces and how the roll out is progressing in NSW. They also talk about how to boost the numbers of people with disabilities in the workforce and in the public sector in particular.

This Q&A first appeared in Freedom2Live in March 2015.

Q: What are the challenges the NSW Government face with the NDIS?

JA: In December 2012, the NSW and Commonwealth Governments signed an historic agreement that will ensure full NDIS roll out across NSW by July 2018 and the NSW Government is getting on with the job of delivering this outcome. The agreement was the result of years of hard work by people with disabilities, their families and carers who campaigned under the banner of ‘Every Australian Counts’ to get access to the supports they deserve. Sadly, the Public Service Association continues to publicise inaccuracies and scaremonger as part of their self-centred campaign to retain union membership. The PSA imposed work bans in the Hunter trial site which prevented staff from assisting people to enter the scheme. This has only disadvantaged people with disability.

Q: What are your impressions of the NDIS so far following the initial roll-out into selected NSW locations?  Can you see where there could be improvements or any new issues that need to be addressed?

JA: The feedback I receive from people entering the Scheme is overwhelmingly positive. The trial is running on time and within budget. 3500 people have now entered the NDIS in the Hunter trial area and are enjoying more choice and control over the services they receive.

LB: I’m thrilled to see this policy become a reality; if we do this right it will change lives for the better. Obviously there are issues which need to be resolved, most importantly we need to be making sure that the experiences of people with disabilities at the trial site are positive and that those results are sustainable when the NDIS rolls out across the state. Initiatives like People with a Disability’s (PWD) ‘Citizens’ Jury’ are extremely helpful in identifying the problems for users so far. The idea of having the trial evaluated not by public servants and politicians but by the people most affected is a good one. As for the work bans imposed in the Hunter Valley whether or not they made the right decision it is not my judgment to make, the important thing is that the roll-out is happening and we need to concentrate on how best to make the NDIS a reality state wide.

Q: Do you think people with disability should have a greater role in not just the NDIS but in disability issues generally? The general view is that those who are affected most would seem to have the least input.

JA: The NSW Government extensively involves people with disability in the decision making process of policy and the delivery of services. The NSW Government recently launched the Disability Inclusion Plan. The Plan is central to the Disability Inclusion Act 2014, the Government’s landmark legislation which enshrines the rights of people with disability into NSW law during and beyond the implementation of the NDIS. The Disability Inclusion Plan will see the Baird Government take a whole-of-government approach to planning of services to make them more accessible and communities more inclusive – all in complete consultation with people with disability.

LB: I absolutely agree that people with disabilities need to be at the table and they need to be heard. The core goal of the NDIS is putting people with disabilities back in control of their own lives – Labor is committed to this concept and that means taking our lead from the people who know best of all what works for them. The NDIS is a massive reform – one of the risks when you undertake this kind of restructure of an entire sector is the loss of genuine voices of the people affected – Labor will not allow this to happen.

Q: One issue constantly being aired is getting people with disability into the workforce. Do you have any plans to increase employment opportunities or incentives for people with disability? Are there any new approaches to facilitate an improvement in the number of people with disability getting work in NSW?

JA: The NSW Government funds a number of initiatives to help increase employment rates for people with disability. This year the Baird Government is spending $6 million on the Employment Enabling Strategy which is delivering and getting people with disability (58 to date) into work. Since the Transition to Work program began in 2005, it has helped 2200 young people with disability enter the workforce and of that more than 20 per cent was last year under the NSW Government. Since January 2011, the NSW Government has funded National Disability Services to provide advice and support to NSW Government agencies in procuring goods and services from Disability Employment Organisations under the Disability Enterprise Procurement Program. The NSW Government has allocated $1.115 million in funds to help establish and maintain the NDS co-ordination role from January 2011 to June 2015. To date the program has successfully generated $11.15 million in contracts which has resulted in 444 supported employment opportunities for people with disability.

LB: Yes. This is a core aim of our disability inclusion policy. Leader of the Opposition, Luke Foley and I released our 5 Point Plan for Disability Inclusion very early in the campaign at the NDS conference in February. A major point of this plan, and one that I am really proud of, is a commitment to a Bipartisan Expert Panel on Disability Employment to be co-chaired by Graeme Innes AM and Cain Beckett, two hugely respected Australians who also happen to have disabilities. This panel will have $10 million to inject into employment strategies for people with disabilities. Luke Foley has already pledged to enact all of the panel’s recommendations.

Q: The employment of people with disability working in the public service is dismal. What are your views on getting more people with disability into the NSW public service?

JA: I would like to see more people with disability working in the public sector. EmployAbility is a NSW Government initiative that aims to increase the percentage of employees with disability within the NSW Public Service. The purpose of this strategy is to ensure equitable access to attraction, retention and career development opportunities for people with disability in the public sector. Across the sector, currently around three per cent of employees identify as people with disability and the NSW Government will continue to work to improve this ratio.

LB: Graeme Innes and Cain Beckett, as co-chairs of our employment panel, would have responsibility for setting public service employment targets. The current government has seen the representation of people with disabilities in the public service fall considerably in the last few years. This is a trend we would like to reverse.

Q: Any new policies on disability services?

LB: More announcements about Labor policies will be made over the next weeks.

 

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8 Responses to Ajaka on the NDIS

  1. Ingrid Pickering March 31, 2015 at 4:56 pm #

    The voices of people with severe/profound intellectual disabilities who reside in ADHC group homes and their parents who know them best are not being heard. Nor are the voices of people without families residing in ADHC group homes. I have learnt that there are families in the Hunter trial area with adult children residing in ADHC group homes who are refusing to sign up for the NDIS due to the privatisation of disability services and their wish to remain with the service provider of their choice, as well as their previous experience of their child being rejected by NGOs.

  2. j March 31, 2015 at 5:08 pm #

    Ajaka. The Minister for propaganda and all things nasty.

  3. Debbie Moore April 1, 2015 at 10:44 pm #

    Mr Ajaka, you keep blaming the ADHC staff union for running a scare campaign but you are not listening to the hundreds of ADHD families who are also against the forced privatisation of their loved ones. NDIS is supported by the staff union. They have made that very clear in everything they have published and said. You, on the other hand, are being deceitful by suggesting those of us who question your government’s plan to close down ADHC are somehow anti-NDIS. We are not. We simply want you to give us a real choice. Why will you not visit an ADHC group home or respite centre? Why won’t you meet with ADHC families and clients so that we can tell you why closing down ADHC isn’t going to work? A 100% private sector will not want our most vulnerable with the most complex behaviours. Please listen to the families and stop blaming ADHC workers for standing in the way of NDIS.

  4. Dedicated public servant April 1, 2015 at 11:23 pm #

    Minister, once again your lack of understanding and willingness to dismiss the concerns of families of people with intellectual disabilities is nothing short of embarrassing.

    Instead of criticising the dedicated workers, why not listen to their concerns surrounding the privatisation of state provided disability services, and the impact this WILL have on the people we support.

    You have a responsibility to provide people with disabilities a real choice, as was at the heart of the NDIS. When you privatise ADHC you are limiting choice.

  5. Rae April 2, 2015 at 8:11 am #

    I don’t belong to a union so I don’t read union publications. But I have read the Enabling Legislation passed by the NSW Liberal Government. From this information I can conclude that NSW Liberal government is treating staff of government run homes in a disgraceful way. I can also see that this government plans to destroy services of ADHC and that this action will have a very detrimental effect on many disabled people currently cared for in an ADHC home. What I can derive from the Enabling legislation is that my sister, who is currently cared for by ADHC may well be at risk in the future.
    Ajaka and the NSW Liberals are deliberately merging the NDIS rollout and the privatisation of disability services so they can muddy the issue. By trying to confuse people they hope to beat them and pass their privatisation agenda.

  6. James April 2, 2015 at 1:21 pm #

    The NDIS is supposed to be about choice. Many people who use ADHC services want to choose to continue with those services but are being denied that choice. They are being forced to move to service providers that they don’t want to. Some of us feel that other services can’t meet the needs of our children as well as ADHC can. Why then can’t we choose ADHC?

  7. Marie Ann Cowling April 2, 2015 at 4:43 pm #

    Let’s get real here. The NDIS will be/is a wonderful thing for many people and will help a lot of people access services, colleges etc that they might not have before. I love hearing these good news stories but they hide a darker underbelly. I find it difficult to respond to Minister Ajaka’s comments because they are in my case, simply absurd. He has already said that my sons will probably get a better service under NDIS then they do now. That is wrong and he is the one who is scare-mongering. Premier Baird has pushed NDIS through earlier than had been expected, what’s new there? The whole thing of ADHC quitting direct disability services has been organised under a cloak of secrecy and of total gagging of their staff. Those poor people are so gagged that they are all but choking. The PSA is not doing this out of self interest as you might be doing Minister Ajaka, they are doing it because their members have very grave concerns about what will happen to their clients under NGO’s. Once you bring money into a situation you lose the focus on the needs of people with disability. I have still not been approached about what we wish to do in our little family. This is beyond rude and is it legal? They are treating my sons and their mates as government commodities to be handed over to an NGO of their choice. They are going to hand over the houses that we parents got established in the mid 1980s, to the NGO of their choice including tables, chairs and what else? Oh the residents-my sons and others. This government will not do this to my sons as I will not sign up for NDIS either unless I am involved in the process and know exactly which staff will stay in the group home and who their Service Provider will be. I can rule 4 of the NGO’s up here out right now. I will not allow my sons to be harmed in anyway and I think it is high time Minister Ajajka joined the real world and came and met my sons and others to see how much he will be ruining their lives if this goes ahead. This is about the hardest thing I have ever had to say as a mother but I would rather see my sons dead then have them subjected to the nightmare that NDIS has become for us. I will not sign up to it and I will not allow any NGO staff anywhere near my sons. So Minister that’s my latest volley. There will be more. The workshop that is being mooted as being an information service in Tamworth later this month might help some people, however I am not sure that any NGO who could potentially tender for the running of these group homes should be providing information to people. Surely we could get some partiality into these sessions. Parents should run the sessions and the NGO’s can come along and ask us what our needs are. For me that is easy, our CHOICE for that is what NDIS was purported to be all about-choice, is to leave well enough alone. I have just left the group home and my youngest son was not well after having a seizure during the night. I looked at how vulnerable my two men and their house mates are and I felt utter despair-for 5 minutes and then I got my fighting mind back on. I am very unwell and thought I could die knowing my sons would be safe for life. The application of this scheme has taken that certainty from me and Mrs Pankhurst (NDL article) whose son is in a similar situation to mine. Minister Ajaka and Premier Baird are being deceitful about this program. They won’t talk to me or any other parent, and if the advocacy body if pwd is doing something I haven’t heard about it and I have emailed them more than once. This government has got everyone bound so tight that they will probably never speak freely again. The spin on this is out of control.

    Marie Cowling for my sons Mark & Jamie.

  8. Adam April 2, 2015 at 7:03 pm #

    The closure of ADHC and the massive
    gaps in the NDIS are being answered by the Liberals with Spin and Lies. What every happened to “a Real Choice” to stay with ADHC ? !!!

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