Page 839 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 22 March 2017

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(2) calls on the:

(a) Government to commit financial assistance to SHOUT until 30 June 2019, subject to further negotiations at the completion of that period;

(b) Government to recognise that abandoning SHOUT will have massive flow on effects to dozens of other groups and they too will face a similar future to SHOUT, through no fault of their own; and

(c) Ministers for health and disability to work with community organisations like SHOUT to enable them to continue their work with ACT self-help groups.

In 2013 the ACT government made the decision to become the first jurisdiction to embrace a territory-wide trial for the rollout of the NDIS, and in April of that year the ACT was the first to commit to full-scheme implementation by 2019. Given our size and perceived ability to effectively manage the sector through the Community Services Directorate, it probably made sense, in theory, for the ACT to take such a lead role.

Our actual experience now tells us that, in doing so, it was possibly not so sensible and not in the best interests of the sector as a whole. My colleague Mr Wall, in his capacity as shadow minister for disability in the last Assembly, recognised the potential difficulties, and is on record urging caution as early as 2013. We made several calls on the government to move with caution regarding the start of the trial. Not surprisingly, his concerns were dismissed, and the ACT government repeated over and over that it was ready to go. However, it was not long before it became evident that the ACT was not quite as prepared as the government claimed or needed to be to ensure a smooth transition, and we are starting to feel the effects of those unheeded warnings today.

By late 2016 there were grave fears that the numbers of eligible participants in the ACT had been vastly underestimated, fears that new participants would need to wait until current participants died before new entrants could be taken into the scheme, and anger that the government had got it wrong.

Whilst I acknowledge that governments at both the territory and federal levels have assured Canberrans that no-one will “miss out”, the anxiety that reverberated through the community about a potential gap of this magnitude and the far-reaching impacts as a result cannot be underestimated.

During this entire state of flux, the ACT government left some of Canberra’s most vulnerable people in limbo, while trying to shift the blame to the federal government. In December 2016 a survey found that more than half of ACT disability service providers believed the impact of the transition to the scheme had been negative. Of the more than 150 community sector organisations that responded to an ACTCOSS survey, over 53 per cent said that the impact had been negative or strongly negative, while 55 per cent of disability service providers said the impact of the NDIS was negative.

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