National Disability Insurance Scheme

Parliament of Australia
House of Representatives 

I got a text message from a friend a couple of weeks ago, and this is what it said:

If it means anything… I couldn’t be prouder of Labor right now. My dad has MS and has been in a wheelchair for 10 years. For 7 years, he has not been able to stand or move his legs

Since receiving funding from the NDIS he has been able to pay for intense physiotherapy, gym and hydrotherapy. He has been doing this now for a month now.

Yesterday my father went to the bathroom UNASSISTED for the first time in 7 years! He got off and back on to his wheelchair without anybody’s help!

It was a good day in our household yesterday! Without the NDIS funds we could not have been able to afford such expensive therapy options.

The Labor Party should be as proud as our family is right now. Thank you so much for the NDIS.

That is why we get into this job—to help people, to change people’s lives. It is the decisions that we make here in Canberra that can change lives like that of my friend’s dad. There are lots of great stories like this, and there will be many more in the future, but that does not mean that everything is perfect with the NDIS. It is not. It is still just getting started, and the people who are running and implementing the NDIS do make mistakes. But, where that happens, we need to make sure we fix it.

One example of that is Michael, from Bass Hill in my electorate. Michael is 13 and he has severe global delay, epilepsy and cerebral palsy. He attends a special needs school and he is supported by the NDIS. His NDIS plan was approved in November last year, and it included funding for a walking frame and a standing frame. In the same month, Michael’s physiotherapist lodged the formal application for his walking frame and his standing frame, on the basis that they were an essential part of restoring his mobility after a hip operation.

Four months later, in March of this year, after 10 visits to the NDIS Bankstown office and 17 phone calls and emails, the walking frame was finally delivered, but the standing frame was not. In May, six months after Michael’s NDIS plan was approved, Michael’s mum and dad, Caterina and Gus, received a letter from the NDIA informing them that they had decided not to fund the standing frame for Michael. The impact of this decision cannot be overstated. As mentioned, Michael’s physiotherapist advises that the standing frame is necessary to restore him to his presurgery mobility. The delay in providing this equipment has meant that Michael has regressed and now he is unable to walk.

According to the NDIA, the reason they are not providing Michael with the standing frame is that, based on their assessment, Michael is unable to use the standing frame for more than 30 minutes. However, his mum tells me that that is not right. Michael currently has a standing frame on loan from Cerebral Palsy Alliance. He has outgrown it and it does not have the full functionality that he needs, but he is able to stand in it for at least an hour a day, sometimes twice a day. It is a simple mistake made by the NDIA and it could have been easily fixed if they had spoken to his mum or if they had spoken to his physiotherapist.

Michael’s NDIS plan also includes vehicle and home modifications, and his mum has been told by the NDIA not to lodge her application for this equipment until the standing frame application has been resolved. The delays and errors the NDIA have made in this case therefore mean more delays in getting the equipment Michael needs to get in and out of bed, in and out of his wheelchair and in and out of the family car. The real-life impact of this is that his mum has to lift Michael, who is 52 kilos, in and out of bed and in and out of his wheelchair. It also means that Michael cannot leave the home on weekends or school days.

Michael’s mum and dad are watching tonight. I am sure that anybody watching this or listening to this will know that this is a simple stuff-up and something that can be and should be fixed. I spoke to Minister Porter today about this and I asked him to intervene and reverse this decision by the NDIA. He has agreed to look at Michael’s case, and I really thank him for that. We all want the NDIS to be a success, and I know that it will be. But, to be a success, it needs to deliver the equipment and the services that people like Michael so desperately need.