When DisabilityCare Australia is launched in various sites across the country next month, it will herald the start of the biggest social policy reform Australia has seen since Medicare.
It’s a national disability insurance scheme, a way of providing individualised support for people with permanent and significant disability.
DisabilityCare will give every Australian the certainty of knowing that if they, or a loved one, have a permanent and significant disability they will get the care and support they need regardless of where they live or how they acquired disability.
It is finally recognising that each person with disability has different needs, preferences and aspirations and they must be given the support that is right for them.
In the past, support has been provided based on the number of places in a limited number of programs. The services and support people with disability, their families and carers receive has depended on where they live, what disability they have and how they obtained that disability.
In short, the system has failed people with disability, their families, carers and ultimately our wider community.
DisabilityCare will rectify this. It will create a funding pool for people based on assessment of need.
People with disability, their carers and families will be assisted to develop a plan that supports goals and aspirations, covers financial support needs and determines the support needed to pursue goals.
It will support people with a permanent and significant disability in an ongoing capacity, recognising that support needs can change over a lifetime.
For families and carers – it’s the knowledge that their valuable role can be sustained.
DisabilityCare will commence at four launch sites in four states from 1 July 2013, and then two more from July 2014.
The Federal Government has reached an agreement to a full roll-out of the scheme across all states and territories except Western Australia.
In South Australia, the full implementation of DisabilityCare will occur from 2018.
Around 35,000 people will eventually benefit.
It will be trialled next month in South Australia for children aged between zero and five years old, rising to children aged 14 and under in the following two years.
Like most disability service providers, I want DisabilityCare to work, to be effective and to transform the current environment.
However, I believe it takes more than the roll-out of DisabilityCare to ensure the sustainable success of a program such as this. I think it will also require an attitude shift in what we see people with disability as being able to offer, how they can contribute and participate, and as a community ensuring that they are given every opportunity to do so.
Society will need to recognise the new system can do so much more than assist people with disability financially.
The Productivity Commission’s final report into disability care and support in 2011 found people with disability and their carers experience low levels of income, educational attainment, employment, superannuation, health and wellbeing.
With DisabilityCare we can exact a significant social outcome.
People with disability will be able to participate and learn more at school, even go on to further study and gain jobs that enable them to contribute productively to the economy.
It will give people the chance to work, learn and live at organisations like Bedford – earning an income, gaining independence and creating social connections.
They can undertake further training and study and, at home, live as comfortably and independently as possible with the correct home modifications and support.
Families can be relieved of the full brunt of the financial, physical and emotional stress of caring for people with disability.
With bipartisan support and the backing of disability service providers, family, carers and most importantly people with disability, it is an eagerly anticipated reform.
Funding for it remains a critical issue.
Recently the Federal Government passed legislation through Parliament that provides for half a percentage point increase in the Medicare levy from 1 July, 2014.
Every cent raised is to be put towards funding DisabilityCare for around 460,000 Australians.
For most Australians it’s around a dollar a day to ensure security for them and their families, if they were to ever be impacted by disability.
Bedford is looking forward to its full implementation across the country.
Bedford has changed the lives of South Australians with disability for nearly 70 years – made possible only because of the strong backing and the positive attitudes toward people with disability we have received from members of the local community.
Because of our innovative and flexible approach to business operations, the people we support continue to contribute positively to our State by consistently providing reliable and high quality services.
At Bedford, we believe by giving people better access to supports they can participate more fully in society. The introduction of DisabilityCare will ensure this stays front and centre of people’s minds.
And the flow on effect of DisabiltyCare and the further community support for increased participation is significant.
It can potentially mean an increased employment participation of an additional 370,000 people with disability across Australia by 2050, equating to an additional GDP of almost $50 billion.
I look forward to DisabilityCare trialling in South Australia next month.
As a disability services provider, we are eager to be involved in any capacity we can and we are currently in talks with both levels of Government.
Sally Powell, Bedford Chief Executive.