OPINION: Scheme helping people with disabilities

The Stockton CentreIT saddened me to read such negative coverage yesterday of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) – one of the greatest social reforms this country has ever seen (“Defiant but losing heart – Disability sector feels abandoned” Herald 24/7).

We need to remember why both sides of politics heard the community and worked together to deliver the scheme: it is about giving choice and control to people with disabilities.

I have visited the NDIS trial site a number of times and heard clients’ stories that humble me beyond words. Hearing these stories makes me proud to be the Minister for Disability Services. This is why the NSW government is getting on with the job of rolling out the scheme.

We’re improving the lives of people with disabilities.

I don’t want to see these stories get lost in a political battle in the Hunter.

Just last week I met with a woman who now uses her funding how she wants instead of being pigeonholed into what services the government funded. She goes to dancing class, got herself a new set of wheels (chair) and was brought to tears knowing she would be supported like this, with far-reaching freedom, for the rest of her life.

Our agreement with the Commonwealth states that NSW will transfer services to the non-government sector by 2018, in order to provide more choice and control to people with disabilities.

The non-government sector already provides more than 60 per cent of services in NSW.

The quality of care will not decrease. Services in the sector will only increase as the demand for innovative and flexible supports grows as new clients enter the scheme.

Government staff have been extensively briefed on these changes – and most of them support this vital reform.

The small number of people who do not agree with these terms are making a lot of noise and tarnishing the NDIS as a whole, and muffling the stories of the happy 2000-plus clients already in the scheme.

The Stockton redevelopment pre-dates the NDIS by almost 15 years and should not be associated with it, especially when it is being used as a scapegoat to blemish a welcomed, bipartisan supported social reform.

Regardless of the NDIS, large residential centres are being redeveloped and every existing resident, including the high-needs clients, will be catered for.

Group homes, many already operated by NGOs, can provide the same 24-hour specialist care provided by large institutions like Stockton.

The very nature of reform is that it requires change.

We need to look beyond self-interest to make it happen – for the benefit of the most vulnerable in our society: people with disabilities.

John Ajaka is state Minister for Disability Service