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Speech at DisabilityCare Australia Conference, Melbourne



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JENNY MACKLIN MP

Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Minister for Disability Reform

Speech at DisabilityCare Australia Conference

Melbourne June 23

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I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we are meeting and to pay my respects to their elders past and present.

It is with an enormous sense of excitement that I stand before you today.

So close to DisabilityCare Australia opening for business.

Eight more days until - at last - a better life is at hand for many thousands of people with disability, their families and carers.

We have all worked so hard to get here.

No-one should ever underestimate the significance of what we are achieving.

Ensuring that people with disability will enjoy opportunity, and have access to the kind of choices that many of us take for granted.

That they will have the care and support they need.

They will have it for a lifetime.

And they will have support that is tailored to their own particular needs.

Disability support will no longer be based on the number of places in a limited number of programs.

With people vying to get in the queue.

With people shut out because of how they acquired their disability, and other unfair rules.

And with too many missing out altogether.

It has been a battle to get here.

Long years of campaigning.

I pay tribute to all of you here today and the part you have played, and will continue to play, in making DisabilityCare a reality.

So that for the first time, we are creating personal plans, that put the goals and aspirations of individuals at the centre of the support they will receive.

This approach will begin in our launch sites- Newcastle in the Hunter region, Geelong and the Barwon area here in Victoria, and in South Australia and Tasmania.

And from there, we will gradually be rolling out DisabilityCare in stages across the country.

This is a big change.

We know how important it is to get this right.

And I can assure each and every one of you that I as Minister, and the staff at DisabilityCare Australia, have been putting an enormous amount of work into ensuring we are ready to launch.

This work has been happening at both a national and a local level.

At a national level, we have secured a strong and sustainable funding stream for DisabilityCare, with an increase to the Medicare levy.

And we committed an additional $14.3 billion over seven years in this year’s budget to roll out DisabilityCare Australia across the country.

We have set the framework for the how the scheme will operate, with legislation passed through the Parliament in March this year.

The eligibility criteria for the scheme is set out in this legislation and was developed through extensive consultation.

We did not use the models that had failed before, where a certain type of disability meant you would be in or out.

Because we know that the same disability does not necessarily create the same needs.

And so significant and permanent disability - of any type that requires support - will determine who is eligible.

Services and supports under the package will be carefully planned so they are appropriate for each stage of life.

And for people who are not eligible for a full support package, DisabilityCare will provide the sort of comprehensive information and referral service that has not been there before, to link them to other services.

Because as wonderful as it is, DisabilityCare will not replace every service system that people with disability use.

So it’s vital that DisabilityCare can help people with disability access other supports to meet their needs, like health, employment and transport.

Let me give you some examples of how DisabilityCare will work.

Jessica is a young woman whose spinal cord is injured in a sporting accident.

Following acute care in hospital, Jessica goes to a rehabilitation unit which, with her agreement, contacts DisabilityCare to help Jessica work out a plan for her future.

Together, Jessica and her family work with DisabilityCare to develop a plan to provide equipment to help her walk, and modifications to the bathroom in her family home as well as short term coaching to help her get her confidence back.

Importantly, the plan will also address Jessica’s needs for her future.

As part of this, she wants to return to school.

So a Local Area Coordinator will speak with the school about what the school could do so that Jessica can get to classrooms for her lessons.

The school will fund these improvements - but DisabilityCare will help make sure the school knows what is needed. And DisabilityCare will continue to work with Jessica, over her lifetime, to ensure that her plan is updated and continues to be the best support for her.

DisabilityCare will also provide support for the needs of families and carers to help them in their caring roles.

For example, in the case of someone like Jason - a 38 year old who has multiple sclerosis.

Jason has always lived with his Mum, Ruth, who has provided all his care and support.

Like many parents in her position, Ruth worries about what will happen as she gets older.

About how Jason will continue to be supported.

When Jason and Ruth visit DisabilityCare, they develop a plan to provide support to meet his needs over time.

Jason’s plan includes a range of supports that will help Ruth in her caring role as well as helping Jason directly.

This includes things such as funding for home modifications like hoists and handrails, which help Jason move around, and which help Ruth with the more physical caring tasks.

It also includes funding for a formal carer to supplement the support Ruth provides, giving her a break from her role. Jason’s plan will also include a discussion about the future - with support to allow Ruth to reduce the number of tasks she performs for him over time, and for Jason to move into formal care when needed.

This plan will give Ruth and Jason the peace of mind that he will be supported over his whole lifetime.

Even if the time comes when Ruth isn’t able to be his primary carer.

That Ruth and Jason don’t have to reach crisis point before the extra support will be there.

DisabilityCare will also support people with disability who will benefit from early intervention.

Like Claire who is four, and has Down syndrome and is soon to start pre-school.

Claire’s family would work with DisabilityCare Australia to update the support she is already receiving, making sure she is receiving support to concentrate on her language and motor skills to help her prepare to go to a new preschool.

A Local Area Coordinator will also work with Claire’s new preschool, to make sure she is able to transition successfully.

There will be other assistance too.

Such as one-off support for needs that may substantially improve a person’s quality of life and address simple barriers to independence.

Like getting a new wheelchair.

One that meets an individual’s needs, rather than one that comes as standard.

In the first stage of DisabilityCare, more than 26,000 people with disability, their families and carers will get the support that I have just outlined.

As you can see, it’s a very different model to the current systems of specialist disability support.

So we will be bringing people into the scheme gradually to ensure their transition happens smoothly and effectively.

And as we do so, we will ensure that their current supports continue until their new plan with DisabilityCare is in place.

The majority of initial participants will be people who are already receiving some support from local, state or federal disability providers.

Each state and territory that is part of the initial launch sites, has signed a bi-lateral agreement with the Australian Government which includes an outline of how people will enter the scheme over the next three years.

Most of these people have already received information via their service providers about how to become part of the scheme.

For other people, there are a range of ways they can come into contact with DisabilityCare Australia.

They may be referred by doctors, or by other government agencies.

People can also use the online tool, My Access Checker, on the Agency’s website.

By answering a series of questions, people can see if they are likely to be eligible.

From there, they can contact DisabilityCare for more information about how and when they can access the scheme.

People will also be to call DisabilityCare or visit in person.

Ensuring that no longer will people have the awful experience of being shunted from one organisation to another in the search for basic services.

And from the start, in just over a week, DisabilityCare will have staff on the ground to help people transition to the scheme. Each of the launch sites has local offices, with local staff, who have been working hard in the lead up to July 1 - and who will be working even harder after then.

One point I would like to again clarify in the lead up to launch is that there is no link between DisabilityCare and the Disability Support Pension.

If a person receives a pension, that has no bearing on access to the scheme. They are separate.

Funding under the scheme for people with disability is not means tested and will not be considered income for social security or income tax purposes.

As part of the work we have been doing to get ready for launch, we have invested $10 million into the Practical Design Fund.

Seventy three projects have been funded to assist people with disability, their families and carers to prepare.

The results are on show here at this conference.

We asked for practical solutions and innovative outcomes.

Projects such as the one from the Endeavour Foundation.

The Foundation’s guide will help people with intellectual disability, substitute-decision makers or formal guardians plan their future under DisabilityCare

Explaining what becoming a participant involves, how to become a participant, what independent decision making means, how to develop a plan.

This is exactly what we had in mind when we set up the Practical Design Fund.

A guide in clear English to which anyone can turn to find out the how, where, what and why of making DisabilityCare work on the ground.

And this is just one example of the great work that’s been done under the Practical Design Fund.

I really encourage you to make the most of your time here to examine the projects on display and hear from the project coordinators.

A strong robust disability sector will be critical to the success of the scheme.

The Government recognises this.

We have put $120 million into a Sector Development Fund to prepare the sector for the new way of delivering services.

Activities being supported through the Fund include capacity building for people with disability, transition support and change management for people and providers, workforce planning and development of innovative models of support.

Recently I announced that we will provide $900,000 from the Sector Development Fund for the First People’s Disability Network Australia to to assist Indigenous Australians to benefit from DisabilityCare.

This is a vital area of development.

We are also providing sector development funding to two Aboriginal organisations to develop and test new local service delivery models for remote Indigenous communities in South Australia - around Ceduna and the APY lands.

I’ve also announced Sector Development funding to support work for other groups of people we know need extra help to get the most out of DisabilityCare - such as people with psychosocial disability.

And today I’m really happy to be able to announce that we are also providing more than $500,000 to the National Disability and Carers Alliance to run a series of grassroots community forums in the ACT, the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia.

These community forums will be about building the DisabilityCare knowledge base of people with disability who live outside this year’s launch sites.

To help them prepare for the rollout of the scheme in coming years.

It’s also to make sure we continue to hear and learn from people with disability across all parts of the country.

The Sector Development Fund will also support our disability service providers to make the transition. We know some providers are already well equipped to do this, while others might need extra support.

They’ll be able to apply to DisabilityCare Australia for this kind of assistance from the Sector Development Fund.

DisabilityCare will also be offering providers opportunities to work with experts in business management to identify the best approaches to refine their business structures, processes and systems.

The development of DisabilityCareAustralia has been informed by the National Disability Strategy, our ten year road map for disability reform.

This is no longer just a dream, or an aspiration.

We do now have agreement with all states and territories, except WA, for full roll out.

And the work that is happening in the launch sites will help guide us as we roll out the scheme.

We still have a lot of work ahead of us.

Today with only eight days to go I have focussed on some of the basics of the reforms.

But before I finish I would like to return to the goals that are driving us.

Kristy Trajcevski, a person with disability and a young law graduate and member of the Community Disability Alliance in the Hunter, told us recently:

“I should be working. I should have the opportunity to go and earn a living and pay taxes.”

Kristy went on to explain how she wants to contribute. She said:

“I’m probably the only person in Australia who actually looks forward to paying taxes ….”

She wants to be included.

To have the chance to meet the aspirations that are, at the moment, unfairly more easily achieved by others in our community.

With eight days to go, we begin this great national endeavour.

To all those who have been so involved, who have worked so hard, for so long, we owe you a great debt of gratitude.

And I can assure you, we will be continuing to work, day in and day out, to make sure that DisabilityCare delivers on your expectations.

Thank you all.