People with a disability are set to be kicked off key NSW government-funded buses from June this year, causing grave concerns for Griffith parents and carers.
Griffith Community Transport is a state-funded service – now provided by private company Intereach – offering transport to school, work and medical appointments for the elderly, disadvantaged and those with a disability.
But from June 30 this year, many disabled people will no longer will be eligible, supposedly having their transport needs instead covered by the federally-funded National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
The NDIS funds individuals, rather than organisations, to look after their own transport requirements, such as by funding them to use taxis.
But there are fears many will fall through the cracks, especially in the MIA, where transport options are limited.
Anne Napoli, who cares for son Patrick, said there is a lot of uncertainty for parents like her.
“My son has used [community transport] on a regular basis and it was peace of mind for me to know that he was safe when transported to where he needed to be”.
But she said transport is not provided under Patrick’s NDIS plan.
“The NDIS is saying is that the mobility allowance [$94.50 per fortnight] will cover their transport costs… this amount will not go very far especially when transport is such an important part of their daily plan, to access appointments, recreational and community participation,” Ms Napoli said
Sue Murray, who looks after cerebral palsy-affected daughter Rachel Gray, said she has managed to get Rachel’s transport covered by NDIS, but only after fighting.
“You have to be very assertive, and ask lots of questions”.
“But I worry about people in homes. Who’s going to fight for them? The system is so complicated”.
Ms Murray said governments haven’t taken into account the enormous costs of transport and disability services in places like Griffith.
“Beyond the blue mountains just doesn’t exist to them”.
A number of other carers and disability providers also said they were very concerned about the NDIS transition, but would not comment publicly for fear it would jeopardise their government funding.
NGOs providing government services are often gagged from saying anything critical of government policy by rigid funding contracts.
Ms Murray said while she gets funds for her daughter through NDIS, it’s often not enough to cover the “exorbitant” prices of services such as respite care and medical treatment in Griffith.
Griffith poet Mary Catanzariti, who was also born with cerebral palsy, gets nothing from the NDIS.
“I was assessed as being fully capable”.
“I agree with that in a way, and in a way I don’t… I can do most things by myself, but it would be good to have some help for some things”.
Ms Catanzariti used to rely on community transport, before she got her own driver’s licence.
The Area News contacted the NDIS, Intereach and Transport for NSW ask asked them to explain the changes for disabled people.
All were unable to clarify which people with a disability will be ineligible from June 30, and what alternative transport they can access.
Intereach said in a statement, “a range of options is available if people are affected by the change”. They did not outline what the change was, nor what options are available.
Ms Murray said it was difficult to find clear information on people’s rights under the NDIS – and that this must be particularly challenging for those with intellectual disabilities.
Ms Napoli said she has had a “huge amount of carers and people with a disability calling me with very valid concerns and uncertainty about their [NDIS] plan”.
“I have made a report to [MIA federal representative] Sussan Ley in regards on how the NDIS could be more beneficial to the people that it is meant to help and also to their carers”.
She said she is hopeful we will see a more flexible and friendly NDIS.