Mt Isa forum charts way forward for disability care in more remote areas

17 July 2014

The National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA) and the National Disability and Carer Alliance (NDCA) have jointly released a statement of principles and concerns relating to the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in rural and remote areas.

The Rural and Remote Bulletin on the NDIS summarises the findings from a forum jointly organised by NRHA and NDCA held in Mount Isa in June. The Forum was part of a project funded by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). It was attended by some 50 local, regional and national participants. The Bulletin outlines a number of recommendations which should guide design and implementation of the Scheme to ensure that it reflects the unique challenges faced by those living with a disability, and their families and carers, in a remote area.

A common undertone of the recommendations is that people in remote areas want more information and greater involvement in the Scheme's design and implementation, yet many lack the means (ie Internet access) to do so, and the opportunities for consultation and engagement are few and far between. The NDIA should be encouraged to rethink the channels by which it communicates with remote people, and offer more opportunities for local participation in planning activities.

It is also vital that information flows both ways from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who have a distinct understanding of ‘disability’ and many of whom live in rural or remote areas, and the managers of the developing NDIS. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders must be closely involved in the design and implementation of the Scheme at all stages for a true whole-of-community approach.

Through no fault of their own, many people in remote areas remain uncertain about how the Scheme will meet their unique circumstances. Potential clients of the Scheme in those areas face particular challenges relating to transport, recruitment and retention of relevant staff, timely access to aids, equipment and home modifications, and little choice of service providers because the market for services is 'thin' or non-existent.

People in more remote areas are not 'starting from scratch' in relation to support structures for those living with a disability and their families, and it is important that the new arrangements build on the firm base that already exists. Some effective models of care and support have evolved to address the challenges of delivering disability care in remote areas, and these must be supported, adequately resourced and expanded upon.

On behalf of the NRHA and the NDCA, we would like to thank those who participated in the Forum in Mount Isa and contributed to this valuable ongoing work.

Contacts: Gordon Gregory – Executive Director: 02 6285 4660

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