Petitions call for end to NDIS age discrimination

23 Jul 2020

Posted December 03, 2019

Two petitions calling on the Federal Government to eliminate age discrimination of older people with a disability were tabled in Federal Parliament today, on National Disability Day.

Photograph: Anders Halvorsen Chair of ParaQuad, left; Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie; Member for Warringah Zali Steggall; petition writers Chris and Bobbie English and supporters at today's press conference.

The petitions were presented by the Independent Member for Warringah Zali Steggall with support from the Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie and the Independent Member for Indi Helen Haines.

The written petition was signed by 14,020 people and the electronic petition collected 5,426 signatures and both called for legislative change so older people who acquire a disability after the age of 65 can access the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Under the current system, if you are aged over 65 and have not had access to the NDIS previously, you cannot access the scheme even if you are involved in an accident.

“The NDIS was established to address the inequitable, underfunded and fragmented disability care system,” Rebekha said.

“But we need to be wary of setting up a system that so openly discriminates against those who acquire a disability after they reach retirement age.

“If this Government believes Australians are fit and able enough to work long after the age of 65, then the Government should acknowledge that Australians over the age of 65 should have the same access to resources if they acquire a disability later in life.”

The petitions were instigated by Bobby English from regional NSW whose husband Chris became a quadriplegic after fainting and falling downstairs at the age of 69.

Had Chris been aged 64 when the freak accident happened, he would have been placed immediately onto the NDIS and offered up to $300,000 in support. But being over 65 meant Chris was no longer eligible for NDIS and he was placed on My Aged Care where he was offered just over $50,000 in help – a sixth of what he could have been on under NDIS.

Zali agreed to present the petitions after being approached by the English family for help.

“When I brought this discrepancy to the attention of the Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck I was passed onto the Minister for NDIS Stuart Robert, who passes me back to the Minister for Aged Care. The buck-passing needs to stop," Zali said.

“I am calling on either an exemption for people aged over 65 who have an accident or illness to be supported under NDIS or for My Aged Care to better cater for those with a disability unrelated to ageing.”

Rebekha said a number of older constituents in her electorate facing similar support issues had approached her office for assistance.

Among them is a 70-year-old man from Clayton Bay who contracted polio at the age of three and should be entitled to the NDIS but he only applied for new callipers six months ago.

Then there is a Port Elliot woman with motor neurone disease who cannot speak or move but only recently received a Level 3 Home Care Package under the aged care system after waiting for six months.

And a 70-year-old woman who lives near Strathalbyn who is legally blind but cannot access the NDIS to purchase assistive technology. Her son has the same genetic condition and can access the NDIS because he is under 65.

"These policies are actually life-limiting," Rebekha said.

"They diminish independence and the ability to live life with dignity and autonomy."

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