Unions battling privatisation of NSW disability service

ONE VOICE: Speakers at Tuesday evening's disability forum. From left, PSA organiser Jason Saunders, PSA industrial officer Kris Cruden, nurses' union delegate Michelle Birkett and PSA president Kylie McKelvie.
ONE VOICE: Speakers at Tuesday evening's disability forum. From left, PSA organiser Jason Saunders, PSA industrial officer Kris Cruden, nurses' union delegate Michelle Birkett and PSA president Kylie McKelvie.

 A DISABILITY forum in Newcastle on Tuesday night called for the state government to retain crucial disability services for those people organisers feel will not be well accommodated by the NDIS.

The forum hosted by the Public Service Association and the Community and Public Sector Union drew about 35 participants to Hunter Trades Hall.

PSA industrial officer Kris Cruden said all other states except NSW were retaining some sort of disability services, but everything in NSW would disappear at the end of June 2018.

Ms Cruden said the Newcastle forum was planned as the first of a series around the state.

The forum heard some people, especially those with persuasive advocates, had done well out of the NDIS, but PSA president Kylie McKelvie said a recent ABC 7.30 report about a profoundly disabled Victorian man ending up in prison showed what was happening when things go wrong. 

Longtime disability advocate Graham Burgess told the gathering that NSW already had a "world's best practice" disability service in the state agency Ageing, Disability and Home Care, or ADHC.

Mr Burgess called on people to say "no to dismantling ADHC without putting something identical in its place".

NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association delegate Michelle Birkett, who works at the Calvary Mater's mental health unit, said people that non-government care providers were unable to handle were ending up at the Mater facility, where staff were not necessarily trained to deal with disability issues.

She feared the unit was becoming "a respite dumping ground".

She said the NDIS did not cater for people with mental health issues, yet history showed that many people with disability also had mental health issues.

After the forum, PSA organiser Paul James said the government was still planning to close Stockton, Tomaree and Kanangra (Morisset) at the same time that ADHC was shut down at the end of the financial year.

PSA delegate Rachel Smoothy said almost 50 ADHC group homes in the Hunter would transfer to their new operator - Hunter Valley Disability Services - at the end of November.

Ms Smoothy said 49 group homes were transferring, including 11 built to accommodate former residents of the Stockton Centre.

Hundreds of ADHC staff who work in the homes will transfer to the new operator at the same time.

The state government says the NDIS is one of the greatest social and economic reforms in Australian history.

Commenting on the forum, Disability Services Minister Ray Williams said: “Throughout the transfer process, the NSW Government’s top priority is ensuring client safety and the continuation of quality services that are important to them.”