Carla wants her son Orlando to enjoy a happy life and have as much independence as possible.
For 11-year-old Orlando and his family, there are many challenges in front of them to achieve this because he has severe autism.
They hope the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will help them face these challenges and achieve their goals.
“I would love to see him feel fulfilled. I don’t want him just to be looked after his whole life without him having some sort of purpose. I’d love to see him doing something where he feels valued,” she said.
Essentially, the NDIS is the new way the Australian government funds and provides support for people with a permanent and severe disability. The scheme injects significant new money into disability services and will support a lot more people.
But it’s not just about more money. It’s a new mindset for disability services that puts choice and control in the hands of the person receiving the support. It does this by giving eligible individuals with a disability funded plans to buy supports that most effectively meet their needs and goals.
Before the NDIS the Australian and state governments generally funded organisations directly to run disability services. The old system was criticized for being underfunded, disjointed, inequitable and burdened with long waiting lists.
Orlando’s family live in Melbourne’s north-east, an area which is the first in the state to enter the NDIS as it begins fully rolling out in July. Carla likes the principles behind the NDIS.
“If it’s done well, it’s a fabulous idea,” she said. “It’s about treating each person as an individual and giving them what they need.”
Orlando is a student at Villa Maria Catholic Homes’ (VMCH) specialist school St Paul’s College and he also accessed its early childhood intervention program from when he was four-years-old.
VMCH supports more than 500 children and adults with a disability throughout Victoria and is going on the NDIS journey with them. VMCH Acting General Manager for Specialist Education and Disability Services David Williamson says the organisation is optimistic about the future of disability services under the NDIS.
“The NDIS will reduce barriers and make everyday life more accessible to Australians with a disability and this is the most exciting part of this significant reform,” he said.
“At last life choices and control will be in the hands of people with disabilities.
“People may expand their social circles within the community or choose to be an active member of the workforce. Access to increased supports, equipment or technology could assist a person to develop life skills and independence they never thought possible.”
You only need to look at some statistics to get a picture of the reality of life for many people with a disability in Australia. An alarming 45 per cent of Australians with a disability live in or near poverty and their carers have been found to have among the lowest levels of wellbeing of any groups.
Only 36 per cent of Australians with a disability have completed year 12, compared to 60 per cent of people without a disability. They are also almost twice as likely to be unemployed – 9.4 per cent of people with a disability compared to 4.9 per cent of people without a disability.
For VMCH these realities reinforce why its work in disability services is so important. The organisation aims to be the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne’s leading provider of high quality disability services and specialist education.
“The NDIS will enable VMCH to deliver on its mission to build inclusive, compassionate and sustainable communities,” Mr Williamson said.
“We are committed to people who are marginalized and disadvantaged, as everyone should get the opportunity to have an enriching and ordinary life. All people should live a life with the simple joys and opportunities many Australians take for granted.”
VMCH currently provides innovative and flexible services for babies right through to adults with a disability. It is also allocating resources to design new services specifically around the wants and needs of individuals, Mr Williamson said.
“We are planning with our clients to support them to understand and navigate the NDIS. We want everyone to dream big and set life goals that they may not have considered before,” Mr Williamson.