By Sarah Brookes
AS a person with a disability, High Wycombe resident Rita Kleinfeld-Fowell knows firsthand the support people need, a huge advantage in her role helping participants plan a financial package as part of the Perth Hills trial of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Mrs Kleinfeld-Fowell, a former UK disability advocacy lawyer, has Ushers Syndrome, which affects hearing and vision, and uses her trusty guide dog Ivy and assistive technologies to do her job as a planner at the scheme’s Midland office.
She said the NDIS, which marked its first anniversary on July 1, made dreams and goals come true.
“We had one participant who is autistic and has a mild intellectual disability who has been able to go to university with support,” she said.
“We have dealt with families with children who are nine or ten-years-old who have been on the waiting list for two years with the Disability Services Commission (DSC) and are now able to access funding through the NDIS for early intervention.”
Mrs Kleinfeld-Fowell acknowledged there was apprehension by some participants about the new system.
“Some people who had access to the old DSC system are frightened of changing over to the NDIS because of the unknowns,” she said.
“They need reassurance and we find participants have broken down and cried when it is explained what the NDIS can offer them.”
Mrs Kleinfeld-Fowell, who has been a participant and employee under the State Government’s NDIS My Way program, which is being run in addition to the commonwealth NDIS trial, said both models had their advantages.
“I hope they take the best of both models when the trial finishes,” she said.
“There are gaps we need to address but we must remember we are all still learning.
“It’s all very well to give participants a plan but we need to also coordinate and support participants and their families to ensure their plans are being activated and their funding drawn down so they can realise their goals and dreams.”
Mrs Kleinfeld-Fowell said the Perth Hills trial site employed the highest ratio of staff with a disability.
“We have staff who are deaf-blind, in wheelchairs and with cerebral palsy which is fantastic because you can see before your very eyes that we are evolving so more people with a disability are entering the workforce.”
Mrs Kleinfeld-Fowell said it was a fundamental human right to be able to participate in the community.
“What is remarkable about the NDIS is that we are working with young kids who with support will hopefully get jobs, because currently there is a high level of unemployment amongst people with a disability,” she said.
NDIA chairman Bruce Bonyhady said a recent progress report noted participant satisfaction with the scheme over the past two years was very positive with a rating of 1.64 on a scale of -2 (extremely dissatisfied) to +2 (extremely satisfied).
“Ultimately, the NDIS will improve the lives of more than 400,000 Australians and their families,” he said.
“We owe it to every one of those people to make the NDIS the best scheme possible so it is encouraging to see very positive feedback from the people already participating.’’
Mr Bonyhady said the report also noted the NDIS was being delivered on time and within budget.