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Councils warn transition to NDIS will cost disability services


South Australian councils are dropping some disability community support and care services because of funding changes under the NDIS.

Susie Inat

The changes mean some councils will have to abolish certain disability services or find other ways of subsidising them, according to a lawyer who has been working with them during the transition period, Government News reports.

As part of the move to the NDIS, councils can no longer access Home and Community Care funding, which has enabled them to provide community support and home care services to young people with a disability as well as seniors.

The change is causing a shortfall that is forcing some councils to pull services despite community expectations that they will continue, says Susie Inat, special counsel at Minter Ellison.

One council was forced to cut a community bus service, while some are struggling to subsidise home maintenance services and others are being forced to hike rates, Ms Inat says.

“A lot of councils do things like gutter cleaning or home maintenance that were subsidised by things like HACC funding and now if they continue those services they need to subsidise them through other ways, for example, rate increasing,” she told Government News.

Early warnings

Concerns about the flow-on effect of the change were raised by SA councils early on in the transition to the NDIS, with then president of the state’s local government association Lorraine Rosenberg foreshadowing in 2017 that a number of key services would have to be pulled.

The gap left by the HACC funding was partly filled by the introduction of NDIS Information Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) grants, says Ms Inat.

But the uptake of the grants by councils appears mixed, with some preferring to step back and leave it for not-for-profit and disability service organisations to pick up the slack. However others have viewed ILC grants as an opportunity to innovate and provide new services.

ILC transition funding worth $3.5 million was provided to service providers in South Australia during 2016-17 and 2017-18, including to some who provided basic community care, a government spokesperson said.

However the spokesperson said that the ILC funds were for community capacity building, information linkages and individual capacity building for people with disabilities, and “not designed to replace basic community care services.”

A spokesperson from the SA Department of Human Services said under the transition to the NDIS there would be a reduction in funding for SA HACC services as people moved over.

“Local councils will be able to make decisions about whether they continue to provide these services under the NDIS in the future,” the spokesperson said.

The Department is working with the sector to consider how it will partner with NGOs and local councils to support people with disability under 65 who are ineligible for the NDIS, the spokesperson said.

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