Clo­sure of dis­abil­ity of­fice sparks fears

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - Therese Col­man

Shut­ting down the lo­cal dis­abil­ity ser­vice of­fice will see fam­i­lies en­dur­ing hard­ship trav­el­ling to Bus­sel­ton in a move crit­i­cised for drain­ing Mar­garet River of an es­sen­tial sup­port net­work.

Last month’s clo­sure has also raised ques­tions about whether the Fed­eral Na­tional Dis­abil­ity In­sur­ance Scheme will work for re­gional WA. Dis­abil­ity ser­vices as­sis­tant di­rec­tor Marion HailesMacDon­ald said from July 1, the Na­tional Dis­abil­ity In­sur­ance Agency would take over de­liv­ery of the NDIS in a move from a State to Fed­eral model, and Mar­garet River staff would be re­lo­cated to Bus­sel­ton.

But WA Min­is­ter Steven Daw­son’s Par­lia­men­tary sec­re­tary Reece Whitby ac­knowl­edged new po­si­tions would be cre­ated in the pri­vate sec­tor after the switch.

“The sit­u­a­tion with Mar­garet River is that that re­gion will be ser­viced from Bus­sel­ton, which, when we think about some of the dis­tances in WA, is not a par­tic­u­larly long dis­tance for clients to travel,” he said.

Mar­garet River dis­abil­ity ad­vo­cate Jonelle Fraser said the of­fice clo­sure was a wrong move.

“We’re talk­ing about the most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple in our com­mu­nity,” she said.

“It’s all well and good to say the ser­vices are in Bus­sel­ton and it’s not that far away, but Bus­sel­ton isn’t our com­mu­nity at all.

“The new model has taken away the four peo­ple in Mar­garet River who were a safety net for those who need them.”

Warren-Black­wood MLA Terry Red­man said the change would “re­sult in peo­ple fall­ing through NDIS gaps”.

“There was def­i­nitely a poor level of con­sul­ta­tion with the lo­cal com­mu­nity,” he said. “This is poor tim­ing for Mar­garet River, a com­mu­nity al­ready go­ing through a mas­sive amount of stress at the mo­ment.”

Ms Hailes-McDon­ald said the Mar­garet River of­fice, es­tab­lished in 2013, “was no longer func­tional for staffing re­quire­ments and not big enough to ac­com­mo­date all four staff”.

Vasse MLA Libby Met­tam said the re­gion had al­ready ex­pe­ri­enced cuts to the South West Wheels pro­gram, a trans­port ser­vice for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

“This is an­other blow for th­ese fam­i­lies, given many are in­creas­ingly chal­lenged by ac­ces­si­bil­ity and mo­bil­ity,” she said. “The Mar­garet River re­gion has en­joyed the ben­e­fit of be­ing a trial site to the WA NDIS un­der the for­mer Govern­ment and the new ap­proach by the McGowan Govern­ment is most con­cern­ing.” Tell us what you think! Email let­ters to edi­tor@am­r­times.com.au.

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