NDIS test case win for young Liam McGarrigle in Federal Court

NDIS test case win for young Liam McGarrigle in Federal Court

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Michelle McGarrigle with her son, Liam McGarrigle
Michelle McGarrigle with her son, Liam McGarrigle

The Federal Court has today ruled that laws governing the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) do not allow the government to only partially fund the supports that people with a disability need to help them lead ordinary lives.

The ruling means that the NDIS agency’s current policy to only make a partial contribution toward transport and other costs will be overturned.

Provided other funding criteria are met, people with a disability living in rural areas who are unable to drive or access public transport will now be funded for the full cost of their transport needs.

21-year-old Liam McGarrigle won the test case which, for the first time, asked the Federal Court to interpret some key provisions of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act.

Mr McGarrigle was represented by Victoria Legal Aid. Acting Executive Director Civil Justice Joel Townsend welcomed the decision, saying, ‘People with a disability, their families and carers will no longer be forced to bear a financial burden because of the way the NDIS agency makes funding decisions.

‘The NDIS was introduced on the promise that people wouldn’t be “worse off”. This is a solid step toward ensuring that this promise is kept,’ Mr Townsend said.

‘This case has also made things much clearer around how the agency makes funding decisions. Its decision to only partially fund the cost of Liam’s transport was based on an agency policy that was not available to the public, or explained to Liam and his family.’

For Liam, today’s decision means that his transport costs will now be fully-funded through the NDIS agency.

Liam has autism spectrum disorder and an intellectual disability. He lives with his family in the small town of Moriac, 25 kilometres from Geelong.

He requires taxis because he can’t drive, and there is no public transport available. In effect, this meant that his family was being asked to pay $4000 each year for Liam to be able to go to work and to participate in a disability training and social group.

Liam had sought funding only for the transport costs incurred by using his NDIS plan. He and his family pay for all other transport costs, including the costs of attending medical appointments and going about his daily life.

Liam’s mother Michelle says the family are ecstatic about the ruling.

‘We’re extremely happy and relieved. We and other families in a similar situation will now have clarity and more certainty in how NDIS funding is administered. It also gives us certainty about his future life as an adult.’

The court action heard on 1 December challenged a decision upheld by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which affirmed the NDIS agency’s earlier decision to contribute 75 per cent toward Liam’s taxi expenses totalling $15,850 over one year.

Victoria Legal Aid argued that legislation governing the NDIS does not allow for supports to only be partially funded. It also argued that because this legislation already has sufficient checks and balances in place, it is not necessary for the NDIS agency to impose additional tests when it decides to fund supports.

The case has been referred back the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for assessment.        

More information

Read the Federal Court judgment.

Read more about the McGarrigle test case heard in December 2016.

How we can help

See Your appeal rights and the National Disability Scheme.

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