Test case push for clear National Disability Insurance Agency funding decisions

Test case push for clear National Disability Insurance Agency funding decisions

Monday, 14 November 2016

 Liam McGarrigle with his mother, Michelle.
Liam McGarrigle with his mother, Michelle.

Victoria Legal Aid is calling for greater clarity around how the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) makes decisions to fund people with a disability who have identified the supports they need to help them live ordinary lives.

Executive Director of Civil Justice, Access and Equity Dan Nicholson said ‘Recent decisions by the NDIA to not meet the full cost of supports like transport highlight the need for it to set clearer expectations around what it will and will not fund, and on what basis it makes these decisions.

‘It is not obvious what supports the NDIA will fully or partly fund, and the clients we represent say they are not provided with a clear rationale about how these decisions have been reached,’ Mr Nicholson said.

Victoria Legal Aid is acting on behalf of Liam McGarrigle in a test case that for the first time will ask the Federal Court to interpret some key provisions of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act.

Liam is a 21-year-old with autism spectrum disorder and an intellectual disability. He lives with his family in the small town of Moriac, 25 kilometres from Geelong.

In the Federal Court test case listed for 1–2 December, Victoria Legal Aid will challenge on behalf of Mr McGarrigle a decision upheld by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which affirmed the NDIA’s earlier decision to contribute 75 per cent toward Liam’s taxi expenses totalling $15,850 for one year.

Liam’s NDIS plan funds the supports he and his family identified as important: to attend a disability social group and supported employment. These activities help Liam to be a part of the community and to build social and employment skills.

However, as Liam can’t drive, and there is no public transport available, he requires taxis to get there.

‘Parents and families shouldn’t have to shoulder the burden of transporting their adult kids around, with a domino effect on others’ lives and wellbeing. Decisions like this are unfair and don’t live up to the laudable aims of the NDIS,’ Mr Nicholson said.

‘We want the NDIS to fulfil its potential as a scheme that changes people’s lives, so it is important for us to test if these decisions are lawful.’

Executive Director Civil Justice, Access and Equity Dan Nicholson

Liam’s mother Michelle says the decision upheld by the Mental Health Tribunal discriminates against families based on where they live. ‘There is no public transport alternative. In any case Liam is unable to travel by that means.

‘Just like other people his age, Liam wants to be able to go out and meet with his friends, or get to his workplace, without being driven around everywhere by his parents.

‘It is completely unrealistic and unfair to expect that we are always available to drive him, or will continue to indefinitely meet these costs for our adult son just because he has a disability. If I have to drive Liam around, I would have to give up work myself.

‘We expected that the NDIS would mean Liam could be as independent as possible. He loves his job, which he attends two days a week, and on the other days he’s out and about, going ten pin bowling, or dancing or out learning life skills.

‘The alternative is for him to be bored, lonely and isolated in our small town. It doesn’t make sense that the NDIS is funding the costs of these supports but won’t fully meet the cost of him getting to them,’ she said.

How we can help

If you are unhappy with a National Disability Insurance Scheme decision, you can ask for it to be reviewed. Find out more about how you can get help.

Media coverage

Media enquiries

If you have a media enquiry, please contact Paula Wilson at Paula.Wilson@vla.vic.gov.au or phone (03) 9269 0620 or 0438 612 289.

The hearing will commence on Thursday 1 December at 10.15 am in Court 8B (Level 8) in the Melbourne Federal Court at 305 William Street, Melbourne.