Rick's story – losing NDIS funded supports and falling into a service gap

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Rick's story – losing NDIS funded supports and falling into a service gap

Rick can barely communicate when he loses his NDIS funded supports and then can’t get bail or appropriate accommodation.

Read Rick's story.

Rick is 19 years old and has a diagnosis of bilateral severe/profound sensorineural deafness, severe language disorder in Auslan and severe pragmatic communication disorder. He also has ADHD, ASD, mild cerebral palsy, global intellectual delay, with a full-scale IQ of 50, slow transit bowel syndrome and anxiety. This means that Rick is non-verbal, requiring both an Auslan and deaf relay interpreter. He has no verbal communication or comprehension abilities whatsoever and no ability to lip-read. He requires significant supports and has a NDIS plan where, while in the community, he receives funding for 2:1 supports 24 hours a day. Rick has developed a relationship with one of his support workers, Jeff, who assists with his communication and is funded through Rick’s NDIS plan. Jeff is crucial in Rick’s life.  

In early 2020, Rick is arrested for an alleged assault and is remanded in prison. When Rick is initially remanded, he had no access to support workers to enable him to communicate. He had no supports at all for 5 days, until he was transferred to a new corrections facility. Then, for the next 6 weeks, Rick was barely able to communicate. He could only see Jeff by Jeff visiting as a personal visitor or with his lawyer or psychologist, and Jeff was only able to do this once or twice a week for an hour. When Jeff was not there, Rick was able to use interpreters when he had appointments, but those interpreters could not actually effectively communicate with Rick, and they were not there most of the time. Rick had to rely on visual cues and the prison staff having an Auslan dictionary, but Rick’s severe language disorder meant he needed deaf relay and Auslan interpretation to understand. 

When VLA raised this issue, the NDIA said it was not their responsibility as Rick was now in custody, and the Department of Justice said the delay was because they needed to train Jeff and get police and other clearances. There was no mechanism to ensure continuity of supports between the NDIS funded supports Rick had while he was in the community and the supports available while in custody. VLA also raised the lack of disability supports with the DHHS, the Intensive Support Team and Rick’s support coordinator, and found that no one was actively taking responsibility for ensuring Rick had the disability supports he needed. Eventually Rick was able to see Jeff again, but after 6 weeks, his risk behaviours had increased. 

Rick also fell into a service gap which impacted his ability to get bail and housing. He was refused bail, in part due to the increase in risk behaviours, which was linked to his lack of communication supports, and in part because there were no accommodation options available to him. Rick didn’t have specific accommodation funding in his NDIS plan, and NDIA said they were not responsible for housing him in any event, and a community-based organisation said that due to the high level of support needs and safety concerns, and also gaps in funding between the NDIS, DHHS and Department of Justice, they didn’t have the resources to house Rick. 

Rick was eventually transferred to a secure custodial residential facility but lost access to Jeff again because he was not registered as a worker with the facility or with a disability support organisation. 

As a result, Rick remains in custody and cannot access his key communication support worker, and no one is actively looking for alternative accommodation options. Until he is released into a non-custodial setting, he cannot access his NDIS plan and key support workers, and while he cannot assess his key support workers, his risk behaviours increase which effects his ability to get bail. 

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