SCIA’s Policy and Advocacy Teams in Alstonville and Sydney have worked tirelessly over 2021 make sure people with disabilities are advocated for on an individual and systemic level.

We want to share with you a few highlights that our Advocacy teams had helped with this year. To read the full list of updates click here:

March 2021

Sydney – Joined the Building Better Homes Campaign and co-signing a letter to the Prime Minister and state and territory leaders to ensure mandatory minimum accessibility standards are included in the National Building Code.

Alstonville – One of the more common issues we’ve been getting these last few months is access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Often people will come to our team because they just don’t know what to supply the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) with to gain access into the NDIS.

Our admin wizard, Donna, up here in Alstonville has helped piece together an NDIS Eligibility Toolkit, with some handy hints for you and your health care professionals, aimed at ensuring you tick all the required boxes for access. To request the NDIS Eligibility Toolkit click here.

April 2021

Sydney – Our team applied for an internal review for a client who was rejected for Disability Support Pension (DSP) in November 2020. This client had a stroke and suffered a brain bleed which has affected her.

At the AAT, the DSP was refused on the grounds that the condition had not been “fully treated”. In the interim, we applied for Job Seeker with an exemption due to her medical condition.

After various home visitations, supporting medical documentation and telephone interviews with Centrelink, as well as a Centrelink appointed doctor, our client was successful in receiving the DSP in March 2021, backdated to January 2021.

May 2021

Alstonville – Our Alstonville/Tweed Heads team had a successful NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) application for NSW Trustee Financial Management Order at the request of a client with disability.

Previously, our client and the family had been under the NSW Trustee Private Managers Team who provided him with positive supported financial decision making to manage his Disability Support Pension (DSP). He had expressed that he was unable to independently manage his finances and had requested this additional support.

At the time of the review it was decided amongst all parties (client and family) that they would remove the formal financial support and start informal financial supports via his family. This was due to the inability to afford the fee of the formal supports.

Unbeknown to all parties, informal financial support that is led by family means that the decision makers don’t have legal rights on that individual’s bank account. Client had been restricted by the family and issued him a personal budget of $1.00 a day, occasionally increasing so he can go out for a meal once in a while.

The family reasoned that the restrictiveness was due to the health of the client and they were only looking out for the client’s wellbeing.

Our advocacy team in Tweed Heads attempted contact with the family with no response.

The NCAT pointed out informal financial supported decision-making cannot have their names on an individual’s bank account and there is no legal right to force an individual to make a lifestyle change by restricting their budget as it’s a personal choice that requires an individual change.

Informal supports were removed and our client is currently placed under NSW Trustee Financial Management Order meaning he now receives a personal spending budget of $150.00 per week which is a huge difference for someone’s self-esteem and personal freedom.

It is an unusual situation for someone to have a better financial experience relying on the NSW Trustee Financial Management Order rather the informal supports. However, personal financial freedom was unattainable under the informal supports given.

This situation really highlights the vulnerability of people with disabilities when it comes to financial management and the importance of positive financial substitution. Our client’s health and wellbeing is of the utmost importance, but this should be a lifestyle decision made by the client themselves and not a third party against their will.

It also highlights how important it is to speak out on behalf of someone who may not be able to. Our client lives in Supported Disability Accommodation (SDA) and a staff member noticed the issue and flagged it with SCIA.

Our client is now able to go out and integrate with his community, go out to a gig every now and then and live a happier life.

July 2021

Sydney – An NDIS participant has had a massive increase in their plan, with funding almost doubling from $45,000 to $87,000, following a hard fought interval review. They have also secured funding and approval for a motorised wheelchair and Roho cushion, valued at $24,000. Our advocate fought alongside the participant to ensure that all medical evidence was in place to ensure that the Agency recognised the crucial importance of these supports in empowering them and contributing to better outcomes and independence in their day to day life.

Additionally, Housing NSW has finally agreed to carry out home modifications on their property, after properly considering a report from an occupational therapist. This approval ensures that not only will this participant receive the right supports to meet their disability needs, but they can also feel more safe and secure knowing that their home is truly accessible.

Sydney – Making a submission to the Senate Community Affairs Committees on the purpose, intent and adequacy of the Disability Support Pension. We raised concerns regarding the complexity and lack of support in the application process, disincentives to finding long-term employment and the difficulties DSP recipients have in meeting all their living expenses.

August 2021

Alstonville – SCIA Northern Rivers advocacy recently assisted a mother and her son (8) to gain access to the NDIS.

The family of two moved to our region during the pandemic after escaping a domestic violence environment. Feeling isolated and alone with no family or friends in the area, the mother reached out to our service. After hearing about us through the SASH program (Home Modifications, Enable NSW). The son has a physical disability and was declined twice before SCIA came on board to help his mum navigate the NDIS process. Working closely with local community health OT’s and Physios and his specialists, we were successful with his application.

Next, we focused our attention on the mother who has a psychosocial disability that required a different approach. With the help of our SCIA advocate, the mother was guided one step at a time to encourage her not to feel too overwhelmed by the complex NDIS process.

It took six months and countless setbacks to gather and prove a 20-year history of the psychosocial disability before she was successfully granted access. Her first plan includes significant COS funding, which will be instrumental in making sure they engage with local service providers.

Recently speaking to the mother, she advised, “life has vastly improved since gaining access to the NDIS. SCIA advocacy is such an amazing service. I am grateful for my advocate being able to explain things in simpler terms and help me and my son gain access to the NDIS.”

October 2021

Sydney – A woman approached us looking for a suitable accessible private rental, after spending nearly a third of the year in hospital because of issues relating to her disability. At the risk of the woman becoming homeless, our individual advocate support led us to liaise with real estate agents, arranging viewing, assisting with completing forms and arranging removalists. We have successfully found short term accommodation for our client while we continue to help her look for more permanent accommodation.

Sydney – A male client came to us in December 2020 seeking advocacy to increase his NDIS Capacity Building supports. He has a spinal cord injury and needed funds for exercise physiology, hydrotherapy and physiotherapy. With the help of Legal Aid we appealed his case with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, we had a successful win.

You can read Policy and Advocacy’s Monthly Updates in full HERE. If you need any assistance from our Policy and Advocacy team please contact us at info@scia.org.au or call us on 1800 819 775.