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Older Aussies left behind as NDIS is extended to New Zealand citizens

Drastic new changes will allow more people living in Australia to access the National Disability Insurance Scheme, but older Australians are still missing out on support.

<p>A class action lawsuit is encouraging the Federal Government to introduce funding support for people over 65 with disability. (Source: ChameleonsEye via Shutterstock)</p>

A class action lawsuit is encouraging the Federal Government to introduce funding support for people over 65 with disability. (Source: ChameleonsEye via Shutterstock)

Key points:

  • Age discrimination for Australians over 65 and living with disability is problematic in the job market, but Spinal Life Australia says that the public sector isn’t doing enough to provide support
  • Next month, New Zealand citizens will have access to Australian citizenship, including benefits and services paid for by taxpayers
  • Due to guidelines for current Government systems, older people living with disability are often introduced to plans which provide less support than the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

 

New Zealanders who have lived in Australia for four or more years will be eligible to apply for Australian citizenship, as of July 2023. This new change will allow new citizens to apply for services and systems, such as the NDIS.

Although many have seen this as a positive change and a step in the right direction, allowing many living in the nation greater access to much-needed funding, Spinal Life Australia believes that we first need to nationally address programs for those over the age of 65.

Spinal Life Australia Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mark Townend welcomes the change, but says more could be done to support Australians who are 65 and older.

“We have members with a disability, who are New Zealand citizens and live in Australia, who have been struggling to access much-needed equipment and services, so this is an important step for them and one that we welcome wholeheartedly,” he says.

“Everyone deserves to live independently and safely, with access to vital supports to ensure their quality of life is the best it can be. However, Australians with a disability aged 65 and older continue to be ignored by the Government.”

People with a disability aged 65 and older are denied access to the NDIS. Instead, they are relying on funding systems like My Aged Care — which is set up to support people as they get older and doesn’t offer the care that some of society’s most vulnerable need.

Mr Townend says the lack of funding for people with a disability aged 65 and older has a severe impact on their livelihood and to deny proper funding to people who have been taxpayers for their whole lives is disappointing.

“It’s a shame the Government is expecting to spend an extra $543 million on New Zealanders needing access to the NDIS when there’s no funding commitment for people aged over 65. Many of these Australians are taxpayers who have worked and contributed to society their whole lives, until they unfortunately sustained a disability and are now left without funding,” he adds.

“I meet people who can’t get out of bed and can’t get support from the Government and sometimes they don’t have family support — they’re left stranded because of discrimination and it’s simply unfair. The Federal Government must act on this, to ensure people with a disability have access to the same level of care and funding, regardless of their age.”

Mr Townend says that changes to the age requirements of the NDIS would take the pressure off of people in the aged care system, but he also insists that the current system leaves a large group of Australians in need without any care.

“They just don’t get out of bed. They’re in the aged care system because there’s no place for them,” Mark says, “[…] they have just as much right to access care as anyone else. The Government needs to make [this] policy change to look after people with disabilities over 65 years of age.”

Prior to the 2021 Federal Election, the Disability Doesn’t Discriminate petition got more than 25,000 signatures, for fairness in funding between people supported by the NDIS and people who have been excluded based on age.

What they need to do is say, ‘that’s the wrong decision’, because aged care packages can’t look after people with disabilities like they thought they would,” he concludes.

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