One of the region’s most experienced and dogged disability advocates has welcomed moves to set up a Royal Commission into the sector and is supporting calls for the rollout and underfunding of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to be included in the terms of reference.
“We are still owed a lot of money by the NDIS, at times we have been owed $1 million,” says Denise Redmond, Chief Executive Officer of Nardy House.
“We are still owed money for respite services delivered in 2016, we have tried to get that money, and it is not forthcoming.
“However, we continue to look after these 22 people and their families.”
Nardy is a permanent and respite care provider, built by the community at Quamma, north of Bega. It offers care to children, adults, and families living with and managing profound physical disabilities.
“The most vulnerable people in our community,” Ms Redmond says.
The group of local parents and residents behind Nardy first met in 1994. It is a truly unique facility that has been built progressively since 2007 as fundraising and grants have allowed. The working drawings for stage three have just been approved by Bega Valley Shire Council – a therapy room and hydrotherapy pool.
Its the funds held in reserve for stage three that have kept Nardy going while it is owed money by the NDIS.
“Our bank account is always being bled dry,” Ms Redmond says.
“We had been warned by lobby groups that the NDIS transition was going to be an expensive process, so we prepared ourselves for that and we put aside $300,000.
“We didn’t expect to be owed $1 million at any one time but that is the order of the expense that we have incurred and we are still owed money.
“Any service out there will tell you that any invoice or complaint you lodge takes at least five months to get a response.”
In her smiling sledgehammer style, an approach that has been key in Nardy’s growth and strength, Ms Redmond says the debts and underfunding of Nardy are tantamount to abuse of people with disabilities and their families.
“I think services around Australia are owed a lot of money, there are millions of dollars outstanding,” she says.
“The only services who are not going to want this money are those that have already gone to the wall, already gone broke.
“The attrition rate in the disability sector is large – this will be another form of abuse exposed by the Royal Commission.
“Very good services have been squeezed out.”
For some of the people in their care, mainly children, Nardy is funded at just $200 per week for the provision of complex care services.
“The cost is closer to $1000 per week, which is the figure our auditors quoted NDIS,” Ms Redmond says.
Caps on accommodation funding mean that the true cost of the service is not able to be recouped. There is also a sense that the level of care Nardy needs to provide its profoundly disabled residents is not properly understood by the NDIS.
“Nardy House has been put through the wringer, we could have folded but we won’t,” she says.
“The Board has always been forward-thinking and very astute.”
Ms Redmond says her concerns and the issues facing Nardy have been flagged with the relevant authorities and politicians.
“I get letters full of fine sentiments but it’s like fairy floss – I don’t get answers and without answers, I won’t let the matter drop,” she says.
“Nardy House is a charity, and while we are charitable we are not in a business of providing services for a government that doesn’t pay.”
While both major parties have expressed support of the Royal Commission into the Disability Sector, The Guardian reports that the Morrison Government is still waiting for a response from state governments after the Prime Minister suggested they should help pay.
The Shorten Opposition believes the Royal Commission should be fully funded by the Federal Government.