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    NDIS discrimination a critical issue on Foundation agenda.

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    Inequitable treatment of older Australians with a disability

    Macular Disease Foundation Australia has welcomed a report by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights which expressed concern about the inequitable treatment of older Australians who acquire a disability over the age of 65, as a result of being excluded from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

    On 18 June 2013, the Foundation wrote to the Committee to highlight the lack of disability support in the aged care system. The Foundation also expressed concern to the Committee regarding legislated and institutionalised age discrimination in the NDIS, as the NDIS is exempt from the Age Discrimination Act 2004.

    Unlike the NDIS, the aged care system is not powered to care for those with a disability of blindness or severe vision loss, even under the present aged care reform, as it has neither the funding, capacity nor expertise to provide necessary services such as low vision aids and mobility training to maintain independence and quality of life.

    These have been critical issues on the Foundation’s agenda. Through its Sight for Seniors campaign, the Foundation has been strongly advocating against age discrimination in the NDIS and for equitable support for people with low vision from macular disease in the aged care system and the NDIS. These issues will continue to remain high on the Foundation’s priorities in 2014.

    Key points from the Committee’s report:

    • The Committee acknowledged and referenced correspondence from the Macular Disease Foundation Australia and National Seniors Australia, which highlighted the inequitable level of disability support in the aged care system in contrast to the NDIS, which would be further exacerbated by the legislated exclusion of the NDIS from the Age Discrimination Act 2004.
    • The Committee was concerned that the aged care system may not be designed with the same comprehensive and holistic approach to disability that would underpin the NDIS. The Committee recommended that this issue be evaluated when the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 is reviewed after two years in accordance with the Act.
    • The Committee was concerned that, in creating an exemption for the NDIS, the National Disability Insurance Scheme Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 introduced a “general and permanent” exemption from the Age Discrimination Act 2004. It was not clear to the Committee why the existing provisions in the Age Discrimination Act to determine exemptions on a case by case basis would not be an appropriate and less restrictive alternative to the approach of exempting the Age Discrimination Act in its entirety. The Committee intends to seek clarification from the Minister as to whether the government had considered this option and if so, why it was not considered suitable.

    Posted: 3 January 2014

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