The current COVID climate is putting people with autism who are in Supported Independent Living (SIL) at risk of “re-instituationalisation by stealth”, a parliamentary inquiry has heard.
The Senate Select Committee on Autism, which is inquiring into services and support for people with autism, held its first hearing on Monday.
Committee Chair Senator Hollie Hughes, who has an autistic son, asked NDIA CEO Martin Hoffman if the agency was reviewing whether NDIS providers were withdrawing services because of concerns about COVID-19.
“A lot of people with autism have had their services cut or reduced because providers are no longer providing them, they’re not going out to see people which is causing a lot of angst. Is there any review underway?” she aksed.
Mr Hoffman replied that while providers had to operate within public health restrictions the NDIA had not seen anything to suggest this was occurring.
“Overall the volume of services and value of services paid for by the scheme has not declined at all through the covid period,” he said.
Senator Hoffman also said concerns had been raised with her that some SIL providers were “putting out carte blanche edicts” that residents could not participate in external programs, and that funding for these was being redirected back the SIL providers.
“One of the concerns I do have is that it is almost a re-institutionalisation by stealth and that people with autism in particular are being kept in group homes in situations that are not necessarily that beneficial for them,” she said.
“The smaller providers who often provide these day programs and work opportunities are being cut out, with all funding being redirected back to the SIL provider.”
Mr Hoffman said he would seek more information on whether this was occurring.
“If it’s not consistent with public health orders then it’s a matter for the Quality and Safeguards Commissioner, he said.
states accused of buck-passing to NDIS
Senator Hughes also asked whether the rollout of the NDIS had resulted in gaps in services and supports for people with autism.
“Reports and submissions we’ve received would indicate that the states are potentially dropping the ball when it comes to areas like education, health, mental health and the justice system,” she said.
“How do we see states better address people with autism through their state responsibities and stop passing the buck for everything straight to the NDIS?”
DSS participant outcomes manager Peter Broadhead said the NDIS had changed the landscape and the role of state and territory governments in relation to the national scheme was still evolving.
But he admitted he did “worry at times there’s been such a focus on the NDIS that it has sucked a lot of energy and attention away from the broader things that can be done to support people with disability”.
The committee is due to hand down its report in October.
*Community Care Review previously reported comments by Senator Hughes that autism services provider Aspect had not made a submission to the inquiry. The committee has since clarified that they had received an a submission from Aspect.
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