THE state’s peak autism body says it warned the Government that up to 11,000 local children would need support from the national disability insurance scheme — about double the 5000 planned for — but was ignored.
Now the state and federal governments remain in a stalemate over who is going to pay for the thousands of extra children eligible for disability services and equipment.
In the meantime, families are facing growing delays to be assessed and approved for funding.
Autism SA chief executive officer Barrie Elvish told Advertiser.com.au that his organisation had warned the State Government that thousands more children would need funding.
“Certainly Autism SA told them the numbers were wrong,” he said.
“We told them that the numbers were around about the 11,000 mark. But still they went ahead (with 5085).
“It’s our parents and our families that are suffering because of some poor planning by bureaucrats. At the end of the day it has to be funded.”
However, state Disabilities Minister Tony Piccolo said he was “advised that no agency, including Autism SA, raised concerns with the department about the numbers”.
“Our estimated numbers were agreed in consultation with the Commonwealth from the National Minimum Data Set,” he said.
“While previous negotiations centred on historical data, recently, both (Assistant Social Services Minister Mitch) Fifield and I agreed that our efforts need to focus on the transition of eligible children up to the age of 14 to the NDIS as soon as possible.
“To this end, negotiations are progressing and I am confident that South Australia will achieve a full rollout of the NDIS.”
Mr Fifield said agreements signed with the New South Wales and Victorian governments on Wednesday to roll out the full scheme in those states “show we’re getting on with the job, and we’re working with South Australia to finalise the bilateral agreement as soon as we can”.
“We will work together to deliver a scheme that stands the test of time,” he said.
About 4700 children have so far been approved for funding packages, of an average of $18,000 each, through a SA trial. Of those, almost half have Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Mr Elvish said he had heard reports from parents that the National Disability Insurance Authority was approving children for funding but delaying the actual delivery of services “because that’s where the money is spent”.
“Clearly the bean counters have worked out that the money is going to run out soon,” he said.
In 2013-14 the average wait between approval and receiving funding was 60 days. That blew out to 128 days in 2014-15.
A June report by the NDIA states that 60 per cent of eligible children are waiting more than 90 days to be approved for funding.
Of those children, 60 per cent are waiting more than 180 days to actual receive funding and services.
The report says the “higher than expected number of children in the South Australian trial site (compared with the bilateral agreement) has diverted resources to assessing eligibility rather than approving plans”.
State Opposition Leader Steven Marshall met with Mr Fifield while in Canberra.
Mr Marshall said the minister told him he was “not trying to play politics” with the issue, and negotiations with SA officials about the roll out of the full scheme were progressing.
“Yes, in the contract it says any cost overrun will be met by the Commonwealth but the Commonwealth says this is not exactly a cost overrun, this is a completely inaccurate estimate from the start,” he said.
Latest figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show 71,000 people in SA have an ‘unmet need’ for disability services, equipment or housing.
That is more than the 66,400 who are receiving adequate disability support.