Autism Tasmania offers support to Giant Steps

Hayden Johnson

It will be some time before the National Disability Insurance Scheme fully services the needs of Tasmanians living with a disability, the chief executive of Autism Tasmania has declared.

The comments of Terry Burke, head of the state’s peak not-for-profit group for people living with autism, come one day after it was revealed a Giant Steps’ program would close.

Next Steps, a program run for 13 adults living with autism, will close at the end of the year due to funding problems under the NDIS.

Most of those participants affected by the closure now need to look for other autism support services in Launceston.

But Mr Burke said services available were “fairly thin on the ground”.

“The NDIS is really in its infancy,” he said.

“We’ve got a lack of allied health professionals in the state.”

About 30 per cent of people on the NDIS are people who identify as being on the autism spectrum.

Mr Burke said it would take time to understand what support was necessary for those people.

“There’ll need to be more service providers,” he said.

“If we’re expanding national disability funding and we’re going from $11 billion to $22 billion – we need to have more service providers.” 

He cited a The Hub, a program run by Life Without Barriers in Launceston, as a good example of a provider’s success under the NDIS.

“They’ve created a program as an NDIS provider, for adults,” he said.

Mr Burke also commended the management of Giant Steps for its long notice period of closure. 

“They recognise, as an autism service provider, that a level of planning is required much more for those families and individuals to be able to navigate that significant change,” he said.

Some of the Next Steps’ participants have been at Giant Steps for more than a decade. 

People living with autism are often affected more by change and unfamiliar surroundings. 

Giant Steps’ principal Tim Chugg said the school would work with the families to make the change as easy as possible for its participants.

"We'll put work into working with the individual on that transition," he said.

Giant Steps’ kindergarten to year 12 program will not be affected by the closure. 

Mr Burke said Autism Tasmania’s services would also be available to help affected families with the transition to new providers.