A Lucknow couple has branded the Federal government’s National Disability Insurance Scheme worse than the system it replaced, despite having to apply for private grants to get assistance under the old policy.
For almost 20 years Patrick and Rhonda Keane have struggled to get proper support after a freak accident left Mr Keane in a wheelchair.
Having waited nine months under the former state-run system to get wheelchair access to their home, and having sat through dozens of interviews to privately hire a seemingly revolving door of home helpers, the couple had hoped the NDIS would bring change.
I’ll care for him until the day he dies,Rhonda Keane
But two years into the NDIS era and having spent months waiting to see if his broken wheelchair will be replaced, Mr Keane said he now feels powerless.
“I don’t have a choice. It’s really hard to get help and everything happens very, very, very slowly,” he said.
During their long wait for home renovations, Mrs Keane sought assistance from not-for-profit organisation Youngcare to build an enclosed space around their veranda to prevent conditions she described as “just awful” for her husband.
Youngcare CEO Anthony Ryan is now working with the Australian government to identify problems clients like the Keanes have encountered.
He compared the slow progress of the NDIS to the initial difficulty with Medicare, but said he is optimistic improvements are coming.
“In the old system people with high-care physical needs were getting caught up because there wasn’t enough infrastructure to support them,” he said.
“The government is very keen right now to fix those gaps.”
One of the major problems Mr Ryan wants to address is a lack of appropriate housing for young people, which Mrs Keane said she didn’t even consider for her husband – 44 at the time of the accident – especially after visiting the facilities on offer.
“Afterwards he sat in the car and balled his eyes out. I think he would’ve committed suicide – he was too young for that,” she said.
At the time of the 1999 accident, having married just weeks prior, the Keanes were standing side by side when a chimney stack at a Cowra caravan park crumbled, crushing Mr Keane under its weight.
It looks unlikely the trauma of the incident will ever separate them.
“I’ll care for him until the day he dies,” Mrs Keane said.
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