March 17, 2019
Thousands of Tasmanians living with or impacted by brain injuries face losing the only statewide organisation that has supported them for the past 20 years.
With the State Government handing over all disability funding to the commonwealth, the Brain Injury Association of Tasmania (BIAT) will lose its State Government disability funding from July 1.
However, changes to the lifeline to keep the organisation operating – the National Disability Insurance Scheme’s (NDIS) Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) strategy – means it will now be months before any new funding decision is made.
And because the focus of the ILC is now national programs,BIAT’s eligibility for funding is in doubt because it is a state-based organisation.
This means Tasmania is at risk of losing a service that:
PROVIDES information, referral and support to thousands of Tasmanians diagnosed with brain injury, and to people who have been living with, and mostly likely struggling to adjust to, their brain injury for many years;
INCREASES awareness and understanding of the extensive impact brain injury can have on individuals, families and the community;
PROVIDES training and professional support to myriad disability and community services that people affected by brain injury come into contact with on a regular basis;
DELIVERS brain injury education to schools and, in partnership with Tasmania Police and Community Youth Justice, to young people in, or at risk of entering, the youth justice system;
LOBBIES government for more services, better supports, and appropriate funding for people with brain injury; and
PROVIDES a voice for people living with or impacted by brain injury.
The ceasing of state funding is part of the transition to NDIS – a change BIAT planned for.
It has been preparing to apply for funding under the Information, Linkage and Capacity Building program, which was scheduled to begin commissioning in Tasmania in September.
But now, because administrators of the NDIS – the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) – found the way it rolled out the ILC in NSW, the ACT, Queensland and South Australia wasn’t working, that timeline has changed.
Frustratingly, the agency had been told repeatedly, during a series of national consultations, that what they were planning wouldn’t work, however disregarded this advice and to date has ‘invested’ $85.9 million inILC.
The first ILC grant round opens this month with decisions announced in June – a ridiculously short time from for a small not-for-profit organisation with few resources.
It is also a time frame most likely impacted by the federal election that risks pushing it out even later into the year.
Granted, the NDIA has acknowledged the delay (of its making) will have a detrimental impact on organisational viability and has committed $26 million across all states to “guard against gaps emerging.”
Tasmania’s share of this is $570,000, to be divided up potentially among 18 organisations.
The worst-case scenario for BIAT is $31,500 in bridging funding but without any guarantee it will secure the ongoing funding to survive. Also, at this stage, neither Disability Services nor BIAT know what the time frame or deliverables for this bridging funding will be.
BIAT challenges any government agency or department, any business or for-profit organisation to work, and operate effectively, with this level of financial uncertainty.
An acquired brain injury is the result of injury or damage to the brain that occurs after birth, it can happen to anyone, anywhere, at anytime during a person’s life.
At 2.2 per cent of the population, the prevalence rate of brain injury in Tasmania is higher than most other states in Australia.
Brain injury doesn’t just sit neatly within disability; its impact and reach go much deeper in the Tasmanian community.
As the only stand-alone specialist brain injury service in Tasmania, BIAT works determinedly across a range of areas including criminal justice, family violence, mental health, child protection, homelessness, and substance abuse to address this impact.
The principles of the ILC are sound – “helping people who are not eligible for an individual, funded NDIS plan to benefit from a more inclusive, accessible and connected Australia by building the capacity of individuals and communities; and preventing, reducing or delaying the need for people with disabilities to access specialist disability services by improving their access to community and mainstream services”.
Its implementation however, compounded by the failure of the Tasmanian Government to plan for continuation of the services BIAT provides, which extend beyond disability, are not!
The NDIS promise equity for people with disability.
There will be no equity, however, for the many thousands of Tasmanians living with, or impacted by brain injury who are not, nor ever will be, eligible for an NDIS funded package, and who are now at risk of losing the specialist, individualised, targeted, and timely services and supports they need.
Author Deborah Byrne is executive officer of the Brain Injury Association of Tasmania.
Talking Point article published in the Mercury Newspaper, Friday 15th March 2019.
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